I was recently asked to do a lunch and learn presentation at a local business about time and stress management. I was able to lock down six strategies that have helped me with time management, ultimately leading to my own stress reduction. I am guessing a lot of my readers are busy moms, dads, working people, you name it, so I am sharing my strategies below, in hopes that you can adopt 1 or 2 that may help!
1. Stop multitasking – this is a “skill” that has been glamorized… It is a lie! As Steve Uzzell said, “multitasking is merely the opportunity to screw up multiple things at one time.”
Personally, the number one thing I did to stop multitasking was turning off my email when working on an important project. I found myself getting absolutely nothing accomplished when I had my email open all day, because I was stopping to answer every single one of them. And really, none of them were that important! Every one of them could have waited!
Have you read the book, ‘The One Thing’ by Gary Keller? You should! Here is an excerpt directly from the book – “Most inboxes overflow with unimportant emails masquerading as priorities. Tackling these tasks in the order we receive them is behaving as if the squeaky wheel immediately deserves the grease.” Seriously, try turning your email off and only checking it at 2 or 3 pre-determined times throughout the day. You will find you get so much more of your really important tasks accomplished, without the unnecessary distraction.
2. Build one habit at a time – this is another concept talked about in Keller’s book. Many people, when they have a goal in mind, say to lose weight, charge full force into their goal by promising to go to the gym every morning, quitting sugar cold turkey, vowing to make a healthy dinner every night, etc. Well, no one actually has the discipline to acquire more than one habit at a time, so what happens?
Nine times out of ten, these individuals fail. After hitting the gym every day for a week they are exhausted and decide to skip one day; since they didn’t work out, the day is shot, so they eat 3 cupcakes at work, then decide to skip dinner all together. Most people will not have the energy to complete every single one of their promises every day, so they keep going back to square one. The plan should be to hit one goal at a time, ultimately, building one habit at a time. For example, once the habit of making a healthy dinner every night is fully established, this person can either build upon that habit or start building another one. This actually does save time over the long haul.
3. Say no – I know so many people that struggle with this one… myself included. Seriously, it is a problem!
Here is an example – a busy, working mom says yes to the PTA, yes to volunteering at church, yes to the bake sale, yes to a running club, book club, dinner nights, the list goes on. If there is something that you truly cannot commit to due to lack of time or because it will interfere with your other goals, just say no. You don’t need to give a flat-out no – you can say “no, not right now”. Most people will respect your “not right now” answer more than a flat-out no.
4. Prepare yourself – I talk about this ALL the time on my blogs – you guys are probably sick of hearing about it :)
By preparing yourself, I am talking about ensuring you are prepared to take on the day, especially if you have specific goals. For instance, food prep – this is what I talk about all the time. Seriously, prepping my food a day ahead has helped me tremendously in saving time, stress, and money. I advise my clients to either dedicate one day to prep their food for the entire week or prepare their food one day ahead. This saves SO MUCH TIME during the week. Another example, is setting your gym clothes out the night before or putting your gym bag in your car. This sets you up for hitting your goals and saves you time throughout the day.
5. Get up an hour earlier – this is another habit I adopted because I realized how much more I was getting done by getting up just one hour earlier.
Usually, if you are getting up earlier your body will naturally want to hit the hay earlier as well. You will more than likely start to see your natural circadian rhythm start to kick in. Which means, you will have more energy throughout the day and you truly will get more accomplished.
Another book recommendation – have you read ‘Big Magic’ by Elizabeth Gilbert? Again, you should! There is a part in the book where she describes a couple that wakes an hour earlier than their 2 children to sit and draw together – their passion is drawing; this is not their real job. I always come back to if you are truly passionate about something, you will find a way to make it work. For me, that means waking up at 4:30 a.m. to get my workout in, so I have time for my passions later in the day.
6. Rest and recovery – this may seem counterproductive, but it is SO important. The only way we can replenish our bodies and be ready for an upcoming week is to rest.
Many people carve out their Sundays for rest and recovery. Think about your Sunday… are you really resting? Probably not. You are probably cleaning, doing the dishes, finishing the laundry, doing some work, etc. This is not true rest and relaxation. You should try to take a full day to rest and get your body ready for the week ahead. This gives you the energy to accomplish more when it counts!
I hope you will give some of my time/stress management tips a try and see if they help you. If they do, please leave me a comment – I would love to see what worked for you!
Allison Tropf, MS, RD, CSSD
Allison is a Sports Dietitian in Michigan. She enjoys helping others reach their nutrition and fitness goals through reliable and trustworthy recommendations.
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