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Time Management: Strategies to Stay On Track and Budget Time Effectively

Does managing your time, appointments, and to-do list always feel like a battle? Is it hard to prioritize the items on your to-do list? Do you easily lose track of time or think a task will take you 20 minutes but ends up taking 30? Let’s talk about some practical ways to make time management easier!


**Disclaimer- this is not a magical solution to give you more hours in each day!


Use A Schedule AND a To-Do List


  • Schedules are for tasks that happen at a specific time (appointments, meetings, school drop off/pick up)

  • To-do lists are for tasks that are not time specific. They may have a deadline, but don’t have to be done at a specific time (make dinner reservations for Friday, finish that report due on Monday)

  • Whenever possible, keep one master schedule instead of one for work, one for home, etc.

  • Start by putting all of your time-specific tasks on your schedule.

  • Then, plug to-do list items into open times in your schedule. Prioritize most urgent tasks while also filling open times efficiently. 


Flipping through multiple calendars to check availability is not only cumbersome, but time consuming and increases the likelihood you’ll forget something. Taking a few extra minutes to merge personal and work calendars will save a lot of time and angst down the road. If things are all in one place, when life inevitably throws curveballs, you only have to update one schedule!


Whether digital or analog, a schedule and to-do list need to be working documents. So, finding a system that allows you to have flexibility to move things around as the day changes is crucial. Writing in pencil or erasable ink or finding a calendar app that allows you to simply slide an item to a new time slot can go a long way. Experiment with different methods to find what’s right for you!


By putting to-do list items into open time slots on the schedule, you increase the likelihood that you’ll do them and decrease the chances that they become pesky items that never seem to leave your list.


Be Realistic About Your Time Budget


Don’t set yourself up for failure by trying to cram too many tasks into your open time windows. While it’s easy to let our desire to be productive convince us that we can fit two hours of work into one hour of time, the fallout when we inevitably don’t finish those tasks can induce shame or guilt and get in the way of future productivity. When budgeting time, think about how long will it take to gather materials for a task, whether or not a commute need to be considered, or if you’re likely to be interrupted by kids or coworkers. Always add extra time from the start rather than after you realize you’re over your allotted time. Worst-case scenario, you use all of your allotted time to complete the task. Best case, you finish early and have unexpected free time!


Whenever possible, allow for buffer time between tasks. These buffer windows are great for using the restroom or getting a snack between meetings. They might also help us get back on track if we’ve fallen behind or have to rearrange due to a last-minute change in plans.


Stop Striving For Perfection


Easier said than done, I know! But hear me out on this! On some level, most of us believe that perfection is the standard we are striving for. But, is that realistic? Is it necessary? Is it a failure if our house isn’t spotless all the time or if we say no to bringing classroom snacks this week? Is it even possible to cross everything off our to-do list? Answer: it’s not! No matter how long our to-do list is, there are still only 24 hours in a day and we are still only one person! Set reasonable goals and expectations for yourself each day rather than falling into the “I can do it all” trap. This might include having some tough conversations with ourselves about whether or not we have too much on our plate or if we need help with some things. This might also include accepting that some things just aren’t getting done today- and that’s okay!


Make Unpleasant Tasks More Appealing To Complete


Do you want to watch last night’s episode of your favorite show? Are you going to watch the episode to avoid doing things on your list? Flip the script and reward yourself for finishing a difficult task with the episode. Are you always avoiding after-dinner clean up? Make it a game- see if you can get the clean up done faster than you did last night. Try calling a friend on the phone while you fold that massive pile of laundry. By using rewards, competitions, or distractions we can make those unpleasant, but necessary tasks easier to complete in shorter amounts of time.


Managing the chaos of day-to-day life is a challenge for everyone. But, utilizing some of the strategies in this blog can go a long way to making things feel more organized and doable.

Written by,

Alyssa Onan, LPC



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