Set Smart Goals
Before you ever tackle a project at work or take on responsibilities in your social circles, spend a few moments thinking about how it will realistically fit into your schedule. The is especially true if the task in question doesn’t actually contribute to your career trajectory, your personal happiness or the well-being of friends and family. Even those items may end up tilting you from a manageable schedule to an unmanageable one, so consider carefully.
Know Where Your Time Goes
Just like with managing your personal finances, getting a handle on your schedule requires you to know what you’re spending your time on. Keep a calendar or a running list of your regular tasks. This can include chores that you repeat every day or week, time spent in transit to and from places or one-time events.
There’s an app for that! No, seriously, there are tons of apps out there that will help you manage your schedule without making things overwhelming. Some of them will hide parts of your schedule to make it easily read (and not quite so overwhelming). The upside of a phone app is that you’ll always have it with you to keep track of upcoming events or log a new one.
Assign Tasks a Time Frame
Just because a task may only seem to take a few minutes doesn’t mean it doesn’t eat into your schedule. This is particularly true if you have to stop other chores or tasks to do it. Include transportation time, any prep work necessary and even ‘thinking time.’ There’s no such thing as a task that takes no time, even though we wish there were!
This is especially important in an office where people can grab your attention. Interruptions don’t just take a few seconds of your time, some of them can be seriously time consuming or break your chain of thought. If you need to focus, try setting up a system for set periods of time where no one bothers you at work. You could even try a funny sign that tells coworkers when you’re available!
Build in Buffers
If you’ve scheduled your days in such a way that you assume every single item on your to-do list goes smoothly, you’re setting yourself up for failure eventually. Whether it’s traffic or simply a task that runs over, you can’t keep making time the next day for spillover if you make over-scheduling a habit.
Optimize Based on Results
Trying to juggle too many tasks? Determine the outcomes that are most important and prioritize those first. That way, you’ll get the biggest bang for your (time) buck. Remember, this doesn’t just apply to work, either. You can prioritize chores at home or to-dos with family based on how you’d actually like to be spending your time. If you find you’re wasting too much time on tasks that have little to no desired outcomes, it might be time to hold a family meeting!
Don’t Skip the Breaks
You’re going to drive yourself into burnout mode sooner or later if you’re not taking breaks from work. While it might be true that not every job has too many regular break opportunities, even letting your brain have a moment to regroup can help.
Ignore, Ignore, Ignore
Whether it’s your phone buzzing from friends chatting or emails coming in while you’re working, try to find ways to turn off or turn down the constant notifications. Like we mentioned with the interruptions above, these notifications have a way of getting us off-track, even if we ignore the content of the message itself. Our brains are hardwired to respond to that buzz or ding these days.
Do the Legwork
Organize your thoughts and tasks so that you know what needs to get tackled when. Many successful people like to make a list the night before so they know what to tackle first.