Thursday, October 21, 2010

How Effective Time Management Strategies Can Provide Stress Relief

Much of the current time management strategies combine organizing techniques and time-saving tips along with setting priorities and improving planning skills as the method of achieving success. Many of us have sat through time management seminars, read books, seen videos and visited web sites in order to learn how to do things better and faster. We have bought more efficient planning tools such as day planners, electronic organizers or web calendars, to better manage and control our time. And what happens? We still need more time. We are still in a hurry, having no time for ourselves. Friends and family still want more of our time, but there is nothing more to give. And we still feel guilty and in desperate need of stress relief! Is there a solution somewhere out there??

Good news!!

It's time to stop running on the proverbial "tread mill" on your way to nowhere. Let's regroup. The three aspects of time management that I emphasize are:

(1) set your priorities,
(2) plan accordingly, and
(3) avoid time wasters.

With good time management strategies you are in control of your use of time, your establishment of priorities and, your stress and energy levels. If women incorporate these effective time management strategies, they can maintain a balance between work, personal, and family lives. Well designed time management strategies give even busy over-committed women enough flexibility to respond to surprises and/or new opportunities.

Setting Priorities and Setting Goals are Essential Ingredients in Effective Time Management.

With so many people wanting part of us, women often have trouble determining what need to attend to first. Stop and consider what really matters. If you are not careful, everything appears to have a sense of urgency and you will spend time putting out "fires" without much to show for at the end of the day. Many people have a daily to-do list which they use to prioritize what work is most important. Know what is important and write down the key goals you are working towards. These goals can apply to all parts of your life. Setting goals gives direction to what you are striving to accomplish and allows you to delineate what is important. Goals can be long range and can be short range. A long range goal may be a 4-year plan designed to help you complete your bachelor's degree. Within that long range goal you have many short range goals such as purchasing a safer and newer car so you can drive to the college campus, or re-arranging your child care schedule so that you can take a night class. Even completing a course and each of the class assignments would be examples of short range goals. Setting goals is an essential ingredient for effective time management because it gives you a sense of direction as to where you are going, and scheduling your time based on that direction helps you prioritize the use of the time.

Solid Planning is a Great Stress Reliever.

Did you know that for every minute you spend planning, you can save 4-10 times that amount in execution. Finding an extra 30 minutes per day is equivalent to finding 22 eight-hour days per year. That is one extra work month per year!

The best focus for planning is on a weekly basis. The most important aspect is to plan every week. Once a week, write your goals for the upcoming week. Whenever the time required accomplishing goals is more than the time available then the plan can be revised. When planning, start by asking this checklist of questions:

**What has to be done?
**When should it be done?
**What priority should it have?
**How much time will it require?

Plan ahead because it often takes longer than you think to get a task completed. Think back a day or two. How long did it take you to visit the grocery store, purchase your son or daughter a new pair of soccer shoes, order an airline ticket online, or make a doctor's appointment? One way for stress relief is to be realistic about how much time things take to get done. Some times you feel as though you are in a race against the clock, but in reality, you are much better off, accomplishing things correctly so you don't have to redo or revisit tasks.

If you find that you have a lot of stressful situations piling up in a given time period, think of ways to spread out the events. It may be beneficial to you if you can postpone some stressful events to another day as long as you don't fall into the procrastination trap. Each life stressor is additive, and the more stressors in your life, the higher is the level of stress. Planning ways to spread out the stressors in given days and weeks is a good time management strategy and stress reliever. Planning allows you to schedule quality thinking-time to focus on the important but not urgent things in your life. Examples might be planning a family gathering, preparing a business presentation, helping your child with his/her college search, or spending relaxation time by yourself. Daily planning allows you to decide which portions of your weekly plan can be achieved each day, taking care to focus on the weekly objectives. Each day determine the specific activities to undertake. Group related tasks in the same portion of the day so that you can attend to them together. And,don't forget to schedule thinking time each day. Many have found that spending the last half hour of their work day reviewing the day's schedule and adjusting the next day's schedule is both efficient and effective as a time management strategy.

Time Wasters--Be Aware of Time Gobblers

Interruptions--getting side tracked

Proactive Time Management is the ability to control one's environment, rather than let it control you.

1. Plan and set goals
2. Communicate your goals and plans
3. Schedule your priorities
4. Track and measure your results.

Crisis Mode Time Management

Urgent-do it now! Immediate attention must be given to this event, person or thing.

1. Handle it first.
2. Manage your time second.
3. Communicate what you are doing third.
4. Plan and set goals as time becomes available.

Effective Time Managers Know How To:

1. Handle interruptions quickly
2. Take advantage of personal peak working times (when do you work best?)
3. Delegate effectively whenever possible
4. Make time plans based on defined objectives and goals
5. Focus on their highest priorities

Remember that well designed time management strategies are a strong aid for stress relief. Setting priorities, developing solid planning habits and eliminating time wasting activities improve your time management and lower stress levels.


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