5 Tips for Time Management & Prioritization

woman-792162_960_720Ah, summertime. The air is warm (or hot and sticky, depending on where you live) and the days are long. People are going on vacation, having BBQs, taking time off work, enjoying the outdoors (maybe you’re sporting that beach body you’ve been working so hard to achieve) — it’s a lovely season.

It’s also an ideal time to check in with yourself and see how you’re doing on prioritizing and managing your tasks. Summer is a time we associate with rest, vacations, and fun. And we all know that once fall hits, school is back in session, sports are in full swing, work is crazy busy, and the holidays are right around the corner. The stress can become overwhelming and the notion of working on time management is just another daunting task on your plate. So now is the perfect time to take stock of your time management skills before life gets out of control.

Even if you think you’re doing pretty well at prioritizing and managing your time, it’s always a good idea to schedule regular check-ins with yourself. We all need a refresher now and then.

And if you feel like you’re failing miserably at time management, the tasks are piled up floor to ceiling and the walls are caving in around you with stuff to do — don’t worry, I’m here to help.

So here we go. Let’s take a summer breather and do some time management!

First things first, you’re gonna need to prioritize THIS task. Block out some time and sit down with your calendar, phone/computer, and a notebook and pen. Take a deep breath. This will be fun, I promise!

Here are 5 Tips for Time Management and Prioritization:

1. Write it Down

In order to manage your time effectively, you have to know 1) the order of importance of your tasks, and 2) about how long each task will take.

So let’s start by writing out your tasks. Could be work stuff, personal stuff, family stuff, exercise, grocery shopping — you name it. Whatever you have to get done that’s bogging you down.

It already feels better just to get it all down on paper, doesn’t it? Now you can see it with your eyes rather than having it all swirling around in your head.

Next, rank the items according to their importance. You could do a “high priority/medium priority/low priority” system, or rank them on a scale of 1 to 10, or just number them most important to least important — whatever works best for you.

When you’re prioritizing, try to think of things you can accomplish “after hours” that won’t eat up crucial time during your workday. For instance, if you have a number of emails to send out, maybe you can turn on your computer after the kids go to bed and knock them out. Or if you need to place orders for office supplies, remember that amazon.com never closes!

Now estimate how long each task will take. That way you’ll know how much time to block out for it so it doesn’t overlap with other tasks.

2. Talk it Out

For some, especially those with ADHD, it can be really overwhelming to have a lot of information in your head. It certainly helps to write it out, but I also recommend having an “accountability partner” of sorts. Just someone you can talk to about your projects, who can help you if you need help with time management or setting priorities, and who can help you stay on track if you start to veer. Choose someone who will be positive and encouraging… or, a counselor like myself who can give you lots of resources and reinforcement along the way.

3. Use an App

Use technology to your advantage! There are tons of time management apps out there. Check out Wunderlist and Evernote to start. I personally use Google Calendar, which you can also easily share and sync with family, friends, or coworkers.

For more apps, check out this article about the best time management apps for adults with ADHD.

4. Do Weekly Check-Ins

Every day you can take out a small sheet of paper and write down your To Dos for that day only. You’ll see it all laid out, you’ll know when to do each item and about how long it will take.

But here’s the key: At the end of the day, tear that paper up and throw it away! Tomorrow is a new day and you’ll start again.

I also recommend having a “Week at a Glance”. When the week is up, check in with yourself. Sit down with your notebook and your calendar. How did you do? Is there anything you should alter about your priorities or time management? Now is the time to make those changes for the next week.

5. Be Flexible

The worst thing you can do is be hard on yourself when you fail. Sometimes things happen, new priorities replace old ones in a moment’s notice, and you have to adjust accordingly. Roll with it, it will all be okay. At your next check-in you can get right back on track or reprioritize. The goal is progress, not perfection. So give yourself some compassion.

Take a pause, breathe deeply, and bring in an observing perspective. Remember that the mind makes things bigger than they are.

Need help with pausing? Try practicing mindfulness. Have you heard of Headspace? It’s a fun and easy way to learn how to practice mindfulness meditation!

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