Today we’re talking about time: how we manage it, spend it, invest it, waste it, perceive it…and make the most of it. In this episode, I’m going to help you assess where you are with your time management, share something about it that might surprise you, and help you take your own time management to “TASK”.

If I said “There isn’t enough time in the day.” Would you agree? Have you said those words? I’m betting you have…or at the very least someone you know has. I am sure I have and it’s only my dedication to  time management approach that has kept me from repeating the phrase. It’s a universal lament of those not getting to the things they want, need, or hope to do.

Do you struggle with this? Do you have goals and dreams…or, let’s face it, even the most basic tasks…that you want to complete but you don’t?

Let’s do a super quick self-assessment exercise. If you are driving or doing something else where writing isn’t an option, listen for now and answer in your mind for a general idea of where you are with your time management. Then when you get a chance, replay this episode and mark down your answers for reference.

One word of caution before we begin. This is a SELF assessment, so this is based on your perception of how you manage your time. We are notoriously hard on ourselves, so keep in mind this is for guidance, not a grade!

Ok, ready? The way it’s scored: 2 points for always, 1 sometimes, 0 never

Time management Self-assessment

12 questions 

  1. I do things in order of priority
  2. I accomplish what needs to be done during the day
  3. I am satisfied with my use of time
  4. I tackle difficult or unpleasant tasks without procrastinating
  5. I make sufficient time for planning
  6. I prepare a daily or weekly to-do list
  7. I’m able to meet deadlines without rushing
  8. I prevent interruptions from distracting me
  9. I plan time to relax and take care of myself
  10. I periodically review how I spend my time
  11. I avoid wasteful activities
  12. I have a clear idea of what I want to accomplish

Now tally up your points. 

2 points for always, 1 sometimes, 0 never

19-24 points — Excellent,  maybe you give me some pointers? Keep listening and you may identify what you’re doing already (or maybe discover something new)

12-18 points You’re doing fine. You’re managing time, though maybe inconsistently. You’ll want to keep learning and identifying ways to improve…so keep listening!

0-11 points Looks like you’re struggling. Keep listening and choose one thing today to try to turn things around!

“Time management” essentially means we are exercising control–inasmuch as we have it–on specific activities in our life to increase effectiveness and efficiency…aka, productivity.

The thing is, we don’t actually manage the TIME, we manage how we’re USING the time. And that means managing ourselves.It’s about making choices, establishing efficient habits, and deciding what matters to us. A quick aside…if you listen to Episode #1 of the Positively LIving Podcast, you’ll see how this connects to your #1 productivity tool. 

When you get down to it, time management is more self-management.

In his book 15 Secrets Successful People Know about Time Management, Kevin Kruse sums this up, saying: 

“Actually, highly successful people don’t think about time much at all. Instead, they think about values, priorities, and consistent habits.” 

Our struggles with time management can vary, which you may have noticed when you took the quiz earlier. We can struggle to manage our time due to distractions and interruptions. We can use too much time on things we aren’t able to properly accommodate. Or approach projects inefficiently or half-heartedly. These challenges relate to different aspects of how we choose to and are able to use our time such as priorities, planning, and energy.  Whatever the case, the bottom line is we have a finite amount of time to work through our demands and dreams. How do we make the most of it?

There are likely as many time management tips as there are minutes in a day. (1,440 for those playing at home) But my mission is to be the antidote to your stress so I have come up with a simple, easy-to-remember way to course correct when you feel as though you aren’t spending your time properly.

You can take your time management to T.A.S.K. with these four steps:

1) T – Track

Your first step is to figure out where your time is going in the first place. Tracking how you spend time now gives you a baseline to assess.

Get ready to pay close attention to the clock and note in detail what you do, when, and for how long. Add details about your excitement and energy because this data will help you. You can track your time spent by taking notes, using timer apps, and/or entering tasks in your calendar. You can use any kind of timer and make notes as you go. 

An easy way to start is with technology.  Choose the tool you use most often, such as your smartphone or laptop. You can use apps like Toggl for timing projects and RescueTime if you want to set it and forget it and let it track what you’re doing on your computer. If you have an iPhone or iPad you can also get Screen Time reports under Settings>General>Screen Time

It’s important to track for at least a week, if not longer. I realize this may sound tedious, but I promise you like any other journaling and tracking, this works. And with so many apps to help, it can be fairly straightforward. Plus a bonus byproduct of doing this is it creates awareness as you are doing it and will help you be more mindful with your time almost immediately.

2) A – Assess

Now that you have tracked where your time has gone, let’s figure out what it means and make some choices. You’ll review your time spent and search for clues. 

  1. First, let’s review what’s TAKING your time…
    • What are the obvious time vacuums (e.g., social media) How about the less obvious? Were there any that surprised you? Cooking meals? Helping friends?
    • How many disruptions do you have each day? Consider the source and how you can eliminate or reduce them.
    • What other distractions do you have? It’s not only our interests but often our environment that can steal our focus. Think about where you work and what you’re trying to accomplish. Is your environment conducive?
  2. Second, do you know what you need to do each day? Each week? Being very clear on goals and deadlines gives you the basis to create boundaries. Know what you need to do. Let go of what you don’t.
  3. Third, are you clear on what you need? Are there to-dos that require more steps than you anticipated? You may find a task taking longer than you expected for a variety of reasons. Did you have what you needed to do the task? Were you aware of what it would take?
  4. Four, does your tracking show you are doing too much for the time you have? (I’m guessing it’s likely.) Having clear data can show you and others when you are trying to schedule unrealistically and where you need help.
  5. Five, do you see times when you are most energized? Can you spot trends in time or day or in relation to activities, spaces, and purposes that make you seriously productive? 

3) S – Schedule

Now that you have assessed where you can take back time and where you want your time to go, this is your chance to be proactive and specific about how you’ll do that. Take your to-do list and schedule everything. It may sound counter-intuitive and controlling, but it’s the key to your freedom. When you have it in your calendar, you have it in a safe place to access when needed. You don’t have to worry about forgetting (and rush to do it right away, another time management challenge). By scheduling, it allows you to build in effective productivity techniques such as buffer time for when you run late or things go wrong, and breaks to keep your energy up.

4) K – KEEP

Now that you’ve taken inventory, reviewed what belongs and what doesn’t, and scheduled your time.

Here are some things to KEEP:

KEEP to your schedule. That means protecting it from others and from yourself. Refer to it, set alarms, and maintain it.

KEEP track of how it’s working. Are you improving? Are new issues coming up?  

KEEP your distance from the things that challenge you most (remove game apps, schedule selective social media time).

KEEP adjusting as needed. As our demands and resources change, our time management approach needs to change too.

KEEP celebrating your progress. Even if you haven’t gotten to where you want to be, you are further along than you realize.

Would you like help to take your Time Management to TASK?  As a gift to my podcast listeners, I’m offering a limited number of free Time Management audit. Click the link in the show notes to schedule a session. We’ll review your week and your goals and identify simple shifts to make the most of your time.

“It is not enough to be busy. The question is: What are we busy about?” Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau