Do you ever feel a sense of panic when you read your to-do list? Do you feel like there isn’t enough time in a 24-hour day to do all the things you have to do, let alone the things you want to do? The constant stress over deadlines, racing against the clock to get things done at home, or at work, can make you feel as if you’re being held hostage by what needs to get done. This feeling of being under pressure can raise our stress levels and ultimately, affect your mental and physical health.
Stress can also come from positive things like weddings, starting or ending a job, having a baby or awaiting the birth of a grandchild. Stress is not always bad! It definitely makes life interesting, but if not handled properly it can start to have a negative impact on your body and mind.
There’s a clear link between time management and stress levels
When you have too much on your plate, you worry about not being able to finish it all. If you tend to procrastinate, you end up in a state of panic when you leave things to the last minute. By doing this, you are fooling yourself and you often catch yourself saying, “I work better under pressure”. This is just an excuse to get things done at the last minute. Poor time management leaves you with little or no time to do those things that can actually help reduce your stress like exercise, yoga, or getting good sleep.
When you have enough time to get things done, your brain really has the freedom to be focused and creative, relaxed and calm.
You have time to maintain meaningful relationships, enjoy hobbies, take care of your body, decorate your home, travel, give back to your community, and cross things off of your bucket list!
So what can you do? First, spend a little time writing down how you spend your time. This will be a great guide for how you manage your priorities.
Ask yourself, how much time do you spend daily in these areas?
Work (include commute)
-Food related (shopping, meal planning and prep, eating, restaurants)
-Household tasks (include yard work, home and car maintenance, shopping, laundry, bills
-Personal care (include showering, dressing, grooming)
-Social time with family and friends
-Sedentary activity (include TV, reading, movies, computer/social media)
-Community (include church, volunteer work)
Here are some ways to improve time management in your life and reduce stress!
- Remember that when you waste time putting off doing something you have to do, you’re also neglecting the things you want to do. Use this as a motivation to become better at time management so you can ultimately do both.
- Sometimes we procrastinate on important tasks because we face resistance. Resistance comes in many forms – fear of failure, fear of success, feeling inadequate for the task at hand, or not having a clear plan are just a few examples. If you find that you procrastinate, try to get to the root of the problem. It may just take a bit of planning or a mindset shift to get yourself going. Talk to someone if you need help sorting this out.
- Manage your energy. Our energy fluctuates throughout the day, we all experience peaks and valleys at different times. Determine whether you are better at tackling hard tasks in the morning, or whether you have better focus later in the day. Pay attention to your energy levels and prioritize your to-do list accordingly
- Planning is essential for effective time management. After you have made your list of things you want and need to do, prioritize them in order of importance and deadlines. Remember, the things that you want to do don’t always need to go to the bottom of your list! If you don’t have enough time to get everything done, you have too many things on your list. Move them to another day, delegate them to someone else or take them off the list. Remember your goals and values when making your list.
- Staying organized is important so find the method that works for you the best. It may be a digital calendar or you may prefer to use a notebook and pencil. This will help keep you on track of your plans and deadlines.
- Try blocking out time on your calendar for things on your to do list. If a project is going to take 2 hours, block out that time so you can visually see it on your calendar. This can help you stay accountable.
- Do you have many hats to wear? From being a parent, to working, being a volunteer or a coach? Try using “time theming” on your calendar. Break themes down by the days of the week. For example; Sundays are for grocery shopping and meal prep, Mondays are for planning and administrative work, Tuesdays are for house cleaning and laundry. It’s difficult to work in the state of feeling overwhelmed, so prioritizing your tasks during the week will help you focus and keep you from feeling overwhelmed. Your days will flow better and you will get things accomplished!
- I used to think that only my children functioned better when they had a steady routine. Our brains are creatures of habit! Have you ever noticed that life seems to flow better and our brains can focus better when you maintain a routine? This can look like doing hard tasks between 9-11am, responding to emails between 11am-12pm, lunch at 12pm, easy tasks between 1pm-3pm. (Remember, your schedule is based on your energy peaks and valleys).
- Remove distractions and time wasters! Do you catch yourself scrolling through social media, answering text messages or emails, starting a new project, returning to an unfinished project? Put your phone on silent or leave it in another room, use a browser extension to block websites that enable you to procrastinate, close the door to the room that you are trying to work from. Think about it, structuring our time helps us get things done that we have to do and gives us more time for the things we want to do!
- Sometimes it’s hard to say no. A simple “no, that doesn’t work for me” is all you need to decline a request. Say “yes” to only things that are important to you.
- If you find yourself feeling stressed and overwhelmed, take a break. Learn to identify those things that make you feel stressed. Take a 10-minute “time out” to relax and calm yourself. Be active, meditate, or do some deep breathing techniques to reduce your stress.
- Focus on wellness. Eating healthy food, getting adequate sleep, getting outside, and being physically active all can be a part of successful time management and stress reduction.