5 Practical Tips for Managing Your Time and Reducing Stress
The busy schedule seems to be in the way when we talk about creating and improving balance. With complex life and demanding work, we may feel that our schedule is in control of our lives. Routine can become so ingrained in our life that we forget to stop and review our priorities and rethink our decisions.
According to Ioana Lupu, Associate Professor at ESSEC Business School France, when employees have flexible schedules they feel empowered, which improves perceived job satisfaction and work-life balance, even if they have extended working hours. When we feel in control of our time, we're more productive, creative, and motivated. You can check out her interview here.
Ready to take over control of your schedule? Here are 5 practical tips on how to do it:
1. Define your priorities and create your schedule around them
If you don't have clear priorities for your work and life it's very likely that you will end up living off someone else's priorities.
At work, understand what are the priorities of your division and the organization and how your job is aligned with them. When you know what is most important to generate impact it became easier to organize your schedule. If you're trying to get promoted this becomes extremely important.
To get more tactical, make a list of everything you need to do, then categorize them based on their urgency and importance. This will help you to identify the most critical tasks and ensure that they get done first. When you have a clear idea of what needs to be done, you'll be able to manage your time more efficiently, reduce stress, and improve your productivity.
The same technique applies to your life goals. If you want to improve your physical health you can prioritize exercising and cooking healthy meals at home in your schedule.
2. Set SMART goals to track your progress on your schedule
Once you understand your priorities, setting realistic goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound, or SMART, will improve control of your schedule.
By tracking your progress it's easier to constantly optimize your schedule and set boundaries, so you don't get distracted by activities that keep you busy but don't help you to create the impact you want in your life or your business.
It's helpful to break down your goals into categories (e.g.: business growth, leadership development, wellness, relationships, social events, learning, etc) and align what is the portion of your time you want to spend in all of them.
Let's say that you intend to spend 10% of your time on wellness so you can achieve your goal to lose weight and improve your health. If after a few weeks of implementing the schedule you haven't been able to go to the gym more than twice a week, you can identify which other category is stealing your time and readjust.
3. Improve your schedule organization for better time management
Creating a schedule is crucial to managing your time effectively. Start by identifying your peak productivity hours, then schedule your most critical tasks during that time. This will help you to make the most of your productive periods and avoid wasting time during your less productive times. Be sure to allow enough time for breaks and relaxation, as this will help you to recharge and improve your overall well-being.
In a remote or hybrid work setting your schedule can be overloaded with meetings (like mine is). It's important to schedule focus time to focus on your priorities.
There were times when I had meetings from 7AM through 3 PM with no breaks. By the third or fourth meeting of the day, my energy was already depleted and I would start multitasking, hurting my productivity and that of the teams I was working with.
By blocking my calendar and suggesting more suitable times for meetings that are not aligned with my priorities, I take over control of my schedule and improve my work satisfaction.
3. Learn to say no to preserve your time and energy
When I talk about setting boundaries and saying no in corporate events, I always get questions about how can you do this without burning bridges.
Here are some suggestions to manage requests that are not aligned with your priorities (saying no, indirectly):
Negotiate the timeline for your tasks
What is the timeline for this task? I have these other 3 important tasks I need to finish this week and I have limited bandwidth. I'd appreciate your help prioritizing.
I suggest this approach to my teams, my mentees, and my clients. Most of the time the person who is requesting a task doesn't have full visibility of your availability (especially when working with cross-functional teams) and deadlines can be flexible when other priorities arise.
Don't respond immediately to pings
Every time that you get interrupted, the brain takes time to concentrate on the task again. Thus, responding to everybody's requests always hurts your productivity and puts you away from your priorities.
When I am concentrating on an activity, I put my messages tools on do not disturb and I respond when I am done. People respect that.
Don't raise your hand to plus one's activities
In my organization, we are rewarded for supporting community development by creating learning and social events, and getting involved in Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) among many other options. I really enjoy developing the new generation of leaders, but most recently I realized I needed to be more focused on other areas to advance my career.
So I stopped raising my hand to all opportunities that come my way. Not saying yes is a way of saying no, and sticking to your priorities.
5. Delegate tasks and become a better leader
Delegating tasks is another effective way to take control of your schedule. If you're in a position of leadership, it's essential to delegate tasks to your team members based on their skills and strengths. This will help you to maximize your team's productivity and reduce your workload. Delegating tasks will also give you more time to focus on your most critical responsibilities and priorities.
Now that you've learned practical tips for managing your time and reducing stress, it's time to take action and apply them in your daily life. Remember, taking control of your schedule is not a one-time effort, it requires constant review and optimization to stay aligned with your goals.
So, grab a notebook and pen, and start by defining your priorities and setting SMART goals. Then, organize your schedule accordingly, and don't forget to schedule time for breaks and relaxation. Learn to say no to requests that are not aligned with your priorities, and delegate tasks to become a better leader.
By taking control of your schedule, you'll not only improve your work-life balance, but you'll also boost your creativity and productivity. So, what are you waiting for? Start implementing these tips today and see the difference it makes in your life! If you need help to take control over your schedule, Type A Performance executive life performance and career strategy one-on-one advisory services can help you define your priorities, pursue your goals and define a schedule that will help to accelerate your progress. Book your discovery call today!