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Need more time? Learn to manage it

June 02, 2011|Lynn 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? Developing time management skills can help you meet the demands of work and family, making the best use of your 24 hours.  

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. Identifying your "prime time" and learning to use it productively can free up time for other activities.  

 Prioritize. Rank each task by importance. "A" priority items are ones that must be done helping 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 may not take less time, but 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 may be over-committed. 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.  

 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 will highlight your accomplishments.  

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

Learning to budget and manage time is similar to learning to budget and manage money. You need to decide how much to spend — whether minutes or money — and what you want to accomplish. The way you spend both time and money should meet your personal goals.

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

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