December 9, 2010

Time Management: Setting Priorities & Boundaries for 2011


In this day and age with communication made instant by a few clicks, emails, FB updates, or tweet, it can be difficult to sort through the bombarding messages from all your social circles, be they professional, personal, or online communities.

What makes instant communication so great (it's instant!) also makes it overwhelming; when everything is coming at you right now, it can seem like every email, tweet, FB post is of utmost urgency.

When everything is urgent, it's near impossible to prioritize your time.

I speak from a personal place; I have a hard time with sorting through what needs doing right now and what can/must simply wait. The busy end of year season we're in right now just amplifies the situation for me.

The net result?

I waste time.

Oh, does it hurt to offer up that truth but there it is - see my clay feet?  ;-) 

I have found myself in a time management rut lately, one that could be avoided if I simply did three things.

1. Make a list of my responsibilities and rank them by priority.

I'm a mom, a blogger, a freelancer, a school volunteer, a church volunteer, a Girl Scout leader, a daughter (my parents live here in town and are still as feisty as ever but I still keep them on my daily radar), a wife to an awesome dude, a Catholic, an insane canine wrangler (really, he is a good dog!), head chef & housekeeper for our family, and lastly -- because we uber-mommies often forget the basics -- a human being.

I need to remember that I need to eat, sleep, exercise and take care of my own health as a top priority (I'm good at the first and last on that list but I don't get enough sleep, period). I can't do any of the other stuff if I'm not taking care of myself.

And while all those things I do are important in some way, only a few key ones really matter in the big picture of my life. This is where ranking by priorities comes in - I need to remember first things first. (And yes, I do love me some Stephen Covey.)

2. Write a daily/weekly schedule for myself.

I've done this in the past and it really does work because it forces me to admit to this simple reality:

There are only 24 hours in any given day.

When I don't have a firm grasp on my daily schedule, it's easy to over-commit myself to doing more than I can realistically handle. In this way, a daily schedule is like a financial budget - when you have to account for your time in the same way you account for your dollars, you get a clear picture of what can be cut from you schedule as well as what kind of goals you can create for the future.

I've been avoiding doing this for one reason: I know I'm over-scheduled. I know I'm going to have to say no to some things as I go forward if I'm going to better manage my time and create/achieve my goals.

3. Remember that saying no for now doesn't mean I'm saying no forever.

Saying no to some of the lower ranked priorities on my list right now - and some of them are priorities that are directly tied to my own personal long-term goals (like writing best-selling novels) doesn't mean those goals are gone for good.  They aren't. 

I think it's important to fly up a level, to see the forest and not just the trees, so to speak.  Example: I bought my first domain in 2004 with the goal of creating a website for moms who write.  I spent a LOT of time building it from scratch as I taught myself HTML and it was looking decent.  But I ended up deleting the whole thing.

Why?

My kids were 3.5 and almost 2 and I found out I was pregnant with #3; add to that the fact that we were in the midst of a job search for my hubs that eventually meant selling our house and moving.   I realized I needed to focus on what mattered - taking care of my family during (what turned out to be) one of the most stressful 18 months of our lives. 

That experience -as tough as it was on all of us in our little family unit - really hammered home the importance of living simply, living life now, and being fully present in your life with the people who you love. 

My goals aren't going anywhere and - as I remind myself - life isn't a race.  It's truly a journey, one I need to enjoy and appreciate.  If it takes me a little longer to get where I'm hoping to go, that's a-ok.

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Those are my three things I've been thinking about as I get ready for 2011 to arrive.  In the same way I purge the stuff we don't need from our home, I need to purge the stuff I don't really need from my time and I'm determined to do so.

If you're looking for some smart and doable ideas about time management, Money Saving Mom has been running a great series on this topic - it's what kicked me in the pants to face my own time management issues.  Go here and read the first post; if you scroll down to the bottom, you'll see oodles of additional posts on the subject.

Are you hoping to better manage your time in 2011?  What tools are you using?

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