When things are getting busy, busy, busy and you feel like you are just spinning your wheels, some people will tell you that you need to manage your time.

Time cannot be managed. Time simply is. But you can manage yourself and how you use the time you have. Here are my top 5 tips on managing yourself and your time.

Tip 1: Have a Personal Productivity Philosophy (PPP)

Here are some elements of a PPP:

  1. Define your productivity payoff. If you get a task done, what other thing does that free you up to do? What goal does that bring you closer to?
  2. Work on the right things.
  3. Set SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time bound).
  4. Take responsibility for achievement. I find that having my coach keeping me accountable is a way to reinforce deadlines. It is hard to say “I binge-watched that TV show instead of sending out my newsletter.”

Tip 2: Apply Some Strategies Around Email

We are all multi-tasking these days. Our phones are almost attached to the palms of our hands with Crazy Glue. Put the phone down.

  1. Check email at regular points during the day. I need to check mine first thing in the morning to see if anyone called in sick or there is a service cancellation. When I am being good about my email, I check it at 7am, 9am, noon, and 3pm instead of every time my phone buzzes. I’ve also turned off email notifications from my desktop application.
  2. When reading email, take care of the ones that will take no more than 2 minutes to read, respond, and file or delete. (That’s from David Allen, Getting Things Done.) If it will take longer, then schedule time to do it. Actually make an entry on your To Do List for it and then do it during the scheduled time.
  3. Inbox Zero. I will be the first to say I have failed the first few times I tried to have “inbox zero”. You need to be pretty diligent about it. I have set up folders and move items where they belong. So that long email that is going to require a thoughtful response? It goes into the “Respond by end of day” folder.
  4. Use filters. I have the nice to read newsletters go into folders automatically so that they do not clutter up my inbox and can be found quickly when I have time to browse.

Tip 3: Manage Projects

Roughly, a project is anything that will take more than half of a day to complete. So, it needs to be managed. While project management is a course on its own, here is a high level overview:

  1. Have goals for your project.
  2. Determine milestones.
  3. Create an action plan. (Here is a post that even has homework for action plans: http://www.michellehamelin.ca/getting-different-results-will-change-your-life)
  4. Budget your time and financial resources. Your time is worth money.

Tip 4: Remove Obstacles

  1. Deal with interruptions.
  2. Deal with the telephone and email (see email above).
  3. Understand the need for change and self-discipline.
  4. Measure progress. And celebrate it.

Tip 5: Schedule Time for Self Care

Sometimes we get resentful of our work because it takes us away from the stuff we would rather do. Or we let it take us away from things. We feel deprived.

Schedule time for self care. If it sounds crazy to allocate time to self care, I remind you of the oxygen mask on the airplane analogy. You cannot help others, whether they are clients, family members, or members of the community, unless you have taken care of yourself first.

What are some easy examples of self care? Here you go:

  • Go for a walk around the block or a full workout at the gym.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. Every night.
  • Eat nutritious food.
  • Schedule your annual physical.
  • Book a checkup at the dentist.
  • Make a hair appointment.
  • Visit your massage therapist.
  • If you can’t book a vacation, take a day off. Or a half-day off. When I first started, I took Wednesday afternoons off, which started with yoga on Parliament Hill and then going for a walk.

Naturally, you are going to choose the tips that best fit in with you, your lifestyle, and your personality. Start somewhere. It will make a difference.