Need more time?

Try some tips to make better use of hours in the day

Try some tips to make better use of hours in the day

June 02, 2006|by LYNN F. LITTLE

There just never seems to be enough hours in the day! If everyone's day has 24 hours, why does it seem like other people have more time? This is a common problem, especially in single-parent families and families in which both parents are employed.

The reality is that everyone has the same amount. Developing time-management skills can help you meet the demand of both work and family, freeing up some time for activities and interests.

Learning to budget time is similar to learning to budget money. You need to decide how much is available - whether minutes or money - and what you want to accomplish. The way you spend both time and money should meet your personal goals. The concepts are easy to implement, and the results are almost immediate.

If you are new at learning time-management skills, start by keeping a written log for a day or two with detailed records of what you do every half-hour. You will get a more precise picture of exactly what you do, why you get interrupted or frustrated, and when you are the most productive - your own prime time.


You might identify "prime time" with television, yet not realize that you also have your personal "prime time" - an hour or more during the day when you are most productive. Identifying your "prime time" and learning to use it productively can free up time for other activities.

· Prioritize. Rank each task by importance. Priority A items must be done because they lead to positive results and help you accomplish goals. C priorities are less important than other activities. B priorities are often difficult to identify; however, they are less important than the A's. Identify what's most important and move it to the top of the list.

· List flexible and inflexible activities you would like to include in your time plan. Some things can be done at any time during the day; others must be done at specific times. Try to do the least pleasant task first. It might not take less time, but it is likely to offer a time savings. Once the job is done, it's not necessary to spend time thinking about it.

· Estimate how much time each task takes and add up the total time. You might find that you will have to divide big jobs into smaller ones to do over a period of time. If the time you need to get tasks completed is greater than the time available, you might be committed to too much. Decide where changes can be made, and coordinate your plans with the plans of others. Learn to say no. Consider what can be accomplished realistically and turn down additional requests.

· Learn to delegate. Others might not do the job exactly as you might, but the fact that they're doing it allows you time for other activities and interests.

· Minimize paperwork. Sort the mail the same day it is received; place bills and other mail that needs a response in one place.

· Reconsider your routine. Perhaps doing a load of laundry each morning or evening can free up Saturday morning.

· Every day, give yourself 10 to 20 minutes to sort out what happened to your time during the day. Like a video replay, a quick rerun of your day lets you identify problem areas that need attention and also highlight your accomplishments.

· Check off tasks as you complete them and give yourself a small reward for accomplishing them.

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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