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Managing Your Time

Ever wonder how some people manage to accomplish all they do?  You may think they’re superhuman, but chances are they’re just good time managers.  It comes naturally to a few people.  The rest of us can learn it.

Time management can be learned.  And the lessons can make your life and your caregiving more satisfying and more peaceful. 

The advantages of learning time management

Here’s what time management can do for you:

  • It will give you a feeling of control.

  • It will reduce your stress.

  • It will enable you to meet your goals.

Being able to manage time effectively is helpful for just about anyone.  For a caregiver, it may be the most valuable skill you can develop.

There are many useful books on time management.  This page offers some proven hints and tips for making the most out of the limited hours in a day.

Here are the DO’s

Make lists:  Most good time-managers make to-do lists for every day.  The best time managers prioritize their to-do lists with some form of “must do’s,” “would be good to do’s” and “can waits.” 

When you arrange your day in a priority listing like this, you may be surprised at how often you do the “can waits” before the “must do’s.”  For example, you may have spent time shopping for new slippers for mom – a “can wait.”  Perhaps you could have spent that time more effectively by getting her prescriptions refilled or scheduling your own overdue mammogram.

Combine activities:  Try folding the laundry while conversing with your elder, or empty the dishwasher while you help your son with his spelling words.  Pick one time for doing the errands – the banking, picking up the dry-cleaning, dropping off the library books.  Center it around times when you’re already out to minimize the number of trips you have to make.

Tackle the hard stuff first:  Get the most difficult or unpleasant tasks taken care of first.  The resulting satisfaction can propel you forward to accomplish the rest of what you need to do that day.

Learn to slow down:  Focus your time and energy on the things that really matter in your life.  When you find yourself panicking about a situation, ask yourself:  Will this matter a week from now?  A month from now?  A year from now?  Keep in mind that game of cribbage with Dad may be more important than ensuring that all his pants are crisply ironed.

Here are the DON'Ts

Overcommit:  Women in particular are good at taking on more than they should.  Most have a hard time saying no.  You may learn that someone else really can (gasp!) handle the church fund-raiser as well as you. 

Give in to interruptions:  Let the answering machine pick up when you’re in the middle of something.  Feel free to tell someone, “I really can’t visit right now.  Could you drop by this weekend?”

Be a perfectionist:  Sometimes good enough really is good enough.  Be aware of when you’re spending 80% more time making something 20% better.  Accept that everyone – including you – has limitations.

Start a second thing without finishing the first:  To the extent circumstances allow, avoid having several tasks in process.  You can be more effective by working down your priority list, scratching out things as you get them done.

Try our sample time management To Do List to help you get organized.