The Ultimate Secret to Time Management Part 2: strategies

Last week we looked at the big secret behind time-management which is unfortunately something depressing to discover. Time-management won’t fix most of your problems because it only allows you to organize your time. We also covered how people who have crowded schedules may be struggling because they are essentially hoarding activities and plans they think they need to get done and are afraid to leave anything out.

This week we’re going to take the analogy between decluttering your house and decluttering your schedule a little further. Let’s look at some common rules to keep your house uncluttered and see how we can apply them to how you use your time.

One thing in one thing out.

This is probably the most common rule people use to keep their house from getting cluttered. For every object you get and choose to keep, you have to get rid of something else.

How it works with a schedule: Schedules are a little different in that we’ll have lulls and spikes. Sometimes you’ll be insanely busy and other times you’ll be bored. Some ways you could apply this is to do use it only when you are really busy, or set a limit to how many hours you may book in a given day or week. When your schedule gets too crowded, only accept new obligations when old ones are either finished or you have chosen to cancel them.

When have I used this, and when will I next use it?

A good rule to follow for house cleaning. If you want space, don’t keep the things you probably won’t use, or at least won’t use anytime soon. Everything in your house should serve a purpose whether that be making your house look prettier, having a utilitarian purpose (e.g. Couch for sitting or scissors for cutting), providing sentimental value, etc.

How it works with a schedule: When you are looking at your schedule, look at each activity and ask yourself, “what purpose does this serve in my life?” Every activity you do should contribute to your life. Some ways an activity may add to your life would be it provides your life with meaning, it creates a sense of personal fulfillment, it supports other activities you want to do, or it promotes your physical, emotional, or mental well-being.

Instead of “where do I put this?”, ask “can I get rid of it?”

This is a good one for shifting your mentality. Instead of focusing on how to fit everything, focus on what actually needs to be there. Many people use this rule to get in a more minimalist mindset and not fill their house with junk.

How it works with a schedule: I think this one is pretty self-explanatory, but anytime your are trying to wedge something new into your schedule ask yourself, “Is this something I actually need in my schedule, or can I just get rid of it?” Thinking like this might help when you are tempted to overbook yourself.

If it takes 2 mins to do, do it now.

Pretty self-explanatory, if you do it now, you won’t put off for months and you’ll start actually seeing your house less cluttered.

How it works with a schedule: When we’re busy we don’t want to even waste a second doing anything other than what’s on the schedule. The problem with this is that you’ll never have a decluttered schedule unless you take a moment to actually look at it and think it through. Set a rule that if there’s an activity that might make you less busy¬† then it should take priority.¬† In the long run, it will mean you’ll have a lot more time and sanity.

Assess your needs.

When you own a house and want to keep it clean and organized it’s good to know what you need and what you don’t. This allows you to determine what you should and shouldn’t keep.

How it works with a schedule: When you are looking at your schedule and deciding what should stay and what should get canceled ask yourself, “What do I need?” You might find that a number of the activities you are doing don’t actually fit your needs and you should drop them. Likewise, there may other activities you should be doing that will better fit what you are looking for.

Don’t be afraid to throw out presents.

On any given holiday there’s always that one person who means well, but gets you a present that you never wind up using. You are afraid that if you throw out the present, you’ll offend them, but do you really want to have a house full of presents you’ll never use?

The important part of a present is the thought and kindness behind it. If a present doesn’t suit you, throw it away. You can still enjoy the thought and kindness without the junk in your house, and as long as the giver knows you appreciated what they did, nothing else matters.

How it works with a schedule: You are going to have activities that feel like obligations. “If you don’t do this, then you’re a bad friend/lover/coworker, etc.” Let go of the idea that you have to be there for everyone and that everyone needs you. People were able to get along just fine before they ever met you. Any idea that they can’t survive without you is your ego talking. Let people fight their own battles. If they truly care about you, they’ll understand your need to prioritize yourself first.

Get rid of easy things first.

Another common rule. If you can get rid of something easy, then it feels less scary to get rid of something hard.

How it works with a schedule: Same deal, focus on obvious things that shouldn’t be in your schedule first. As you do this, it will get easier to make the harder decisions.

Lastly, focus on what you are getting, not what you are losing.

It’s easy when housecleaning to feel a bit deflated. You can find yourself parting with a lot of stuff that you might still feel a slight attachment to or had to emotionally wrestle with before letting go. When this happens, it’s really important to keep your mind focused on why you are actually doing it. You may be struggling as you throw things out, but obviously you are doing it for a good reason. You know having that clean, empty house is worth it.

How it works with a schedule: There are times you are going to be mentally kicking and screaming as you try to remove something from your schedule. You are used to your busy schedule and you are not going be quick to let go. When you are really struggling to take things out, remember why you want to make your schedule less hectic. Is it to spend time with family? Is it to enjoy life more? Is it to care for your health? Whatever your reason, it’s going to be something you really care about and want to honor. Recognize that every change you make supports you and the things you want to honor and embrace it.

Images provided by chris.corwin and Jemaleddin Cole via Flickr.

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