We all have twenty four hours a day, seven days a weeks and same number of days each months. However, while some manage to make the best out of their time, many others fail to get things done. They feel stressed, not effective and sometimes guilty.As a full-time-working employee, a wife and a mother, I comprehended years ago that time is my most valuable resource – beside my health for sure – and hence I tried many strategies to stretch my time to fit my demanding life. One of the things that inspired me the most was the book of Stephen Covey ‘First things first’ in addition to the book of ‘Getting things done’. Here are some strategies I use:
1- Getting clear of who I want to be in my life in general:
I want to be an effective employee, a good mother, a supportive wife, a helpful sister…etc
2- Getting clear of how I want to become it:
I want to spend time with my daughter bonding with her to become friends, I want to create a calm environment for my husband to help him concentrate and work better, I want to plan a new project to help my students develop more..etc
3- Listing my things to do:
I use a paper and divide it into four parts for urgent and important matters as mentioned in the picture.
I start listing all the things I need to do to be the person I wanted to become. I put each task under one of these four parts.
4- Delegating and asking for help:
I check my list of things to do and identify the things I can delegate and the things I may receive help with. I contact the persons who might help me and check if they can make it.
5- Getting clear of my urgent priorities during the week ahead:
I start planning my week in terms of priorities. Week by week. In a week my top priorities could be my husband and my daughter, while in another it could be my work project and my sisters. It doesn’t mean that I neglect the rest, it only means that I am clear about my priorities.
6- Scheduling priorities:
After knowing my priorities, I start identifying the average time needed for each and schedule it on a specific date and time after ensuring that the people involved are fine with it.
7- Working on the important:
To ensure that my life doesn’t slip from me, I make sure to allocate time weekly – if not possible daily – for important matters. This time could be an hour per week to an hour per day. Important matters could include planning for summer vacation, reflecting on my personal life, searching for on line courses.. Etc
8- Working on myself:
This is one of the best lessons life had taught me. That I should never ever neglect working on my own development. This is even higher than important things and could be done by reading books,attending workshops, listening to podcasts, watching YouTube videos or TED talks… Things that would polish my mind and inspire my soul to become a better person. I try my best to do it in 10 to 30 minutes daily and in worst cases I do it in an hour per week. I usually use a list I call it ‘Next actions’ in which I write the books, the videos, the workshops and other resources I wish to learn from and don’t have a specific time for. Every time I work on my development, I visit my list and check what I can do with the time I have on hand.
9- Setting the sails:
This means that I spend 5-10 minutes at the beginning of my day to journal; reminding myself of whom I wanted to be, how and my top priorities during the coming hours.
10- Communicating my stressful period:
When life turns crazy with an exam I’m studying for of a big event I’m in charge of, I communicate the matter with my family, asking them ahead to be supportive and understanding and to expect from me less than usual and that my priorities will be for this particular task and I secure them that in a certain period of time I will be back to normal. I ask them as well for their love and prayers in the tough period.
I spend 10 minutes at the end of each week reflecting on what I did, what I didn’t and why didn’t I do it. I reflect on my performance as well, did I do the things really well or I just did. I try to understand myself better to improve in the coming weeks. If I work better early in the morning, I schedule my studying time in it. If I perform better while listening to music, I do…etc
12- Rewarding myself:
Years ago I used to feel shame and guilt if I had 9 things done of 10. I used to torture myself for not being perfect. Now, becoming more mature, I started to celebrate myself with its flaws and imperfections. I reward myself for the things done, even if it was only one thing. I tell myself you’re good, you’re trying, you’re putting an effort. I start my next week trying to be better than the week before, comparing myself and my performance with me and only me.
What are your strategies? How do you spend your time? Are your activities well aligned with who you want to be? Are you working on your own development? Are you clear about your priorities?