As a health coach, one of the most common areas I find patients struggling with is honing their time management skills. Patients tell me all the time that they would love to get consistent with certain wellness practices or achieve goals related to their health, but when it really comes down to it, time is a huge obstacle. Most of us lead really busy lives with lots of different obligations and responsibilities, so it makes sense that time would be a barrier to achieving goals.
How to hone your time management skills
However, sometimes our perception of time is where the problem lies. Sometimes, we feel busy but when we actually look at our to-dos in a more structured way, we realize that there are plenty of things that waste our time and perhaps we are not using our time as productively as we could be.
Most of us have the right intentions to do things that will support our well being, but finding the time to do it is a whole different story! It is normal to feel overwhelmed, especially in our society today that is go-go-go. One feels that there’s not enough time to breathe, let alone accomplish goals! So how can we start to feel like we have more control over our time and actually implement the things that are meaningful to us? Here are some tips to help get you started.
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Time management tips from a health coach
Make a list of your non-negotiables
These are things that are highest on your priority list and you would like to continue doing them on a consistent basis. These could be things related to your personal health, your family obligations, or acts of self care. Your priority list will vary from time to time so it’s a good idea to revisit this list every so often as things change in your life.
Create a routine
Try to schedule activities at the same day and time each week so you know what to expect and it becomes part of your routine.
Plan your week
Choose a time each week where you sit down and plan out how your week will go, what you’d like to accomplish, scheduling things into your calendar and figuring out what activities will support your goals. This doesn’t have to be a long and tedious process, just half an hour a week works!
Identify your top three goals for the week
Once you’ve identified your top three goals for that week, make a list of your weekly tasks that support these goals. What do you need to do to make sure these goals are met? Designate deadlines for these goals and make a note in your calendar. Schedule activities in your calendar (with start and finish times) that support achieving these goals and use a timer to stay on track.
I know, this is a tough one! It’s so tempting to try and do multiple things at the same time but if we try to focus on one thing at a time, we will be much more productive. It is difficult for some of us (especially when we have long to-do lists) to just focus on one thing at a time. A suggestion here is to set a timer for a reasonable amount of time (20-30 minutes, for example) and focus solely on that one task, eliminating distractions. Once the timer goes off, move on to the next task and focus on it solely for the allotted amount of time. This way, you have tackled more than one to-do and you will feel more accomplished.
Across the board, I have heard from patients (and am definitely guilty of this myself) that their phones distract them the most! Mindlessly scrolling on Instagram can waste hours a day. Figure out a good balance with regards to social media and try to consciously put your phone down, or away from you, especially when you’re trying to get things done.
Use an accountability partner
It is really helpful to have someone to check in with around your goals. This could be a family member, a friend or a health coach! Share your goals with your accountability partner and figure out a way they can hold you accountable. Sometimes this is the missing piece for many of us!
Make sure that you’re scheduling in time to relax. Self care actually allows us to be more productive! Include activities that support your well being like deep breathing, meditation, yoga, prayer, reading, listening to something soothing, or connecting with loved ones.
Assess your approach
After you’ve tried this more scheduled approach, take time at the end of the week to think about how your week went. Are there areas that went well or didn’t go so well? Are there days that went better than others? What are some distractions that prevent you from accomplishing your goals? What interrupted you? When were you able to focus better? When did you feel most energized? What were stressors and how could you overcome them?
We all have the same 24 hours each day. We have the power to choose how we will spend our time and what areas are important for us to focus on. I hope these tips have helped you realize that you do have control over your time and that you can be productive and reach your goals!
Marwa Ismail, Health Coach, uses her training from Institute for Integrative Nutrition and MindBodyGreen to empower patients in making sustainable lifestyle changes to better their health & wellness.