Time Management 101: The Mindset

October 14, 2015 , In: Personal, Professional , With: No Comments

Every time I sit down to write one of these self-betterment blog posts, I momentarily realize how ridiculous it is that a girl who has openly admitted to not having her shit together to offer you life advice, but I’m going to ask you to take a leap of faith with me here.

When it comes to the act of “adulting,” my batting average is a little worse for the wear. I can cook about 4 meals successfully. My car is never clean. I cry in public more than a grown person should. But there are a couple of things I’ve gotten down pat, and one of those things is time management.

Time Management is one of those always-capitalized buzzwords that pops up in a lot of LinkedIn articles that you never read, but it isn’t as abstract and scary as it sounds. If I had to slap a definition on it, time management is organizing your actions in a way that helps you get shit done – but even that’s pretty damn vague. To me, time management is all about adopting the right combination of mindset and methods.

I’ve collected some amazing tools that help me manage my time successfully, but I wasn’t able to fully employ them until I adopted a mindset that lent itself well to my time management goals. So before jumping into my time management methods, I’ll let you in on some of the madness:

Time management isn’t really about time

See that quote about Beyonce up there? Yeah, I hate it. Don’t get me wrong, I love Beyonce, but what does she know about time management? She has a posse of people who manage her time for her. If you were a perfect little hustlin’ machine all the time, the 24 hours in each day would be plenty of time to finish everything you need to do. The fact is, you still need to sleep and eat and just veg out every once and a while. Time management is really about energy management, and the sooner you realize and act upon that fact, the better. If you’re always drained at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, don’t schedule anything important for the mid afternoon. If you consistently zonk out at midnight each night, don’t expect to crank out an awesome term paper by pulling an all nighter. Get to know yourself and don’t work against your natural habits – ensuring that you’re working on the things that are most important to you when you’re most alert is half the battle of time management.

Its Only Procrastination When It’s Not Planned
Bear with me on this one – I know it sounds like the type of thing that a big ole procrastinator who just wanted to procrastinate would say, but adopting this idea has revolutionized my time management. Our lives would be pretty miserable if we just focused on the goals and work and commitments we make 24/7. It’s the Netflix binges and afternoon naps and Sunday brunches that make our lives enjoyable and give us a moment to breathe. Less enjoyable, however, is that terrible gut-feeling you always get when you’re on the fourth episode of Gilmore Girls and you have a stack of homework that you haven’t touched.That gut feeling is guilt, and it happens when you allow yourself to procrastinate rather than giving precedence to the obligations that you’ve prioritized.

But who says that you shouldn’t prioritize a Netflix binge every once and a while? Doing things that make you happy is essential to keeping up your mental health, and having a positive attitude will allow you to actually be successful when you do tackle your important work, giving you the energy you need to get through the rest of your to-dos.

The secret to ridding yourself of procrastinators guilt is to actually schedule in time to procrastinate. It may seem silly, but physically write down “Netflix date at 2 on Thursday” if you feel like you could use some TLC during your week. You won’t feel bad about doing it because you’ve planned it in advance, and you can set aside the worries that there’s something better that you should be doing with your time. Because let’s be honest, how am I supposed to commit my full attention to outcome of Lorelai and Luke’s relationship when there’s a term paper on the back of my mind?


Say Yes to Saying No
Around this time last year, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the 2014 Grace Hopper Women in Computing Conference in Phoenix, AZ. The conference opened my eyes to many things – the majority of which included realizing that there were thousands of girls from all over the world that were younger than me and better than me in everything I thought I was good at. In between some minor panic attacks over this fact, I managed to attend some incredible talks from women in all different aspects of the tech industry – one of my absolute favorite of these talks was given by JJ DiGeronimo on the power of saying no.

JJ started her talk with the tired platitudes that I was expecting – that we, as women, were enveloped in a culture of saying “yes” to anything. That we, as women, were juggling too many obligations to things that we didn’t actually care about. That we, as women, needed to start cutting out the nonessentials from our life.

I was half about to write JJ off as another motivational speaker who spouted off meaningless wisdom on our “culture of ‘yes,’” but never actually told us how to start decluttering our lives. Until she did just that.

JJ gave every woman in attendance access to a digital handout that allowed us to list every single one of our current commitments, filling in details about how much time and energy it took, who requested it of us, and how much it aligned with our goals. By the time we listed out our commitments, it became clear which ones were cluttering up our time – and it made it much easier to remove them from the list and from our lives.

With just a few tweaks for my college lifestyle, I have used this handout for my current commitments and for any future commitments I think I may want to tackle. I make sure that I only allow myself to devote time to commitments that are worth my energy and align with my personal goals, which ensures that I am able to approach each activity in my life with a positive attitude and a great work ethic. You can download JJ’s original “no guide” here, or download my revised one here.

Manage YOUR Time
For our last piece of advice, I’ll let you in on a little secret that you’re going to wish I had told you before you suffered through these first 1,000 words: nobody else’s time management method is really going to work for you. Your time, energy, and goals are totally different from anyone else’s on the planet, which is pretty cool if you think about it. You are going to prioritize certain things with higher importance than other things, and your time management methods have to reflect these priorities and the way you think about them. For example, I cannot stand to think about my day in hour-by-hour or minute-by-minute increments – instead, I thrive on to-do lists that outline all of the things I have to get done in a certain time block chunk, regardless of their importance or urgency. I’ve naively taken my friends’ raving suggestions to purchase planners that organize the days hour-by-hour or morning-day-night and found myself miserable. I have clubs that insist that I sync up all my daily activities to an online calendar so that they can keep tabs on when I’m free; I felt pestered by the constant notifications for activities, and found that I wasn’t actually remembering my commitments, but rather just being “reminded” about them.

It wasn’t until I sat down and really visualized the way I thought about my days that I was able to uncover the best strategies and tools that worked for me. My next post outlines some of the tools I’ve found to be a great help, but don’t be discouraged if all of them seem like total bullshit – in all likelihood, to you, they may be total bullshit. But the first step in finding out what works is to rule out the things that really don’t.

Just be sure to carve a little time for “time management trial-and-error” in your planner the next couple of weeks.xoxo

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Emily Sermons

Creator & Coffee Addict

Emily is studying user experience and web development and works at Adobe in web applications support. She enjoys Hershey's kisses and shouting her thoughts into the void of the internet.

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