February is National Time Management Month, and I was planning to write up some tips on time management and how you can get more done in your already too-busy day while reducing stress.
You know, stuff like 'hold meetings with everyone standing up' or 'make tomorrow's to-do list today' or (my all-time favorite, really) 'make up your bed while you're still in it.'
I like learning new time management skills, mostly because I'm usually desperate to get more work done in less time. Somtimes it feels like all I do is work, and I could use time management tips to improve productivity. Right?
A book that has had me take a different look at how I spend my time is The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment by Elizabeth Grace Saunders.
The folks at McGraw Hill sent me some new business book releases to check out, and this one had an immediate impact on me when Saunders shared that there are two kinds of overwhelm, and I realize I have them both.
Speed overwhelm is when you feel like things are whizzing past and it's hard to keep up. My work has constant deadlines for blogs, job search coaching and resume work. When one thing is done, the next deadline already looms ahead. I'm sure a lot of you can relate to speed overwhelm in your own day.
Quantity overwhelm is when the sheer amount of work feels almost insurmountable. My to-do list would literally take years to accomplish. When we have work piled up, it feels impossible, and what's undone takes a lot of joy out of what is done.
Saunders also talks about ambivalence, fear, guilt, frustration and other emotional states, and how to shift yourself out of them so you are able to make some positive changes, which is at the center of making any changes in habits.
All of which made me realize that I'm going about it all wrong. It's actually not about managing time so I can get everything done at all.
It's actually about the very thing that I teach my career and job search clients: start by knowing what's important and focus on that.
It's about time investment, not time management.
She boils the solution down into three simple things:
#1 Clarify Action-Based Priorities.
In other words, know what is important to you in your life, and then parcel out your time based on your own priorities. Note that she says "action-based" so that you might say family is a priority, but it's action-based when you block out time to eat dinner together three nights a week.
#2 Set Realistic Expectations.
Trying to cram too much into the time we have is the downfall of many people I know. Being realistic about what is actually possible goes a long way to reducing stress.
#3 Strengthen Simple Routines.
This is something I'm going to take on. Elizabeth Saunders says the secret to getting the important things done is to build routines that work for you. Whether it's setting your alarm early so you can hit snooze several times before getting up (um, that would be me), or always creating schedules and sticking to them, routines make life easier. She even offers some preset routines we can use.
So this National Time Management month, I'm going to delve a little deeper into my emotional motivations in how I use my time, and thinking of it as time investment, rather than just piling on more tips on time management.
I've got some routines in place (morning coffee, dog walk and swim before starting work), but I'm going to add a few more into the mix and see if it helps me get more done, and more important, to feel better about how much I am getting done.
And on the top of my to-do priorities is to actually finish reading The 3 Secrets of Effective Time Investment, and put new routines into action, which just might be what my time management skills have been waiting for.
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