Saturday, September 15, 2007

Back to School Time Management

It’s fall and the kids are finally back in school. Phew! You are back into your usual routine and things feel a bit saner, right? Wrong. For many of you this may not be the case. Life may actually feel more stressful than ever.

Many people feel like they are just barely getting by. Between work, meetings, clubs, kids activities, family obligations, there is just not enough time in the day.

Meagan Farrell, Professional Organizer from Clear the Clutter has some tips for staying sane.

Set limits and stick to them. Get out a large calendar and start filling in the activities/obligations you already have. If there is overlap, it is time to prioritize. Now, add in things you would like ideally such as family dinner time, exercise time, sleep. Do your activities and obligations overlap with those as well? If so, time to do more prioritizing. Keep this calendar up in your house all the time. This will serve as a visual account of what you have to do each day/week.

Prioritize. Make a list of your activities and obligations in order of importance. Are the things at the bottom of the list really necessary? If not, consider resigning or limiting activity with those groups. For your children, try giving them a limit of 1-2 activities per child. Your kids may find that once they have less going on, they are happier and less stressed out as well. Be an example to your children on how to manage time.

Say no. Sounds simple, but somehow that two letter word can be hard to say. A nice way to say it is, “that sounds like a neat activity, but I don’t have the time right now.” Practice saying this to a friend or partner. After you have said it a few times, it will be easier when you are confronted off guard. Remember, you are not doing anyone any favors by being stretched too thin.

Post a daily routine in your home. This will help you to stay on track. Getting yourself on a time schedule at home will help you to keep pace in your day. The posted schedule will serve as a visual reminder until you get into a regular habit.

Use a timer. We all tend to get side tracked – a really good show is on, a good friend calls, a fun new game on the computer….. All this is fine in moderation, but how much time do things like this really claim? When you sit down to watch t.v., set a timer. Give yourself an hour to watch per day. Or if the phone rings, set the timer for 20 minutes. When it goes off, politely excuse yourself as you have other things to tend to. Time easily slips away when we are preoccupied. Get that time back by watching it more closely.

Set boundaries – it is okay not to answer the phone. It is also okay not to invite the unexpected drop in neighbor in if you just don’t have time. People feel obligated to give up their time to whom ever demands it. I have seen people literally drop whatever they are doing and sprint for the phone every time it rings. Why? If you are not expecting an important phone call, then let it go to voice mail. You can always call them back, right? If you have other things to do, let it go. Stay focused on what you really need to get done.

Time management is a habit like eating vegetables and brushing your teeth. It may take a few tries, but once you get into the swing of it, you will find it easy to stay on top.

Meagan Farrell, professional organizer, is the owner of Clear the Clutter organizing services. She can be reached at (360) 631-7268 or at

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