There is, to be quite honest, a large part of me that thinks the new year should start September 1, not January 1. January 1 is cold, snowy, grey, and feels rather random. September 1 on the other hand is when people start thinking about school – kids or themselves or family members – the season is shifting from hot to cool, and everything rotates, from meals to clothing. Feels more like the new year to me!
Although we often save things like resolutions and goals for January 1, which is also pretty arbitrary, there is no reason why you cannot make a few goals stick for September 1, particularly if you are dropping off kids at school or going back to school yourself. One of the big areas where many people can use some extra practice and maybe a refresher, is time management. After summer vacation where a lot of people let things like schedules for their kids slide and late nights reign supreme, time management can often feel like it’s slipping away! So how can you bring it back again and make time work with you instead of against you?
Figure Out What You Want to Achieve in Your Time
When many people think of time management, they jump immediately to trying to schedule things, cut things out, and squeeze everything they can out of their hours. But this is actually not the first step! The first step is deciding what you actually want to achieve – ie, setting a goal. Otherwise, it’s all too easy to let that time slip back into old habits since you haven’t got anything yet to allocate it to.
So what do you want to achieve? Are you looking to go back to school yourself? Do you want to start a side hustle? Start a new hobby or return to an old one? What do you want to start doing in these last four months of 2021? Maybe you want to read more or exercise! It’s never too late to take on something that you want to try out or have a passion for. But without the goal in mind, no matter what it is, it’s hard to dedicate the time to it.
Before going any further, write down your goal for the rest of the year. Examples could be:
- Exercise for ten minutes a day
- Take a class (or several!)
- Learn how to play a musical instrument
- Whatever you enjoy doing or want to learn how to do!
Where is Your Time Going Now?
We all have the same number of hours in the day, so why does it feel like some people are getting a lot more done in that time than others?
Well first off, don’t be fooled into thinking that everyone is way ahead of you. That person you’re looking up to is probably looking at someone else and wondering the same thing. Then start looking at how you are spending your time right now. Be brutally honest with yourself (it’s not like anyone else is going to see it anyway). How much time do you spend on social media? Television? Commuting? Sleeping? Liesure? Work? Housework? Write down your typical routine and then take a good look at it. Is there anything you can delegate? Stop doing? Reduce the amount of time you spend on it?
Now we aren’t saying you should cut out all of the things you enjoy doing because that would be absurd. And it may not be possible to cut out some things because it’s work or something to do with children. But even if you can reclaim twenty minutes from your day, that’s twenty minutes you could put towards something that will get you to your goal!
So go ahead, right now: Take a few minutes and figure out where your time is going now and where you could reclaim some time from things that other people can do, that doesn’t need to be done at all, or that could be shortened.
Now, here’s the really important bit (thanks Writer’s HQ for shoving this one at me): At the top of your routine page, write the following:
“I am going to do ____ (your goal) because my goal is worth it and my time is mine to spend on it!” (Only Writer HQ was more… erm, colorful. You can be too if you want!)
Now stare at it. Repeat it. My time is worth it!
Making it a Habit
So you know where your time goes and where you want your time to go, so now what?
Now it’s time to start building your goal into a habit.
One of the best ways to do that is to tie it to an already existing routine that you have; that way, you’re not really doing anything brand new (and thus terrifying), you’re just adding to what’s already there. So, for example, if you’ve made it a goal to read more, you could read over your morning coffee instead of playing games on your phone. If you’ve made it a goal to exercise more, you could walk your kids to school instead of driving them (if possible of course). If you’ve made it a goal to journal, journal with your morning cup of coffee or tea.
The trick here is to combine things – one old thing that you do all the time and thus is already a habit and built into your routine, and tie it to the new thing. This way, the new thing isn’t as daunting and you are taking advantage of the fact that your brain already has a ritual for that piece of time.
Obviously this won’t work for all goal, but many of them can be hooked to what you’re already doing to make it easier to keep going. And if you have a habit you are trying to reduce that is eating up all your time, do what you can to make it harder to indulge in that habit such as hiding your phone or the tv remote.
Over time, you’ll want to start reassessing your time again to see if there is anything slipping in that shouldn’t be or if you have managed to save time in other areas. Reassessing can mean figuring out some new goals, reducing some other time wasters, or simply dumping goals that aren’t working for you after all! Not everything you think about doing has to be stuck with forever after all. Reassess every few months or so and see what’s working and dump whatever isn’t working.
Maybe September isn’t the beginning of a new year, but it is the beginning of autumn, the end of summer, and the beginning of a new school year, and all of that makes it a pretty good time to start looking at how you spend your time and if there’s something you’d rather be spending it on. After all, you’ve only got so many hours in the day and if you feel like they are constantly getting away from you, maybe it’s time to start corralling them back in again.
How are you allocating your time this school year?