Four Ways to Take Back Control of Your Time

control your time

Today’s article is a guest post by Ali Luke.

Do you ever feel like there’s never enough time? You always seem to be rushing – trying to get to appointments on time, trying to reach deadlines, trying to find that crucial bit of paper which you just know you left somewhere on your desk.

You need to take back control of your time. And here’s how:

#1: Recognize That You Are in Control

We all have twenty-four hours a day – but sometimes, we seem to forget that. How often have you blamed “life” for being so busy – without acknowledging that it’s your life and that you made it that way?

Of course, you may have some time burdens which really are outside your control (perhaps a health issue or a difficult family situation), but in most cases, you’ll find that you have a lot more power than you’re admitting.

You choose how to spend your time. If you’re working 60 hour weeks, that was a choice you made – to go into a particular career – and you don’t necessarily have to stick with it for life. If you’re a chronic procrastinator, you can break that habit.

#2: Track Where Your Time is Going

It’s really tough to take back control of your time if you’re not sure what the current problems are. Maybe you think that your main problem is that you always end up working late – but is that because you’ve got way too much to do, or because you’re bad at prioritizing and staying on task during the day?

By keeping a time log – which can be a simple spreadsheet or even a notebook – you’ll see exactly where your time is going. Track everything you do (either during your work day, or even better, from when you wake up until when you go to bed). You might want to do this in fifteen minute or half-hour intervals.

#3: Ditch Unwanted Commitments

Easier said than done, I know – but if you can offload some unwanted tasks or chores, you’ll not only free up some time, you’ll also feel a sense of real relief!

Are you involved in any work projects which you could delegate to a junior employee (who might be glad of the extra experience and responsibility)? It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that you need to do things yourself in order to have them done right – but this not only holds you back in your career, it stops other people from progressing too.

At home, perhaps you’ve taken on chores which you really don’t need to do. Maybe it’s time to teach your teens to pick up after themselves – or perhaps you could pay for someone to clean or garden for you. If it frees up a few hours for you to do something meaningful, it’s money well spent.

#4: Plan Ahead

Maybe you have great intentions, but end up spending most of your work day on emails and phone calls – without ever really making progress on the important things. Or maybe you find that you forget vital tasks, or only manage to get round to doing big projects when there’s an imminent deadline.

All these problems can be solved with better planning. Each Monday, look at the week ahead: are there any deadlines coming up? What work do you need to do on Monday and Tuesday in order to have a more relaxed Friday?

Every morning, before you check your email, decide on two or three “most important” tasks for the day. If you could only do three things today, what would they be? Write them down, and work through them – without getting distracted by other things.

What tips would you add to this list? How have you succeeded in taking control of your time?

Ali Luke blogs about writing and productivity over at Aliventures – if you enjoyed this post, you’ll like her piece on How to Get Started on Things You Keep Putting Off.
[photo by heatheronhertravels]