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Time Management Hacks to Balance Your Routine

Search Remotely Time Management Hacks to Balance Routine

What do we all have in common? Whether we work from home or report to a traditional office setting, we have been gifted with the same amount of hours each day to spend our lives. What do you do with each of the 24 hours you have to walk on this planet among your family, friends and work colleagues?

Previous articles we have written show that the average remote worker spends 20% more time on the computer than their in office colleagues.

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If you are trying to improve different areas of your life and be the happiest, most balanced person possible, then managing your time is one of the first things you should learn how to do.

The fact is, time management doesn’t come naturally to everyone. It is really easy to get caught up in the wrong things, become distracted, and lose focus on your end goal. When you want a better work/life balance, it is crucial that you understand how to better manage your personal and work time.

The McGraw Center at Princeton University ,suggests that there are a number of management principles that have withstood the test of time. These principles of effective time management are assured to offer work life balance, success and well-being.

Here are some tips to help you get started.

Plan Ahead of Time

If you want to be good at managing your time, you need to plan ahead. When you get into the habit of just winging it, that is when things tend to fall through the cracks, and all your time is spent on work and other responsibilities, without anything left for yourself.

Start planning ahead of time for your personal and work life, either the night before or the day before your work starts. If you work on a Monday, you can use a couple of hours Sunday evening to plan out your week, including your work schedule, tasks that need to be completed, weekly goals, and self-care time.

Start Your Day With a Low-Stress Morning Routine

Every morning, your routine should be completely free of drama, negativity, and stress. This might mean staying off your phone and computer, not checking emails, and not even having notifications turned on. Your morning routine should be relaxing and allow you to wake up in a gentle and stress-free way.

If you find that you are tempted to check work emails right when you open your eyes, then you need to keep your phone off. At the very least, disable notifications aside from your alarm.

Have a gentle morning routine with activities like journaling, reading, meditation, or yoga. Give yourself a few minutes minimum to just do some breathing exercises before your day gets started.

Utilize the Law of Selectivity

To borrow a term from the law enforcement world where District Attorneys have great power for using discretion when determining which laws to more vigorously enforce and those they turn a blind eye. This practice is called, ‘selective enforcement.‘ As we reflect upon our day we must use discernment in figuring out which tasks we’d like to include on our ‘to do’ list and those we are not committed to do on this particular day.

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The researchers at Princeton suggest that we only include job assignments or personal goals to which we are committed. If there is no snowball in hades chance that we will initiate the arduous task of baking a birthday cake for a friend or begin a work assignment that isn’t due until next Quarter, why write it down on your list today?

Failure to start or complete a task, according to psychologists can lead to ‘The Zeigarnik Effect‘. This phenomenon was coined by Russian Psychologist, Bluma Zeigarnik whose studies revealed that failure to initiate or finish a task can lead to frustration, resentment and guilt. So, be true to yourself. If you aren’t committed to starting or completing a particular task for this day, don’t write it down on your ‘To do list.’

Complete Tasks in Order of Priority

To set priorities for your work and personal tasks is going to be crucial if you want to manage your time wisely. This might mean delegating some tasks or saving them for another time when you have a free window in your schedule.

By identifying tasks as high, medium, and low priority, you know that you’re at your earliest starting point in the day should be reserved for your most important tasks. Medium priority would reasonably follow. Last, you would identify the least important (or low) or an “optional” list for if and when you have the time for them. That way, you’re not trying to fill every second of the day with something productive, and give yourself a lot more flexibility.

Consider Both Personal and Work Goals

Remember that your goals in life should be both personal and professional. You can’t be happy with just your work ambitions, but you also will have a hard time being productive and successful with only personal goals. Try to find a balance between both and fit them into your schedule.

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This is also a great way to manage your time, since it makes it easier to know what to put in your schedule and when. Split up your goals for the week into personal and professional, making sure there is a good balance between them. It is okay if one week your work goals far outweigh the personal ones, but that means the following week should focus more on your personal obligations.

Make Time for Fun Activities

Princeton University researchers also found that making time for fun activities was paramount to success. Many executives and managers filling the ranks of top tier global talent are often reminded by their life coaches, counselors and psychologists to make time for leisure and fun. Without penciling in, say, lunch with significant other, or Pickleball with the neighbors, baseball practice with child, or Happy Hour drinks with work colleagues; fun times will pass us by unnoticed. While scheduling in fun time can serve as reminders of tasks to initiate and complete, some experts say that scheduling leisure activities takes ‘the fun out of fun.’

Science Daily, after reviewing a series of research studies found that the act of scheduling a leisure, entertainment or fun activity, “led people to anticipate less enjoyment and actually enjoy the event less than if the same activities were unplanned.”

A few psychological researchers, on the other hand, concluded that the act of scheduling fun, pleasant and leisure activities can alleviate signs of Depression. This practice is called Behavioral Activation by mental health professionals. This activity is prescribed to patients to help them improve their positive mood. Psychologists at Very Well Mind posit that the act of scheduling and participating in positive and fun events can boost one’s mood. 

Keep Your Tasks Separate

As you begin considering your personal and work goals, you also want tasks for them to be separate in your calendar. Color code each area of your life on your calendar if it helps you to be more visual. This is where you find that work/life balance and ensure enough time is spent on every area of your life that is important to you.

Make the Distinction between Time vs Task

While developing your ‘To do List’ for the day, it is critical to distinguish between time and task. Therefore, when identifying and prioritizing your daily tasks, accounting for the estimated time to complete each task can save you from a lot of worry, hassle and frustration. If you find it difficult to forecast the amount of time required for each task, break your day into 2 hour intervals, set your Smartwatch timer, and check in with yourself. At each check in you can access  whether you need to shift gears or stay the course.

Refrain from Multi-tasking

Researchers say it is a myth that the most successful among us multi-task effectively. In fact, research shows that when we cognitively shift between one task to another: never fully focusing on all tasks simultaneously. Psychology Today has published an excellent article on the 10 Risks Associated with Multitasking. Just one psychologist point to is the risk of increased distractibility.

As such, Princeton University recommends that we refrain from multi-tasking by working on just one task at a time.

Schedule Flexible Blocks to Anticipate Likely Interruptions

Yes, we all know that our best plans are often meant to be broken. Who here has taken the time to create a daily schedule to have your schedule upended by your boss, family or co-worker?  An urgent matter has come up? Or an unanticipated glitch with the computer system? A family or health emergency, perhaps? Or just a routine team meeting that you forgot about and didn’t prepare?

Princeton University postulates  that the best strategy to use is to leave empty time slots. You can use these time slots to re-group after challenging video conferences or to restore your energy after a draining phone call from your supervisor or client. You may also use these empty slots as moments to catch up on physical movement, meditation and exercise.

Further it is suggested to end the find day of your work week with an open two or three hour block to review open assignments that need to be completed before closing out the week.

Organize your Physical Space to your Advantage

Finally, organize your physical space to your advantage. This is particularly true for remote workers who work from home.

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Make a concerted effort to utilize your physical space: posters, post it notes, labels, charts and sticky comments to remind you of your tasks and goals. In the absence of the physical presence of colleagues and your supervisor, you have to be your own best work police to effectively manage your time to help you get on track.



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