Seven Tips to Organize Your Schedule and Manage Your Time
If you are like most people, you probably found yourself a little stressed over the holidays with extra events and items on your to-do list. This can happen at other times of the year than just over the holidays, so I thought I would share some tips on how to stay organized and (mostly) on time when you have over-extended yourself.
- 1. Make a list and check it twice – three times really.
This might sound counter-productive as it advocates adding something to your to-do list, but I have found that it helps me prioritize better. As I cross items off and/or add items to my to-do list, it is important to move them on the list, which eventually requires creating a new list. If I keep my list visually-representative of my reality, it prevents something from slipping through the cracks.
- 2. Sync your calendars.
I have a pocket calendar, a Google calendar and an Outlook calendar. (And a dinner menu calendar, but that is a whole other topic.) I have almost missed a couple of things recently because one calendar had an event listed but the other two did not. If your memory can be considered faulty or even just questionable at times, taking the extra time to make sure things match up helps a lot.
- 3. Be realistic about how long things are going to take you to do them.
I like to think I do a better job with this than most people. It has even led to me being called a pessimist a time or two around the Red Sage office. I tend to think of myself as more of a realist when it comes to how long projects are going to take, how much a certain item is going to cost, and the like. I have found that being honest about how long something is going to take enables me to manage my time better and keep things moving at a reasonable pace so that things do not sneak up on me and overwhelm me. And bonus? If you happen to complete it faster than you thought you would, you have some extra time, a gift most people do not get.
- 4. Start early.
I have always been more of a morning person than a night owl, so this is easy enough for me to do. I have found that getting a jump start on client emails or even a big project before anyone else needs my attention helps me knock out more work.
- 5. Ignore the rest of the world.
With big projects especially, you need to shut off the rest of the world. That means email, phone calls, text messages – everything. Set aside time at the very beginning of the day, in the middle of the day, and towards the end of the day to answer email so you can get through a project or two that you thought was going to take forever.
- 6. Focus on the positive ― and don’t forget to reward yourself.
When I start to feel overwhelmed, it is really easy for that feeling to snowball until I am in a bad place. I know someone who, the more he has to do and the more stressed he feels, the less able he is to actually do anything. But you have to start somewhere. I recommend you start small, so that you can check something off your list. The more things you check off, no matter how insignificant they may seem, the better you will feel about the progress you are making. If you are working on a big project, break it down into tasks that you can celebrate as they are completed – and make sure you do celebrate. Give yourself five minutes to get lost in the gossip on Facebook or chat with a friend. Take your laptop outside for an hour to work as a mid-day treat for accomplishing a lot that morning. Splurge on the $5 coffee if it motivates you.
- 7. There are only 24 hours in a day.
Sometimes, you just cannot get everything done. You are human, not superhuman. And while it might not feel like it today, it will be okay. Last week, I was really disappointed in myself for not finishing some tasks. This week, I have already forgotten what they were.
I hope you find at least one of these tips helps you when you are feeling overextended. If you have some tips of your own to offer, please consider sharing them in the comments.