According to my late grandmother’s Oxford Illustrated Dictionary, (used by her for the Telegraph crossword, done daily at great speed and with slight exasperation when it was too easy), to ‘manage’ is to organise, to regulate, maintain control over or to take charge. From the Latin, manus, meaning hand. So there we have it – to manage our time is a great gift. It is ours to do with what we will.
For many of us, the phrase Time Management immediately means being as efficient as possible. Getting through as much as is realistic as possible each day. Making plans at the start of each week and working out when you are going to do each bit (diarising To Do Lists – it’s a theme I come back to again and again). I coached a client last year on diarising her To Do Lists and to start with it was hugely successful. She is a single parent running her own business so time and output are premium for her. A couple of months later we met up again and I asked her how it was going, expecting her to say this particular tool was still working really well. In fact, she told me it was too effective. She had been left completely exhausted by the sudden upsurge in what she was achieving each day. It was not the answer I was expecting and I realised we had to do something immediately to bring her back to a realistic pace in order to prevent her running herself into the ground. So, time management took on a new meaning. For this client it became really important to see managing time as a holistic exercise, not just an achievement exercise.
It’s the same for all of us. It’s all about that work/life balance which can only be achieved and maintained by constantly allowing time for the things we want to do not just the things we have to do. So, going back to my overachieving client, we added in the requirement to plan time each week for ‘soul feeders’ – those activities that support our welfare and mental health. Walking with a friend, reading a non work book, learning a new skill, running etc.
But what about people whose time is really not their own. Carers? Parents of pre School children? People juggling multiple jobs? How can they manage their time so that they are not burned out or unstimulated. This is where scheduling and diarising are even more important, the less flexibility and ‘freedom’ you have. Factoring in some ‘do’ time (as opposed to ‘me’ time which is less positive, less proactive and in the end less beneficial) will ensure you have time to re-charge and re-focus. So, your ‘do time’ could be when you study for that Open University degree or take up that new sport. Or join that walking group. There is research that shows trying something new really helps the brain to grow and by activating different pathways it can in turn help reduce stress. It may mean asking a family member or friend to hold the fort for you for a couple of hours a week (or twice a week if they can) and whilst asking for that help may feel awkward, if you can find that support it will be so beneficial.
There are different levels of time management. From the nitty gritty of how we achieve individual tasks and projects through to a holistic balance of our life. How comfortable you feel planning every bit of your day is an individual thing but it is worth doing if only to reveal to yourself how well you are using your time. Are you being efficient? Too efficient – or not enough? Are you so busy being busy you are not really noticing let along enjoying what you are doing? Is that really how you want to live? I’m pretty sure that’s not the point of it all. To find a balance between progression, achievement and enjoyment is, I suspect, an invaluable goal we would all benefit from working towards.
If you would like to know more, please either get in touch through this website or watch my weekly videos on Instagram – @alicejohnsenlifecoach to find out more.