First, determine your priorities in advance. If you cannot distinguish what requires all your attention and you consider everything a priority, then nothing is a priority. If you cannot articulate priorities within a couple of seconds, then you are making decisions on the most recent request, not good decisions based on your time. Therefore, it becomes impossible to triage them based on level of importance. In order to mitigate the risk of feeling overwhelmed, there needs to be clarity in which areas of your life need to be prioritized.
Second, take the time to pause and plan every single day. It may not seem a matter of urgency to do so, but this helps you have some idea of structure. We find ourselves in a rush to get things done, yet we do not plan how we are going to do them. Utilizing this time for time blocking and mapping is essential. As Americans, we are very action oriented. Instant gratification is an integral part of our society. I call it a “microwave society,” as we expect to obtain whatever we want immediately. If we slow down, pause and take five minutes of reflection and planning, we will do so much better.
Third, allow room for flow and adjustments. There is such a thing as too much structure. If your schedule does not have the capacity to withstand flexibility, then you will struggle just as much with time management as someone without structure. Giving yourself permission to be adaptable will help immensely, especially when defining a work-life balance. Because life is ever-changing, do not assume that this will translate into a 50-50 split. It is what works best for you and your needs, so be realistic and do not be afraid to adapt.
Their “why” needs to be identified, and this is rooted in their priorities. Self-reflecting and understanding who and what you are living for will be a part of your motivation. Whether you see yourself aspiring to be a better employee, friend, parent or partner, find that primary motivation. I use mind games with my clients to achieve this. If you find yourself addicted to social media and use it as a procrastination crutch, be productive for three hours and reward yourself with 10 minutes on Facebook. I have also found it beneficial to move temptation apps to hidden screens. Find what works for you, begin with baby steps and adjust accordingly.
When my clients are successful and achieve their goals, they save an aspect of their life. I have seen many save their careers and marriages. However, my favorite response I receive is that they feel more at peace. This is the most rewarding to hear because it means they have been able to effectively prioritize, establish a healthy work-life balance and are released from their stress.
Several years ago, I was a self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur. Before I adjusted and improved my time management, I found myself always on the go or glued to my computer. I recall my husband yelling at one point, “PC junky! Can I make an appointment to see you?” That marked the beginning of my work-life balance journey. As I began changing my life, making an intentional effort to be more effective with time management, I found that sense of peace and connection with my loved ones. I learned to communicate more effectively and frequently with my husband. Respectful and positive dialogues are needed with our loved ones to negotiate fulfilling various tasks. We talk to each other every day, so having those transparent conversations strengthen our relationships.
I love seeing a client experience that “light bulb” moment. When I see this, I know there has been a positive change. Clients realize that they are in a better place because of what they have learned. As a former teacher, I understand different types of learners. I can help them use the information I give them in a practical way. My background has afforded me the tools to be a successful coach, and I cannot stress enough how much I enjoy seeing the positivity that clients have when they put what they learn to practice.
Until COVID-19 is under control, we are living in this new normal that consists of ever-changing circumstances. Make multiple plans and give yourself permission to be flexible—I cannot emphasize this enough. Contingency plans will enable you to switch instantly without having to stay up all night reworking your schedule. When last-minute decisions need to be made, have a way to connect with colleagues or family members.
Effective communication is key. For parents, have multiple plans in place and have an open dialogue with one another. One tactical move is to set a family schedule and build into the day allotted times for work, class and fun. If you have toddlers, flip-flop childcare responsibilities. Coordinate meeting schedules, so that one of you can watch your child while the other is in a meeting. Again, allow flexibility, as it may not be possible to sync one another’s calendars.
For college students, schedules might shift. It will take time and patience to adapt and to navigate through tech glitches and assignments. Mapping out priorities will help ease the transition and force you to focus on one task at a time. The social component of college is vital, and the Aggie connection is unlike that of any other university. In order to remain sociable and maintain Aggie interactions, there needs to be more than just texting. Meaningful conversations about life, other than COVID-19, are invaluable. Parents and college students must set aside time for self-care and recharge. Taking time for yourself will mitigate the risk of becoming exhausted and being unable to manage responsibilities.