We can all benefit from time management, especially now that we're all isolated and quarantined indoors due to COVID-19.
This quarantine has us all feeling "off," no question about it. It's completely changed our sense of schedule, to-do's, energy levels, and overall rhythm.
I worked virtually with a client last week who said she wanted to discuss her time-management skills, an issue that's plagued her for most of her life.
Maybe your days are very similar to hers.
She described it in much detail — one kid at home but fairly independent, extra cleaning (now that her cleaning lady can't come), laundry that wasn’t getting put away, dishes still in the sink, squeezing in some time with hubby, and oh yeah, her own full-time job as an artist.
She then described in detail the gardening she’s doing now that it’s springtime and where she is in the detailed process of sewing COVID-19 masks. She went further and talked about how she just can't keep it all straight in her mind, and feels highly unsatisfied at the end of the day when she thinks back on what she accomplished. I asked her how she is able to get the mask-making and gardening done if she's such a terrible time manager, as she described herself. She responded by telling me that none of it would get done if she didn't sit down every morning with her tea and make a list of what specific tasks she has to accomplish in regard to those two "big" items. Then, throughout the day when she passes by her to-do list, she'll check off what she's done. Like so many of us, she gains great satisfaction from the "checking off" process.
My first response was to reiterate and then commend her on everything she's getting done, and to question if maybe if both a change in perspective and tactics were necessary. It seemed to me that she was working her butt off all day. So why did she feel like she wasn’t a good time manager? I brought her back to her list in the morning, which seemed to be quite effective for her, and gave her a sense of satisfaction as she checked tasks off throughout the day. What if she were to add to the list the small steps that were needed to get the other tasks done? Then, she could check those off and feel good about those, as well.
She agreed and then we practiced on reducing her feelings of overwhelm.
I reminded her, for instance, that the laundry doesn’t have to get put away all at once. She could take five minutes — after lunch and before she goes back to the gardening — to put away just the clothes that go into the master bedroom. If she’s in the middle of a painting, she doesn’t have to hole up in her studio for the entire day to complete it — she could bring her sketchbook down and work on sketching while watching TV with her husband. The dishes can get washed a few at a time and the cleaning does not have to be a full-day overhaul, either.
Listing these as smaller, individual tasks actually increase your chances of getting the jobs completed while also being able to check them off, which can make you feel better about your progress.
Perspective and overwhelm often go hand-in-hand and can paralyze even the best of time managers.
Talking about it with a friend or a coach can be helpful but the true key is to take a deep breath and keep breaking it down over and over again until you’re sure you can do it.