Time Management Habits of Successful Women
These days everyone is busy and overwhelmed, or so it seems. While it may be popular and even a point of pride to lament a bursting-at-the-seams schedule, the most successful women know that optimal time management is the secret to a better life at work and at home. Now you, too, can use the secrets of the masters to help you achieve your goals, work toward your dreams, fit in exercise, and enjoy more downtime with family and friends.
Look at the big picture for time management.
If you strive for balance in your life, you’re not alone. However, it’s easy to be tripped up by the fantasy of a perfect day in which you have time for work, family or friends, and something nurturing for yourself. The most successful women know there’s no such thing as a perfect day. Instead, they plan to fit everything in over a week.
Try working with a paper calendar so you can physically experience your time allocation. First, block out everything you have to do in the week. This is the time that’s already accounted for, such as your commute and work hours. Don’t forget to mark off the hours you sleep!
Then fill in any one-time events you’ve already committed to. This could be a child’s school event, a work dinner, or a concert you bought tickets to. Now, all the time that’s left is yours to allocate as you wish. You may not be able to work out every day, but you can fit in 5 hours of exercise over the course of the week.
Managing your time as a weekly unit instead of a daily one will help you accomplish all that you want to do without feeling discouraged by the occasional out-of-balance day.
Take advantage of early morning quiet time.
Waking early is one of the best ways to find more time in your day. If you have a family, the morning may be the only time you can work at home without interruption. And if your choice is between early morning or late night, you’re more likely to do your best work first thing, while you still feel fresh and energetic.
Even if you live alone, getting up before most of the world can be exhilarating. Whether you use that time for nurturing activities like meditation or journaling, or you get a head start on the day’s work, waking early will fill you with a satisfying feeling of productivity to carry you through the rest of the day.
Stagger your work hours throughout the day.
Flexibility is an important trait in successful women. Just as planning for the week makes you more flexible with designating your time, reimagining the work day as a divisible unit can create more options in individual days.
Of course, your control over your working hours will depend in part on how much autonomy you have at work, but most companies are fine with employees who, for example, work eight hours in the office, leave at 5 or 6, and log back on after dinner to finish overtime tasks. Sheryl Sandberg is the most famous role model for leaving work at 5:30 to have dinner with her family.
Don’t fall for false breaks.
Recent studies show the benefits of taking short breaks throughout the course of a workday. Whether you look at it as a reward for hard work or a chance to refresh before tackling your next assignment, that five-minute trip to the break room for a cup of coffee or a stretch will improve your overall productivity.
But you need to watch out for those little distractions that masquerade as breaks but provide little real benefit. These include things like checking social media or scrolling through email. Because they’re passive activities, they may feel like a rest from your real work, but they’re not giving your mind and body a break. Instead, step away from the computer and drink a glass of water, stretch your neck, or read a book on paper. The same advice applies to your lunch break. Avoid eating at your desk as much as possible.
Look for hidden opportunities to exercise.
This is another area of life in which holding out for an ideal can prevent you from doing anything at all. And where exercise is concerned, something is definitely better than nothing. One of the easiest ways to fit more activity into your day is through functional exercise. This means moving around as you go about your daily routine. Opportunities for functional exercise include taking the stairs instead of an elevator, walking or biking to work, and using a treadmill desk instead of sitting in a chair while you work.
Decide on your most important tasks for the next day.
One of the best strategies successful women use to manage their time and stay ahead of the curve is to make a most important task (MIT) list. Each night before you go to sleep, make a list of 2 or 3 MITs you need to accomplish the next day. Your MITs could be an important phone call or a step toward realizing a dream. Writing them down sets your intentions for the day ahead. Try to complete them as early in the day as possible, before your energy wanes and other distractions arise.
Turn off the television.
This is a simple but very effective way to find more time in your week. There’s nothing inherently wrong with watching TV, but it can become a big time suck. Instead of turning it on as a matter of habit when you want to relax, plan your TV watching on your weekly calendar. Choose a few shows you want to see and make it a special treat instead of an automatic response at the end of the day.
It’s even better if you can make TV time double as quality time with a spouse or friend. Then use the rest of the time you’d normally channel surf to engage in a different relaxing activity, such as a hot bath, or use it to work toward a goal.
Be realistic about how your time is spent.
Just as budgeting your money is important for financial success, budgeting your time is essential to professional success and personal happiness. And you can’t budget effectively until you know how much time it takes you to do each task and activity in your life.
If you’re chronically bad at estimating your time, try keeping a time-management journal for a week in which you write down everything you do and how long it takes. This can be an eye-opening exercise, and with the information comes the power to harness your time for optimal productivity and personal time.
Now that you know how to manage your time like the most successful women do, what priorities will you set for your week?