When my daughter came home from college for the holidays, I told her I had just finished five big projects and was feeling very proud of myself. She pointedly asked, “Did you get paid for any of them?” I thought about it and had to admit that no, they were all volunteer projects. For three different organizations!
Luckily, I was trained many years ago in a good time management system. In the early 1990’s, I got my first Franklin Planner and attended the class that went along with it. I was still working in Corporate America back then, and the method I learned in that class served me well throughout my career. When I left in 2006 to start a Professional Organizing business, I continued using that method to manage my own time, and even began teaching some of its tenets to my clients.
The key to this time management method is prioritization. Start each day with a list of everything that is on your plate. Prioritize each task using the letters A, B, and C. An “A” item is one that must get done today. A “B” could wait until tomorrow, while a “C” item could wait even longer. Further prioritize your tasks using A1, A2, A3, A4, etc., then do the same with your Bs and Cs. Now you have your marching orders for the day. You may have appointments throughout the day that will take you away from your list, but whenever you have discretionary time, you can hit the ground running because you know exactly what needs to be done next.
This method works especially well for me because I can mix my business, personal, and volunteer responsibilities. As an entrepreneur with a home office, there is no clear dividing line between work time and personal time. Without a method to help me keep my focus, it would be easy to be pulled in multiple directions. By asking myself, “What needs to get done today? What can wait?”, I can keep all my commitments moving along.
Key to this method is breaking down my commitments into tasks. If I tell myself, “I need to work on this big project today”, then I won’t know where to start, and the size of the project is likely to make me feel overwhelmed. But if I think about what the next step on that project is, and then transfer that task to my list of things to do, then I know exactly what has to be done, and I can ensure that I am making progress.
If you are feeling overwhelmed trying to balance all of the different commitments in your life, then try breaking them into tasks, writing them down, and prioritizing what has to get done each day. You’ll get more done, and you’ll also sleep easier knowing that you are not letting anyone down.