Managing time effectively is a challenge that many of us will battle our entire lives, especially while living within a world fueled by ever-changing technology, constant distractions, and devices that demand our attention 24/7. No matter how hard we try to stay focused on one task at a time on our to-do lists, some days it seems like we’re treading water and going nowhere.
Food journals are a wonderful way to track what we eat, when we eat, and why we are eating. When learning how to effectively manage your day, keeping a time journal that is similar in style to a food journal can help.
For one week, track every hour of every day. After logging every hour of your day for at least five days, review the schedules and identify the distractions that pulled you away from your focus. Although we all face unanticipated distractions every day, there are ways to rectify some of the more common time wasters:
- Plan, plan, and plan some more. Fill your car with gas every Sunday night. Unless you’re driving 50+ miles a day, a full tank should last you all week. Find innovative ways to prepare ahead of time so you aren’t frantically running around at the last minute. Plan your meals for a week so you aren’t wandering the grocery store aisles every night, looking for ideas. At the end of each day, create a to-do list for the next day. To-do lists really help us DO and avoid procrastination.
- Limit your time on social media and your phone. Set aside certain times of the day to check social media. These times should last no longer than 15 minutes and should ideally be just twice a day. Set an alarm on your phone when you are ready to begin checking social media. When it goes off, close out all your accounts. Better yet, remove social media apps from your phone. Turn sound notifications off on your phone. Place it face down on the desk or in a drawer when you need to focus on a project. Make a pledge to read the news only once a day. It’s plenty.
- Recognize the other time wasters. Whether it’s a chatty co-worker or social events, there are ways to gently extract yourself from situations you have identified as time wasters. It’s perfectly acceptable to tell a co-worker that you only have a couple of minutes to listen now, but would be happy to schedule a lunch at another time to chat. It’s also fine to extract yourself from social events that feel obligatory instead of enjoyable. When you learn to say “no,” you open yourself up to living a life not driven by obligations, but instead by what makes you happy.
No matter how hard we try, no day ever turns out how we plan. But it is possible to be productive, despite the distractions, if we learn to first recognize and then deal with our unique time wasters.
Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.