Do you ever feel overwhelmed? Do you feel like you have so many things to do that you'll never be “done”? Do you feel hopeless when it comes to time management? Are you sick of trying to do something only to be distracted by the million other things screaming for your attention?
I know exactly how that feels. I lived like that for many years. I couldn't understand how I was always in motion, always trying to get ahead and never actually ahead. It was so frustrating.
Our lives are truly overwhelming. The laundry will never end; the dishes will never end; the cooking will never end; the budgeting will never end. You will always have closets to clean out, moments to document, budgets to update. When you combine these things with your work schedule, your work projects and deadlines, and your social life (if you're lucky enough to still have one), it's not hard to understand why we always feel so behind. If you're a single parent or spouse of a deployed military member… well, that just doubles your work at a minimum.
I'm not telling you these things to further overwhelm you, I'm just trying to make you feel like you're not alone. You can't literally “do it all”; and anyone that tells you that you can, is absolutely lying. What you can do is ” Do better than I am right now.”, “Do the most important things.” and “Get headway on long term projects.”
Today, I'm in a much different place then I was. I make headway on my long term goals every week, and I manage my to do list effectively. There's quite a few tips and tricks that's I've learned over the years and implemented. The trick that has had the absolute largest impact on my quality of life though is something I call “time blocks”.
Time blocks are when you schedule a short amount of time to get things done. By scheduling a short amount of time to do something, you trick yourself into doing it. It allows you to focus on your work and minimize distractions, while you power through and concentrate on the task at hand. I use time blocks with one infant and two toddlers running around all day. It's perfect for overwhelmed moms.
Benefits of time blocks:
- You learn to focus on the task and hand and won't allow yourself to be distracted because you realize that you have a small block to complete tasks in.
- You allow yourself to dedicate time to longer term goals without getting buried in the endless current to do list (which actually helps you get “ahead” down the road.)
- You can easily motivate yourself to do undesirable tasks by having a set end time. I hate doing laundry, but I'm only doing it for 15 minutes. Then I'm walking away, no matter what.
- You learn to work quickly to get the tasks done in the set time.
- You prioritize within a task. If you have 15 minutes to clean your bedroom and your bedroom is a disaster, you will end up bagging trash and removing dirty clothes, and making the bed rather than dusting the light fixtures because you have realistic expectations about what you can do in that time.
- Your day will be mapped out, but still have a ton of flexibility; which is especially perfect if you have kid's schedules to work around (or a needy boss).
- You'll have more time to relax and enjoy your family. Because really, isn't that what it's all about?
How to set up your “time block” time management schedule:
- Determine the hours you have available to get stuff done.
- I work at home now and schedule 7 hours per day for “work” and chores. When I worked outside the house (in a super demanding job), I scheduled 2 hours per day and 3 hours per day off (my work at the time was reactionary and didn't require time blocks).
- Create a list of the repetitive work that needs to be done.
- Things like dishes, laundry, cooking, meal planning and budgeting. These examples are for your home, but you can create a time block schedule for your work too.
- Start assigning time blocks to the most important tasks on that list.
- Include at least one block (preferably more) per week as a “Master List”. Fit tasks into 15 minute (physical work) or 30 minute (detailed or concentration work-things like budgeting or writing) blocks.
- Create a master list of longer term goals that you want to work towards completing.
- For the home, this would be things like: clean out a closet, reorganize spice rack, set up a long term budget outlook, landscape the back yard, create a capsule wardrobe, etc.
How to use your “time block” time management schedule:
- As you start your day, glance at your time block schedule and choose the thing that you're the least excited about doing. Get it done and cross it off. (This is called Eat that Frog based on a super motivating book).
- As you move through your day, grab things from your list and work through them. When the timer goes off (always set a timer! If you don't have one on your phone, grab a cheap one from amazon here), stop that task and take a break or move on to the next.
- Try to get the tasks done as early as possible, so that you can enjoy your day. When the tasks are completed, stop. If you consistently find that you have too much extra time, add in extra time blocks for next week.
What distracts you the most when you try to get things done?
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