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Time management: how to make the most of your time

by Liz Marchant

Sometimes, 24 hours in a day doesn’t feel like enough time to get everything done. Between work, travel time, preparing meals, and extra-curricular activities with the kids, it can be hard to find a spare minute in the day, let alone time for yourself.

If you’re finding there are things you haven’t gotten around to doing, or you run out of time in the day, or you feel overwhelmingly busy, this could be a sign that you could benefit from reviewing your time management skills.

There are many benefits of effective time management, including being more productive, stress reduction, time for yourself, and being able to enjoy the little things.

If you aren’t too sure how to time manage effectively, or where to even begin, a good place to start can be to simply think about how you spend your time. Once you know how you spend your time, it can be easier to see where you can claw back more time. Here are two ways to do this:

Time tracking

Tracking the time that you spend each day can help, particularly if you like to visualise where your time is being spent. This can help you see objectively what takes up your time and where time may be re-purposed.

To view your time accurately, record everything you do during the day in a spreadsheet along with the time it took. Personally, I do this in 15 minute blocks. For this to work you have to be  completely honest in your spreadsheet about how much time you’re spending and what you are doing (don’t write online banking if you were also online shopping for example, don’t write waiting for the school bus to come but not that you were looking at Facebook at the time, capture all of it). This helps you see what you are doing, how long it takes and where you could do things more efficiently. I usually find that I become more productive just by doing the spreadsheet alone.

Planning in advance

Another way to approach time management in your day is to plan it out in advance. Set aside time for each task and then see whether the tasks take longer or less time than you expect. For example, you might block out the time between 6:00 and 7:00pm for cooking, eating and cleaning up. By setting aside blocks of time for each task, you can feel more organised as you have a plan of attack.

Ways you can create more time in your day:

  • Limit your social media scrolling: Most of us are guilty of getting lost in the wave of social media content and spending hours of our time each day. Globally, we currently spend an average of 2 hours and 23 minutes on social networks and messaging apps every day. By cutting down by less than half, just one hour a day, you can potentially claw back seven hours each week
  • Creating a list to start the day with a clear focus: Creating a list of things that need to be done throughout the day can give you a clear set of goals that help you become motivated to tick them off. It also ensures that you don’t get side-tracked and forget important tasks.
  • Meal prepping: Preparing meals in advance means all you have to do to have a healthy, home-cooked meal during the week is heat it up. Setting aside time on the weekend to cook batches of meals can give you back valuable time during the week and because you cook in bulk you reduce washing, cleaning and also food waste. As an added bonus it can help you cut down on the amount of takeaway food you buy, saving you money and keeping you healthier.
    Or, if you prefer to cook each night, you could create a list of meals to make including which day you plan to make them. Even this can save you time as you no longer need to contemplate what to make each night, and you can plan in advance to ensure you have ingredients on hand.
  • Asking for help: Sometimes asking others for help actually benefits everyone, since most parents are trying to balance home and work life the same as you. Parents can work together to lessen the load for everyone. This works especially well for tasks such as carpooling to take your kids to sport or musical practices, games, or other events.
  • Hiring a cleaner: Even if it is just one day a month, hiring a cleaner eliminates the pressure of having to have a spotless house and gives you more free time. When asked what advice she would give to someone who was returning to work after children in her Full-Time Woman interview, Traci St Lawrence said hiring a cleaner was worth every cent.
  • Hiring a babysitter or nanny: While absolutely not realistic for everyone, many of our Full-Time Woman interviewees have mentioned hiring a nanny during the week, whether it is for one day or a few. A nanny can make it easier to juggle work commitments while ensuring the children are looked after in their own homes. If the nanny is willing to cook and/or do light cleaning duties, this can be even more valuable because it means that, when the parents have finished work, they can focus on quality time with the family rather than on getting chores done.

If you’re considering day care, it could be worth weighing up whether a nanny might be more effective, both for the time you might be able to reclaim, and the cost. In her interview with Full-Time Woman, Fiona Balfour talked about how she hired a nanny to help when her children were young. Fiona said that it came down to being smart and sensible about what resources she had, and hiring a nanny was more beneficial in her situation.

Another resource that can offer you more tips and advice on ways to improve your time management and reclaim your lost time is the book ‘I know how she does it: How successful women make the most of their time’ by Laura Vanderkam.

When you manage your time better, it will affect all aspects of your life, giving you free time to focus on yourself, and eliminating the stress from realising there is not enough time in the day to get everything done.