Man, woman, young, old, we could all use a little help managing our time better.
We enlisted the help of a time management expert to give us some tips on getting our schedules in shape.
Meet our test subject, Meghan Joy Yancy, a mother of six children, whom she home schools. She runs a business selling essential oils with 1,000 people on her team. She’s an Instagram “influencer” with more than 100,000 followers. She’s writing her first book. Oh, and her family is moving to a new house.
“I just try to take it day by day so it doesn't get overwhelming,” said Meghan with her kids conducting a garage sale.
Here’s Meghan’s biggest time struggles:
- Hard to find time to focus on book and businesses
- Everyday life is full-on multitasking
- Plagued with distractions
- Occasionally forget scheduled items
We connected Meghan with Jan Lehman, time management expert and CEO of CTC Productivity, who told us the number one biggest mistake most people at work and at home make relating to time management.
“They don’t hit pause and try to figure out a better way,” said Lehman.
When it comes to work, Lehman says everybody should have one hour of totally uninterrupted, distraction free time in morning to accomplish the most important tasks. She says multi-tasking creative to-dos will rarely net the same result as isolating each task and giving it full attention.
“If you are focusing on something and you get interrupted, even to say what do you want for lunch, on average you lose 20 minutes,” said Lehman.
Here are Lehman’s four commandments, her roadmap for anyone to better manage time:
Accomplishing this will likely mean different apps or strategies for different people. You just need to find what works for you.
Lehman says first triage the most important tasks on your agenda and cross off the ones you know are unrealistic or able to move to another day.
Next, automate things that technology can do for you. Why google a business address and type it into Google Maps when you can just tell Siri to do it for you? Why text your partner ten times about the things you need at the grocery store when you could share an app like AnyList, that will automate that process for you?
Lastly, delegate what you can. You do it at work; you can also do it at home. Sharing responsibility is essential in the office or the home, according to Lehman.
After a half-hour conversation between Meghan and Lehman, the pair created a week-long trial comprising five strategies to make Meghan’s time more efficient.
AnyList – This smartphone app allows users to create organized lists quickly that can be shared seamlessly with a spouse, friend, co-worker or children. Think groceries, party supplies, school work materials, etc.
Todoist – Because Meghan had some things on her schedule occasionally fall through the cracks, Lehman recommended this app. It’s makes lists, organizes and reminds users of various tasks. This is for the things you tend to put off, the lower priority tasks. The app will send you reminders to keep that oil change and medical bill payment from the land of the forgotten.
Google Calendar – This is more than a digital calendar. Google Calendar can sync with others users, send reminders, and even input events automatically from private emails so you don’t have to.
Delegate – Lehman asked Meghan to start dishing out the dish duties to her children. Instead of doing it all by herself, she started holding her children accountable for various tasks around the house, and not allowing play or snack time until it was done.
Pomodoro Method – This last strategy was a bonus test for Meghan. She asked her husband to take the kids for 1-3 hours a day so she could focus on her book and businesses. In that time, Lehman asked Meghan to try what’s called the Pomodoro Method. Developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s, this time management strategy calls for the user to set a timer for 25 minutes to achieve a task. After the interval, you take a short five-minute break and repeat.
She gave it a week, and in the end noted what worked and didn't work for her.
First the apps.
“I think it's great, again, I had to go back to my pen and paper. I have to write everything down and cross it out,” said Meghan.
She liked the AnyList app the most for convenience, but she is a pure pen and paper planner—everyone knows one. Breaking that habit for lists or calendars was a no go, although she does still use Google Calendar to keep her and her husband’s schedules on track.
She found delegating to be huge. Giving her children ownership over certain chores gave her new time each morning for other more important tasks.
“Prepare for home school, take care of the baby, maybe do some other work,” she said.
Finally, with her new found free time (thanks hubby), here’s her take on the the 25-minute Pomodoro Method.
“I like the pomodoro method because it creates a little bit of urgency. I got 25 minutes and need to knock out as much as I can right now. I was working on my book for a good portion of it and I got more done in that time than I have in the past month,” said Meghan.
No app or strategy will work for every person, but Lehman says there's no way to improve your time spent, without first analyzing your time wasted.