More Done, Less Time: 3 Tips for Managing Time

Clichés abound like the snow in Wisconsin: Not enough hours in the day. Time whirling past, like a speeding train. Rat race.

Everyone, it seems, is commenting, complaining or bemoaning the fact that life is more complicated and our to-do lists ever growing.

I know I’ve been overwhelmed with piddly tasks that seem like they should be knocked off my list in 30 seconds flat but instead consume hours. (Not to mention increase my chocolate cravings, or on really bad days, my desire for wine.)

How do I reign in all the chaos of cleaning and budgets and writing? How do I manage all the stuff I need to do, and more importantly, want to do? It’s a lot harder working for myself. I don’t have a boss or clients imposing deadlines.

So I thought back to all the time management strategies I learned when I had a job in the corporate world. Some I still use; others I revised, and I added one of my own.

1. Make a list

Writing a to-do list is the first think anyone tells you to do, and unfortunately, they are right. Unless you are a lot smarter than I am (or maybe less distractible), it’s impossible to remember all the things that need to be done every single day. Something important is bound to get lost.

2. Be strategic in working the list

Then figure out what has to be done today, what you should get done today, and what would be great if you could fit it in. Then number your list in the order you are going to attack each task.

Deviating a little from this can be helpful. If there’s a task on the list you’ve been dreading, do it first. You’ll such a feeling of relief when it’s done, it will carry you through the next several items. Also, you won’t waste any more time thinking about how much you don’t want to do whatever it was.

If you don’t have something dreadful on your list, then start with a quick and easy one. This way you can quickly check off something, and again get the feeling of accomplishment.

Think about when you are most productive. I’ve found (to my surprise) that I can be amazingly prolific first thing in the morning, and can even churn out 1000 words in an hour. So when I can, I plan to do writing tasks early, saving administrative or marketing stuff for later.

3. Hone your skills

The first time I set up an excel spreadsheet, it took me hours to get the columns right and my headers centered. I didn’t know what I was doing. Now, I can whip one up in a matter of seconds.

As I write my first novel, I struggle with character and dialogue and point of view. As my skills improve, I’m finding I can write faster. It’s becoming more second nature. Investing the time to learn how to do things well is paying off in that I can produce more readable prose quicker, and I know I won’t be bogged down in endless rewrites, trying to figure out where I went wrong the first time.

If I follow my own advice here, Monday morning should find me on the phone with the insurance company, asking why they haven’t paid a claim.

How do you manage to stay on top of all the claims on your time? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments!

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