Lists, open communication, and leaving perfectionism at the door – these are the key elements of my time management strategy. I’m a big fan of lists, whether they’re on my phone or in my planner. I make weekly and daily to-do lists that are always in flux. To help me prioritize, I communicate regularly and openly with my colleagues, friends, and family about expectations and timelines. I block off time on my calendar for specific projects and I always ask for help when I need it. Perfectionists - instead of applying yourself 100% to every project, try to apply 90% or 80% of your energy. Focus on completing the work product, not creating a perfect product. You'll be surprised by how much time and stress this approach will save you!
I have definitely tried lots of different time management strategies. From all the different trainings/books/speakers, I keep the nuggets that work for me and forget the rest. For me time management is not just about organizing your events or organizing your time; it's more about understanding your personality and what triggers stress in you. Once you figure these out, then you can implement actions to avoid the stress in life.
- I cannot live minute to minute – it stresses me out. I always review my calendar a week before to review meetings. This helps me to make sure I remember important meetings and that I can prepare accordingly. Also, it helps if I am in charge of snacks for my son’s sports team, I can plan to pick up items with my typically groceries and not be struggling to swing by the store at the last minute right before the game
- I need time for focused activities – lack of time leads to procrastination for me. I do a lot of data analysis in my role, and I have to block out time on my calendar in large chunks to stay focused. If I don’t block out the time, chances are a meeting will get scheduled and chop up my day. I usually block out a few hours a day and more if needed
- I need organized spaces to work/live in. I have found that if I organize my house and “everything has a place”, I spend less time cleaning up and I have more time for other activities. I am fascinated by Marie Kondo’s joy and organization concepts and found value in some of her methods
Time management has become even more critical for me during this COVID pandemic with an increasing number of meetings/symposiums/conferences now occurring virtually. I am a “list” person - and maintain an action list for every project. This hierarchal list ranges from the large-effort (but very important) items down to the small, quick, easily completed items. To make progress I try and mark out large blocks of time on my calendar everyday throughout the week to concentrate/work on the large items – this prevents me from becoming bogged down in spending all of my time on the small (almost endless) action items.
This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.
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