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Mastering Your Time: A Guide to Ditching To-Do Lists and Taking Control

How do I make time for myself?  


How do I make time for focusing on my growth?  


I want to do this next great thing but how do I get started???

 

I get these questions a lot.  There isn't a perfect answer here and that's ok.


Getting rid of your to do list can be the first step toward saving yourself time each week and allow you to spend your time on what matters most! Seriously!


In 2017, I had two boys under age 3, worked full time and managed my household, but not as well as I would have liked to.


I was just keeping things moving day to day (which is necessary in some seasons...) but there was no brain space for anything else. I felt like I would never have time for bigger things.


Personal growth, investing in my marriage, relishing time with my boys, free time, house projects, spiritual development, time with dear friends, growing a community – all these things mattered to me but they were just not happening.


They never even made it to the to do list at that time.


I was working as a Business Analyst and Project Manager at the time. I reviewed and streamlined processes every day at work BUT I felt like I had no process at home.


I constantly felt overwhelmed.


I wanted to do better so I began working on how to build a system to help me run my household and my life.


I started with MY spaces, MY processes and MY time.  While I wanted to think that I wasn't organized because of my kids' stuff everywhere or just fitting in laundry whenever I thought of it, I wasn't in control of how I focused my time.  


Fast forward to today... I use this paper review process every week, without fail.


I now even do proactive planning to make time for that list of things I was craving to do. I have mental space for all those things PLUS starting a business, working with a coach to purposefully challenge myself and more!


This can happen for you and I’m going to show you how.


You will need:

- a container, any basket or box that can hold several folders and papers

- folders or slash files/pockets (consider pocketed folders to hold scraps of papers and other small items together)

- your calendar


Let’s get started!


1. All the paper in one place - Gather everything together including all the piles, all the sticky notes, all the receipts, all the stacks of mail, all the various to do lists and put them in one container.


2. Brain dump! Now write out any other items floating around in your head. Everything will be out of your head and onto paper! Add this list to the container as well. The first time you do this, it will take longer than any other time and it might be a lot of paper.


Don’t be afraid of that.


3. Group them - Sort out any trash and begin grouping the papers into like areas.


Put each of those groups into a folder.


Here are some groupings that you may find:

  • Home – actionable information for taking care of your physical home

  • Vehicles – actionable information needed for taking care of your vehicles

  • Family – actionable information that you want/need to act on for any of your family members

  • Planning – actionable information on upcoming holidays, vacations, appointments that need attention or scheduling

  • Money – actionable information related to your personal family budget management

  • Work/School – actionable information related to projects, events and commitments for work or school

  • Me – actionable information that you want/need to act on for yourself

  • Projects (rotating) –information specific to a current project (Example: Holiday planning, bathroom remodel, baby shower, website redesign)


Note:

- This process will give attention to all actionable items. Remove other paper that is needed for reference, short term or long term. That information requires other storage considerations and can be filed.

- There’s no limit to your groups and you may find that some are more short term (projects) and while others always stay. Create the folders that work for you.


4. Weekly Review Time - One time a week, according to what works best for your schedule, sit down with all the folders.


Remove everything from the folder and review it.


Review email inboxes during this time for additional actionable items. Take time to decide what requires your action during the next week.


Set the actionable items aside and move through all the folders, only keeping out what requires attention in the next week. All the folders then go back in the container.


Working a week at a time helps you to prioritize what needs attention and if it can wait, it should wait.


5. Schedule it! Look at your calendar for the week, verify that all your existing commitments have been added to your calendar so that it is up to date.


Each of the items that you identified as needing action this week will now have to be scheduled.


Looking at your availability, pull the first item out and decide when you will do it. Add this new commitment to your calendar. Move through all the items you decided must be done this week.


TIP: Can you group together like tasks (phone calls or scheduling appts) and knock them out in one sitting? Consider using a lunch time or another time block to accomplish several tasks at once. Schedule errands or appointments that are near each other to make best use of your time.


6. Honor your calendar - As you move through the next week, complete those tasks when you have scheduled them. Treat these tasks like any other appointment or meeting.


7. Add new items throughout the week for weekly review - As new paper comes in and new tasks come in, unless they require immediate action, toss them in the container with your folders. It will get reviewed during your weekly review time and everything will be in one place!


TIP: As you think of new items that would normally go on a to do list, write them on their own sticky note and place it in your container – it will get your attention during the weekly review. If you prefer less paper, send yourself a quick email with the item that you need to do, schedule, buy or think about in the future.


After you have done the review process a week or two, ask yourself: What went well? What didn’t go so well? Make changes to the process so that it works for you!


Initially, it may take more time but often after a few weeks of consistently reviewing your items, it can be completed in a very short time.


Now you will also have all your actionable papers together – no more searching all over for something last minute! No more time spent searching for papers at all!


You will find that you are no longer working from a to do list – everything has been prioritized and is scheduled. No more lingering to do list!


But here's the magic....as you work through all the things that need to be done, you get more efficient and you can begin to find time for projects that haven't gotten attention previously or fun tasks that you prioritize and get on your schedule now too.

 

It's a process.  And it's made up of intentional, purposeful action…toward what matters to you!


In your physical fitness

In your relationships

In your work

In your spiritual life

In your nutrition

In your financial life

In your planning

 

What would it look like to make time for the things that are important to you?  

 

What would it look like to identify time during your week to focus on you?  

 

What would it look like to move toward something that you want to prioritize?

 

Your grandest plan can be broken down into the smallest step and that can be your next action.  It can be put right on your schedule!

 

Taking action, any action, begins to build momentum for you and growth comes from intentionally choosing to take that next step, however small it may seem.


 

 

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