This week in our Well.Fit Spring Clean series we're tackling time management! This post is brought to you by our guest blogger for the week, Macon York Costlow. Macon has been a Well.Fitter since January 2014! She owns and runs a small business, Cotton Blossom Press, a graphic design and letterpress studio in Asheville offering custom wedding invitations, stationery and business cards for individuals and small businesses, announcements and invitations, and more! Her work is stunning and we LOVE IT, go check it out!! Now onto the show...
"We know that there are 24 hours in each day, and yet, we often ask ourselves, “where did the time go?” Sometimes this is a positive question - we are having so much fun and that time seems to fly by. Other times, this question is asked out of frustration. We have so much to do and not enough time to get it all done. For both circumstances, mindfulness is one way to slow time down. Be aware of the good times when they are happening and savor every moment. For the busy times, the same concept of mindfulness can be applied through better time management. Below are some tips and ideas to help get it all done, even when it feels like there is not enough time.
BUILD BETTER PRACTICES TO MAXIMIZE YOUR TIME AND EFFICIENCY
1. Make a list
As a visual person, putting all my tasks and goals on paper helps me transition from a stressful, overwhelmed state with everything is floating in my head, to a calm, prepared state, ready to take on on my to-do list. This list can be physical or digital. You may choose to list everything you need to do in all aspects of your life all in one big list, or you may want to separate them into categories (house, work, errands, etc).
2. Break down any projects that will take more than an hour into smaller tasks
For example, break down “clean the kitchen” into smaller tasks, such as “take out the trash, load the dishwasher, mop the floors, wipe down the counters, etc.” I find this tip helpful for my job as well. It can be overwhelming to start a big project if you don’t know exactly what tasks are involved and then it’s easy to procrastinate. By breaking it down into small tasks, the whole project just becomes a series of small, bite-size tasks and therefore much more manageable and approachable.
Once everything is listed, begin to prioritize what needs to happen this morning, today, this week, or at some point this month.
Go through your list and next to each task, write down the estimated amount of time it will take. BE REALISTIC. If you know you need a lot of time to thoroughly explain yourself over email, don’t schedule five minutes for that task. Likewise, it’s easy to just say “one hour” for each thing, but maybe some will only take 20 minutes.
5. Make a schedule
Once you have the task list for the day and have estimated how long each task will take, make a schedule for the day. If you can lump similar tasks together, that usually helps with efficiency. Tackle all your emails in one session. Set aside one hour for all cleaning tasks. If you have errands, group them and then schedule them in order of the most sensical route. Bonus -- schedule in your workouts at Well.Fit so you know you’ll have time for them!
6. Be nice to yourself if you don’t get it all done.
There are days when you have three big things on your to-do list but throughout the day things come up and you end up putting out fires instead of getting done what needed to happen. Or perhaps you got too ambitious about what you could accomplish and it just wasn't possible. C’est la vie! Life happens. Be gentle with yourself and just plan to work hard the next day, perhaps being more realistic with how long each task will take.
BALANCE YOUR PRODUCTIVE TIME WITH RELAXATION
It IS productive to relax. Our bodies and minds can’t operate in a super focused productive mode all the time, so it’s important to also take time for fun and rest.
1. Set a time to end your day and begin relaxing
This could vary from day to day depending on your schedule, but make a point to END your work day and also stop working on any personal projects and just relax.
2. Schedule a vacation, a fun outing, or some personal time
Whether a trip to Mexico, a fun dinner with friends, a local day hike, or a warm bubble bath, make time for activities that will allow you to relax and have fun without any guilt.
IDENTIFY MINDLESS HABITS AND ACTIVITIES THAT WASTE TIME
They keyword here is mindless. It’s ok to relax and have fun (see above!) but it can be frustrating when several hours go by and you realize that you’ve spent an afternoon on Facebook and have nothing to show for it.
1. Identify areas that may be a time-waste
Social Media: Are you engaging with your community and using social media as a helpful tool or just mindlessly scrolling?
Online Games: Are you enjoying some downtime entertainment or are you procrastinating starting your to do list?
Commuting or Sitting in Traffic: Is there a better route you can take? Can you travel at different times and accomplish some tasks if you show up early? Can you reroute your errands to avoid rush hour traffic?
TV and Netflix: Are you relaxing and watching your favorite program or are you zoning out and avoiding your to-do list? Is this a much needed break from a stressful day or is it a go-to bad habit?
2. Track your hours
I think tracking is the key to success. I’ve found success over the years in tracking what I eat, how I spend money, and where my times goes. Even if no one else will see it, writing down your actions helps you stay accountable to your goals. This can be an old fashioned notebook, an app, or a digital list. It may be insightful to see how much time you spend in certain activities. This will also help you estimate how long a task will take in the future.
3. Take time for honest reflection
List areas you may be wasting time in an unsatisfying way. Throughout your day and week, notice when you are tempted to mindlessly waste time. If you do need a break, set a timer and enjoy a quick “zone-out.” If not, try to resist the urge, knowing you’ll have more time later to do some fun things if you can get all your tasks done now.
Like anything else, Time Management is not something to be achieved once and for all. It’s an ongoing practice in mindfulness. Find what works for you, do it until it doesn’t work anymore, and then find a new way. Be gentle with yourself, be mindful, and savor the moment!