February 24, 2013

Time Management for Real People: 7 Tips to Keep Your Sanity

What do the president of the United States, a college student who sleeps until 2:00 pm, and you have in common?

You all have 168 hours in each week. (Yep. I did the math.)

What you choose to do with those precious hours is up to YOU. Whether I want to admit it or not, the busier I am, the more I accomplish. The more free time I have, the more time I waste. Sad, but true.

The lesson?

Busy people get things done.

It's not about having more time. It's about doing a better job of managing the time we have.

The next few months will be the busiest I’ve had in a while. Between a couple of jobs, participating a bible study or two, taking a trip across the ocean, turning a big dream into reality, being the wife of my hunky husband and the mom of my favorite little person, there’s lots to do.

It’s time to dust off my laser-focused time management skills.  

Since I’m pretty sure you’ve got a lot on your plate too, I thought you might like to revisit them with me.

Time Management for Real People
1. Write it down. If you write it down, it’s real. Back in my Mary Kay days, I used to fill out a weekly plan sheet each week. It has space for each hour of the week, from 6:00 am to 10:00 pm daily.
The idea is to be intentional about your time. Take 15-20 minutes on Sunday night to plan what you’ve got coming up for the week. (Bonus points if you color code for work time, business time, family time, personal time, etc.)

Action step: Print one out. Or buy a planner that fits your needs. Fill it out. Not every hour has to be filled in at first, but try to account for as many as possible (think Dave Ramsey envelope system). Use pencil if it makes you feel better.

2. Work in chunks. If you’re anything like me, you check your email, Facebook, or Twitter accounts all throughout the day. It’s become a reflex. In some ways it’s great. We feel more connected. In other ways, it’s awful. We always feel connected.

It’s best to set aside one or two dedicated chunks of time to sit down to work. If you do a little bit here and there, all throughout the day, you will feel like you’re working all. day. That’s the fast track to burnout. (I know.)

Action step: Plan realistic chunks of time to complete your work. Slap yourself with a wet noodle when you find yourself letting work sneak into personal time. That email can wait until its designated appointment.

3. Sit at a desk. If you do a lot of work on a laptop, you may find it helps to sit at a desk as opposed to the couch (or somewhere else that’s perfect for napping). Sitting at a desk just makes things feel more official and focused.

Action step: Select a designated workspace. Make it enjoyable! De-clutter the desk. Find some music that gets your creative juices flowing. Avoid working where you play.

[Full disclosure: This one should be easy for me. I recently knocked our personal laptop off of our desk. Our desktop is now my number one (only) option ;)]

4. Unplug. Mentally and/or electrically. (I’m talking to myself here.) I have to be more intentional about my time off. When you work from home, the lines can blur so easily. It’s hard to mentally check out when there’s always something productive you could be doing.

It’s tempting to stay connected to gadgets and gizmos for fear of missing something. Check out anyway.
Whether you need to unplug to fully be present, or whether you need to unplug to just veg out for a bit, do it.

Action step: Turn off your phone. Focus on the lovely people in the room with you (especially if they're your kiddos!). Take a brisk walk or leisurely stroll. Curl up on the couch and watch your favorite show (yes, that requires a plug-in). Set your brain to cruise control for a minute. Don't worry about being "productive."

5. Take time for you. Put on your oxygen mask before assisting those around you, friend. Most mornings over the past few months, I’ve woken up before my little one. Even if it’s just an extra 30 minutes. That time helps set the tone for my day.
I wake up, get my makeup on, and get dressed before I come down the stairs. Honestly, on some days, if I don’t do it then, I may not do it at all.

I mentioned I’ve been doing a bible study. Having a dedicated time to reconnect with my Creator each morning gives me peace and perspective. The day is in His hands. (Whether or not I choose to trust Him to handle it is the question!) If I miss that morning time and wake up late, it’s the last thing I do before bed. I have to have that time.

Action step: Make a date to recharge your batteries (I vote morning!). Don’t break it. Even if it’s just five minutes, locked in your bathroom. Don’t be a martyr and say there’s no time. There is. Find it.

6. Be flexible. Now that I’m a mom, of course, flexibility is more important than ever. Several hours of my weekly plan sheet will be blocked just for “playtime,” naptimes may vary from day to day, and some tasks and errands will take longer than I anticipated. That’s okay.

The plan is a goal. Things change. Life happens. If I have more intention behind each day, I will have more to show for it.
Action plan: Chill out. Set a goal, but don’t feel like a failure if things don’t go as expected. Lots of the best stuff happens beyond the plan sheet.
7. Don't get crazy. Life will probably keep getting busier. Future me will look back at 2013 me and say, "Really, Nikki? That was too much for you to handle?" 
Wanna know the truth about all these plates I've got spinning? They're great plates. They're blessings. Jobs? Dreams? Trips? Family? My cup runneth over! It's important to keep that "stress" in perspective.
Action step: Stay motivated. Do what you need to do. But don't lose sight of the blessings amidst the busy-ness. Instead of being "stressed," be thankful. As Matthew 6:34 says:
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Couldn't have said it better myself.
So here we go, friends. Lord-willing, this crazy week is going to pass whether we make a plan it or not. What will you do to make it count?

I’m interested in how you make the most of your time! In the comments below, please share: Which of these tips and action steps will you try? What are your secrets to effective time management?

If this post is helpful to you, share it with three friends who would benefit from it too. The more who join the discussion, the merrier!

P.S. My business is about helping bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. If you like my writing and want help with your own, sign up for free tips at www.nikkielledgebrown.com!

photo credit: H is for Home via photopin cc


  1. I love this, Nikki, and am about to share with my office-mates. Thanks, Denise

    1. Thanks for sharing, Denise. So glad you liked it! Now to actually put these tips to use...

      I've already been tempted to check into my new classroom, but I'm fighting the urge so I can save it for one big chunk when I have more time to dedicate to it!

  2. Decisions should be made with the best outcomes in mind, ideas that are well reasoned and generally viewed as helpful to oneself and those around us. A healthy view on physical and mental well-being will make one better able to enjoy the success of one's efforts.

    Time management is one part of a well balanced view of living this short life. Time recording software ( http://www.replicon.com/olp/online-time-recording-software.aspx ) is more helpful in managing our time and to make all our day-to-day decisions so that we can work towards our most meaningful life goals