• Friday, June 21, 2024
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From Chaos to Calm: Time management techniques to take back control and achieve your goals

From Chaos to Calm: Time management techniques to take back control and achieve your goals

Have you ever wished for more hours at the end of the day? The alarm rings on a Monday morning and even as you hit the snooze button, you know you’d better get up and go and wake your children who took after you in the sleep department – unless it’s a Saturday and they are suddenly miraculously awake at 7am for weekend morning cartoons.

You drag yourself out of bed, still shattered and telling yourself that you will definitely go to bed earlier this night. Barely awake, your brain starts filling up with the ever-present mental checklist.

Work deadlines, your promise to call your mother since last week that you still haven’t fulfilled, and your daughter’s after-school sports programme – even though you’re not sure where her PE kit is, that’s if it’s even in the house. You’re running out of the house, trying to figure out a hundred things.

The work day is chaotic. Meetings blend into one another, and by lunchtime, you’re inhaling your food at your desk with one hand while scrolling through project deadlines with the other. The afternoon is busy till 5pm. Time to brave traffic and rush home, where another shift awaits.

Evenings are a blur of homework help, dinner prep, and “Get down from there!” By the time you finally collapse in bed, it’s late and your mind is already drifting towards tomorrow’s challenges. And you didn’t call your mum.

Sound familiar? If you’ve ever felt like this, juggling work, family and personal goals, then you know the daily struggle is real. However, there is a better way to navigate the constant time tug-of-war. This is where time management comes into play. It’s not about adding more hours to the day, but about strategically utilising the ones we have to find a sense of balance and avoid constantly feeling like we’re drowning.

Effective time management begins with a strong foundation of self-awareness. Understanding your own habits and patterns is crucial in making the most of your day.

Start by identifying your peak productivity hours. Are you a morning lark, energised and ready to tackle big tasks at dawn, or a night owl, getting more productive at night after the world calms down? Recognising your natural rhythm allows you to schedule demanding tasks during your high-energy periods, ensuring that you work efficiently rather than struggling against your body’s natural inclinations.

Next comes creating a to-do list – the most important pillar of time management for me. An effective to-do list should bring calm and structure. You take a look at what you need to do, and you can systematically strike them out one by one as you complete the tasks. Instant dopamine rush!

However, in order for a to-do list to work, it must be broken down into single, measurable, achievable tasks as opposed to an overwhelming list that induces more stress. “Email Sarah’s school re: cancelling sports” is a good item. “Finish building project” doesn’t work as well as it involves so many moving parts.

Another excellent strategy that feeds into to-do lists are prioritisation techniques such as the Eisenhower Matrix. When you categorise tasks based on urgency and importance, you can focus on what really matters and avoid getting distracted by less important activities. Add a well-structured plan for your day or week, using tools like calendars and planners, and watch the difference it makes.

And the good news is that you don’t have to sit there and draw all of this up yourself. In this digital age, there is an array of time-saving apps. From those that track your minutes to planners that organise your days, there’s digital support for all of it. Find the one that works best for your needs and commit to using it.

Other than the habits we need to adopt, however, there are also habits we need to break. The first is saying “Yes” to every request and bending over backwards to accommodate family, friends, colleagues, and everyone else in between. Learning to say no can be a game-changer in managing your time effectively.

There is such a sweet freedom that comes with politely declining invitations to time-wasting escapades. Every “no” frees up space for something better, something that truly matters to you. And remember: “No” is a complete sentence. You don’t have to tie yourself up in knots with excuses and lies. “I’m sorry, I’m not able to do that,” is a perfectly acceptable response as an adult.

Obviously, you can’t say no to every request, so this is where it’s important to remember that you are not a one-person army, and you need to stop trying to do it all by yourself. Delegating tasks to capable hands can drastically reduce your workload. Yes, your son can do the dishes. Yes, your colleague can complete that spreadsheet. Yes, your staff can do the stocktake. This is not a sign of weakness but rather a testament to your leadership abilities.

Remember, effective time management takes…well, time. Like any skill, it takes practice and refinement. There will be setbacks – that unexpected meeting that throws your schedule off, the days when you can’t seem to focus despite having a million things to do.

But by consistently applying these tips, you’ll gradually develop a system that works for you. As you start reclaiming control of your time, you’ll find yourself achieving a greater sense of balance, and ultimately, living a more fulfilling life.
Oh, and call your mum.

Rachel Onamusi is the CEO of VN Sync, a full-service media marketing agency specializing in digital media strategy, has a proven track record of empowering brands through innovative campaigns and strategic partnerships. Based in the UK, Ms. Onamusi is a sought-after speaker, writer, and frequent media contributor.