How to Manage and Prioritize Your Time Better

by on Oct 4 2012 - 28 Comments

People are busy. Really busy. In today’s day and age of constant communication through smart phones and an always-increasing number of commitments, how well you prioritize your time has a huge impact on your ability to accomplish goals. Time is a commodity – the most valuable one we have. You can never gain more time, so what you do with your time is of the utmost importance.

When we don’t prioritize my time we can feel like we are always behind schedule or always forgetting something. There are tons of examples of people flunking out of college because they don’t know how to manage their time and set priorities.

Today I want to share with you strategies I use to prioritize my time. I use this strategy at work, at home, and everywhere else to tackle to-do lists and make efficient use of my time.

1) Write It All Down

I am a huge fan of to-do lists. Some people think they are lame or pointless, but writing down the things you need to get done or what you have scheduled for the day/week/month can help you visualize how you are going to accomplish everything with your limited time.

The first and last things I do at work are updating and reviewing an ongoing to-do list. I write out everything that I need to get done that day (or the next). By having a list that is continually updated I can track what I need to do and what I have completed quickly and easily. Writing it down also solves the problem of forgetting things, because you don’t need to worry about remembering it if it’s written down.

2) Group Items

Once I have things written down, I group them. I usually first list the things I need to get done during the day, then divide them into morning, afternoon, or “whenever” depending on whether they are time-sensitive. I also have a group of things that I need/want to do, but that can wait for another day or are lower priorities that can wait if I don’t have time.

I’ve found this to be very useful at school, work, and at home. For example, with this website there are things I need to do today (and every day) such as having tomorrow’s post ready, put some time into my social media accounts, and respond to comments and emails. There are also longer-term things I would like and need to do such as working on a site redesign, planning topics for future posts, and general research. These things don’t have to be done today, but if I have extra time I will try to tackle them.

3) Procrastination Can Help!

I learned a long time ago that procrastinating can actually make you more productive. There are some things on my to-do list that I simply do not want to do. As long as this procrastination takes the form of crossing off other things on my to-do list, I am actually being productive and getting things done – even if it is because I want to avoid something else. As long as you eventually get to the thing you are procrastinating, procrastination can help you get motivated to finish other things on your list.

To summarize:
Write everything down that you need to get done and that you have scheduled. Group items depending on when they need to get done and how high of a priority they are. Tackle longer-term goals once you have finished those things that are your immediate demands. Finally, use your procrastination of item A to get items B, C, and D finished quickly and efficiently.

What do you do to manage and prioritize your time?
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Photo by Courtney Dirks
 

28 comments
JessicaWatson1
JessicaWatson1

Really good advice and insights! I was in the same situation. At this time I couldn’t fulfill my given tasks on time anymore.  I addressed my issues to an professional online coach and got some really helpful advice to improve my time management effectively (I really can recommend @Your24hCoach). To successfully manage your time you have to get organized both in your professional and personal life. Make a list of what should be done. Include in this list both urgent and non-urgent things so as never forget or ignore something again. Include an estimated time frame for each action and the date by which each task must be completed. It is very important to set your own realistic deadlines and try to meet them. You should also include in your schedule time where you stop everything, relax and recharge your batteries. I received these and more tips from my personal coach. It helped me a lot and in time I got use to it. Good luck, everyone!

PlungedinDebt
PlungedinDebt

I'm a huge multitasker and I love lists/calendars! I'm a very visual person and like seeing everything laid out. There's nothing more satisfying than crossing stuff off it! I agree, a dose of procrastination is needed sometimes. Once I get on a roll I'm pretty much unstoppable :)

ryanparedez
ryanparedez

I strongly believe in writing things down helps! I actually went out and got a calendar white board to help me with this.. the only problem is I stopped using it. I have a widget on my android phone with the things I need to to do.. so its kind of the same but different.

Setting up things for certain parts of the day helps too. If the bank and grocery store are close to each other you can tackle them one after the other instead of being sloppy and driving around all over town.

Eyesonthedollar
Eyesonthedollar

DC,  never write anything down. I probably should, but my schedule gets stuck in my head and I rarely forget. I'm wasting precious brain cells, but I've always been that way. I rarely took notes in school either. I try to stay a day ahead on posts. I don't think I could ever do every day. I hope to build up to a two week backlog, then I can use some time to learn technical things and work toward 50K twitter followers!

seedebtrun
seedebtrun

Oh, that's not *really* procrastinating....I'll show you procrastinating!  ;)  I think we all do that.  I don't mind folding laundry, but there's always a small pile of things that just don't go anywhere....does anyone know what I'm talking about?  So I always just leave that til the end when I'm cleaning.  It will be like a cloth belt, a pair of pants that don't fit ANYONE anymore, a hair bow that I'm not sure if I like any longer that somehow ended up in the laundry...am I alone on this?  lol...probably.  But anyway...I always leave that til the end because it stresses me out so bad! 

AverageJoeMoney
AverageJoeMoney

I had no idea where you were headed with the procrastination part at first. NOW I see it! I do the same. Maybe I'll miss the task I'm procrastinating but hit five others in the meantime.

Veronica @ Pelican on Money
Veronica @ Pelican on Money

Leave it up to David to turn procrastination into a good things, hahaha! My time to work on the blog consists of a few hours every day. I get home, I write the post, I schedule it, check email, check twitter, make sure to tie up any lose ends. That's the schedule I stick to every day except weekends. When I draw a blank when it comes to writing a post, I sub it in with Amy's post or in some cases don't write anything (a.k.a. Mondays). Having only a few hours to do everything leaves me no room for prioritization of any kind, I just have to do the work: one. step. at. a. time. Sometimes I have to imagine myself as a snowplow having to clean the driveway so that I can get on with my day the next morning (I used to live in a snow state)

OneSmartDollar
OneSmartDollar

Time management is something I have never been very good at.  It would probably help me out a lot if I planned out my days and set aside certain times to complete certain daily tasks.

RFIndependence
RFIndependence

Tough one! I like the lists, especially since I have a smartphone and can write down things on the go to make sure I don't forget them by the time I get home. I also like geographical grouping, say if I have to go to the supermarket, stop by the library, the tax office and the doctor's to save some time. One task can be easy and the other tedious, so if you group them all you'll feel great about getting all that out of the way... and crossing it off the list!

bogofdebt
bogofdebt

I love to do lists for work but really need to start doing them for life in general.  I've found having some on my phone has helped to a point-but it's easy enough to dismiss the notification so I tend to have multiple lists.  Some on paper and some on my phone.  On my work computer I love the sticky note function. I generally have three: the biggest ones with projects that need to be done eventually, a smaller one with goals to do so I can actually do the bigger projects and a day to day one that I make each day. 

myeverydaylifeblog
myeverydaylifeblog

Hi! I'm a new reader and this post is right up my alley! I'm usually pretty good at prioritizing my time but I notice a huge difference when I don't make or use To Do lists. I'm in a slump of not being so good with my lists at the moment and I really need to get back to it!

SenseofCents
SenseofCents

I like to make lists, and the I tackle the smaller things out first so that I don't feel as overwhelmed. It helps!

FrugalRules
FrugalRules

Good tips.  I tend to be fairly organized, although I do know there are areas for improvement.  I know that writing things down is a huge key of being organized, but always struggle with it as I usually tend to get things done.  Or, maybe, I am just rationalizing not be committed to a to do list.  :)

Holly at ClubThrifty
Holly at ClubThrifty

These are good tip.  I am ok at managing my time....especially at work.  It's at home where nothing gets done becuse I want to relax and play with the kids. 

DC @ Young Adult Money
DC @ Young Adult Money moderator

 @Eyesonthedollar Yes you are wasting those brain cells!  That's a big reason why I write it down, so I don't have to worry about remembering it.

 

I desperately need a backlog of posts soon, but unfortunately I am editing tomorrow's tonight....

DC @ Young Adult Money
DC @ Young Adult Money moderator

 @seedebtrun If I posted the pic of the stack on my desk, under my desk, and next to my desk of papers, books, files, and God knows what else it would be pretty sad.

DC @ Young Adult Money
DC @ Young Adult Money moderator

 @AverageJoeMoney Yeah once I learned how to use my procrastination for efficiency, I can get a lot more done.  I still hate doing the thing I'm procrastinating, but at least I can make use of it!

DC @ Young Adult Money
DC @ Young Adult Money moderator

 @Veronica @ Pelican on Money Well....I don't know if you intentionally were rubbing it in but it SNOWED in Minnesota today!  Not where I am, but it will get here soon enough (hopefully AFTER I move this month).  But I have a process where I spend about an hour or so after work commenting on blogs, responding to comments, tweeting, etc. and get to the post writing later on.  It's very time consuming but absolutely worth it, as you know!

DC @ Young Adult Money
DC @ Young Adult Money moderator

 @OneSmartDollar When I don't plan ahead, I end up getting very little sleep because I'm up late doing things.  Planning ahead has really benefited me.

DC @ Young Adult Money
DC @ Young Adult Money moderator

 @RFIndependence I love crossing things off my lists!  I have struggled with lists on my phone, I think it's because I already have so many paper and electronic lists going that I just end up forgetting about it : (

DC @ Young Adult Money
DC @ Young Adult Money moderator

 @bogofdebt Sounds like we are pretty similar.  I have tried the phone list as well but it hasn't worked out too well.  I keep a blogging list to-do on my laptop, and a list at work on my computer (I use note pad! haha).  I actually have the next MONTH scheduled out since we are closing on a house and have a CRAPload to get done before our apartment lease is up.

DC @ Young Adult Money
DC @ Young Adult Money moderator

 @christineslittleblog Thanks for stopping by!  What's the link to your site so i can read your stuff as well?

 

I have been a big list person since college and I'm not sure I can function without a to-do list!

Veronica @ Pelican on Money
Veronica @ Pelican on Money

 @DC @ Young Adult Money David, I meant the comment on procrastination as a joke, I hope it didn't come across any other way. I'm envious of your snow (and the day it comes to your neighborhood!) I noticed some of your comments are made in the evening and figured as much about your schedule :) But I have to agree 100% that every bit of time is worth chatting with nice people like yourself :)

DC @ Young Adult Money
DC @ Young Adult Money moderator

@Veronica @ Pelican on Money Oh trust me it didn't come off as anything other than a joke!  Yeah unfortunately I can't get many comments in during the day, even tho at some points I am just sitting waiting for a data pull to finish...oh well so is the ways of corporate America.

 

My wife absolutely hates driving in snow!  That's the worst part about it, I don't mind it much tho I did have a two 3 hour plus commutes home because of it a couple winters ago....I could do without those!