Posted on May 11th, 2006

Does your schedule leave you feeling frazzled? Do you find yourself spinning your wheels, running form work to soccer practice to dance class to your parent-teacher conference to the grocery store, then back home to cook dinner? Maybe then you spend a few quality minutes with your husband and children, and possibly squeeze in a little laundry? By the time you fall (fully clothed) into bed, are you out before your head hits the pillow? Between taking care of our families, our homes, and our jobs, many of us don’t know whether we’re coming or going. But we all know someone who seems to be able to do everything without breaking a sweat. You know the one. She’s Ms. Perfect, the mom who makes the rest of us look bad. She works full time, has 2.5 perfect children, and a loving (handsome AND successful) husband. She heads all the committees and bakes cookies (from scratch) for the whole neighborhood every time anything resembling a holiday pops up on the calendar. Oh, and somehow she has time to volunteer at the local soup kitchen every Saturday. And, on top of this, she always manages to look amazing! You despise her, right? Of course, who wouldn’t? But, wait. Let’s hold back the green-eyed monster for a moment and ask ourselves a question. How does she do it?

No matter what you may think, she’s not superhuman. She just manages to stay organized and focused on her goals. She schedules her time wisely and sticks to it.

So, how does an average Jane learn to do this? Don’t worry; it’s not as difficult as you might think. You, too, can have it all! All it takes is a little practice and perseverance. It might be hard to believe, but there is hope for the proverbial chicken running around with her head cut off!

Anne Morrow Lindbergh once said, “Lost time is like a run in a stocking. It always gets worse.”

The simple steps outlined below present a basic blueprint of time management that will help you to stop losing time and start shunning that stress. Give it a shot and you will be amazed at the results.

1. Where is your time going? You probably have no idea. The first step to organizing your day is to get a clear idea of exactly what you’re doing. How do you do this? In a small notebook, sketch a timetable. Divide it into three segments: morning, afternoon, and evening. For five days, carry the notebook with you. At the end of each time segment, record your activities and the amount of time spent on each. You may find it’s more accurate if you record after each activity. For example, a morning segment might begin like this: Sleeping in, 30 minutes. Shower, 15 minutes. Getting ready (clothes, hair makeup), 45 minutes. Getting kids ready, 30 minutes. Breakfast, 10 minutes. Commuting, 45 minutes…and so on. At the end of five days, take a serious look at how your time is spent. Could you be doing more, or are you doing too much? You might be surprised to find that you spend more time procrastinating and preparing to get things done than actually doing them.

2. What are your priorities? The next step is to determine exactly what you need (and want) to accomplish. Take a few minutes to list your day to day responsibilities and goals. Give each a rating from one to three, three being most significant. Use this rating to determine what’s worth your time and what may not be. You may find that some of the things you thought were priorities actually aren’t that important. Don’t be afraid to say “no” once in awhile. You’re not the only one who can organize that committee or host that party. When it comes to your home and family, you are allowed to ask for help. Delegate chores to your children or spouse, or even hire outside help if necessary.

3. Be a list maker. According to J. Robin Powell, PH.D., author of The Working Woman’s Guide to Managing Stress, list making alone can reduce stress levels. Each night before you go to bed, make a simple list of what you plan to accomplish the next day. Don’t go overboard. It’s important that it is actually possible to accomplish your goals. You will be able to sleep easily knowing that you are already organized for the next day. You can also keep a working list of more time-consuming projects, such as organizing closets or painting the bathroom. Make a point of completing one project from this list each week, and be sure to update it often.

4. Plan, plan, plan. Get an appointment book small enough to fit in your purse and carry it with you wherever you go. Use it to plan daily, weekly, and monthly activities. For your day to day matters, plan like activities together. For example, plan to run all of your errands in one afternoon. This will help you to avoid running in circles. But, remember to be flexible. Expect unplanned interruptions or events, and be willing to change your schedule on occasion to focus on what’s important. And speaking of focus, try to avoid skipping around. You may end up with a lot of unfinished projects. Staying focused will help you to stay on track and take care of business, giving you a wonderful feeling of accomplishment.

5. Get organized! Adopt that old motto, “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” Be sure your home, your car, and your office are as orderly as possible. Organization promotes a sense of well being and helps you to feel more in control. Bear in mind, it takes time to make time. Time spent organizing is an investment in you. If you find that things are already out of control, schedule several evenings or a weekend to do a good once-over to put everything in order. Throw out or give away what you don’t want or need, then organize the rest. After that, do a little each day to keep it together. You’ll thank yourself.

6. Last, but not least, keep that positive attitude! Don’t allow yourself to dwell on how little time you have; instead, focus on what you’ve got to do. Shun the stress! You don’t have to be on a strict schedule without time for leisure. A big part of effective time management is to remain flexible and set aside more time for you.

Just think, in a few short weeks, you can change your life by making a few simple changes. Furthermore, the next time you see Ms. Perfect, you won’t feel defective. You can just smile and nod, knowing that you’ve learned her little secret.

Angela Atkinson lives in St. Louis, Missouri and has two beautiful sons. She has been writing for 25 years and recently became a stay at home mom, which allows her full time access to both of her passions, her family and her writing. You can contact her at angieeigna@stressmanagementarticles.com.

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