How to be the boss of your day.
I think that sometimes day planners can get a bad rap. We all hate that person who actually uses the phrase "let me pencil you in..." Real people don't do that. Real people don't use day planners...right? Wrong.
Did you know that the daily planner has a history going all the way back to the 1700s? George Washington and other founding fathers tucked blank pages into their almanacs. The only difference? They kept track of things they had already done - not things they planned to do!
I am 1000% a planner-calendar person. I need a brick-and-mortar (well, pen-and-paper) external hard drive for my brain. Without it, I go through my day with the attention span of a goldfish.
You may think you are not a planner person, but you probably just haven't found a system that works for you. A planner is pointless if you never use it!
It's less important to have a "day planner" in the traditional sense of the word than it is to have some kind of system for keeping track of your day - both what you need to do and what you have already done. Having such a system will encourage you to be more intentional with your time and accomplish better things.
The bad news is, time flies. The good news is, you're the pilot. - Michael Altshuler
Where is all your time going?
When it comes to budgeting, most people will tell you to spend a week or two recording all of your expenses before you attempt to build a budget. The same goes for changing your eating habits - if you are looking to eat healthier, you might be encouraged to track everything you eat for a couple of weeks before you decide where you need to make changes.
The same goes for healthy time management habits. Before starting to budget your time, spend at least one week recording everything you do each day. At the end of the week, take a look. Do you feel good about your week? If not, where could your time have been better spent? What things do you wish you'd made time for? Start there. These things can be the basis for the goals, priorities, and "to do" lists you will create as a part of your time-tracking system.
Find something that works for you.
When it comes to systems that help us keep track of our time, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of different options. There are apps, computer programs, websites, calendars, and day planners. And within each of these categories there are dozens of subcategories, styles, and methods of tracking.
It's worth investing some time and effort into figuring out what works for you. No system is perfect, but different systems are better suited for different people.
Here are some tips:
- Know what kind of learner you are. Knowing your learning style can help you determine the kind of system that works best for you. If you don't know your learning style, you can take a free quiz to find out.
- Digital or analog? I do not do well with apps. I do use Google calendar to remind myself of upcoming appointments, bills, etc., but in terms of tracking my day, I need a physical system that I can touch, hold, look at, and write on.
- Get the tools you need for your learning style. If you are a visual/spatial learner, then a blank book, colored pens, and sticky notes might be the best option for you. If you are an aural/verbal learner, maybe a free voice memo app would work for you.
Budget your time.
Budget your time like you budget your money. You only have so much money in the bank until your next paycheck, and you only have so much time before the day is over. Budget it. If something is important to you, put it somewhere in your day.
Things happen. Days get interrupted. Plans do not always go, well, as planned. The value in keeping track of your time is not in completing every task, but in being mindful how you spend your day.
Stick to it.
According to a 2009 study by the Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Research Centre at University College London, it takes an average of 66 days to build a new habit to the point that it is automatic. Stick to your system, even if it isn't perfect, and don't give up!
Even if you forget to use it all day long, take some time at the end of the day, or the beginning of the next day, to record what you did. This will encourage you to account for how you spend your days, and will help you
What small steps can you take today to be a better master of your time? Take some time today to reflect on these steps and make a commitment to find ways to be more mindful of your time.
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