Many of us are busy juggling work, family, maintaining our health and the rest of life. Most of us are probably goal-oriented people. However, sometimes managing everything can get tricky and time can slip away. What started out as great intentions for the New Year or for the start of summer can become afterthoughts if we don’t have a laser-focused approach to reaching our goals. Time management, however, is one of the best tools for setting yourself up for success.
1. Have a goal.
You’ve heard the saying: “If you don’t know where you are going, how will you ever get there?” It can be easy to lose track of time and direction if you don’t have an end goal in mind. It is important to get pretty clear on what exactly your goals are. Whether you want to lose weight, increase muscle, change your eating habits, manage your stress or change careers, deciding what your goals are is an important step to managing your time and being successful. Write your goals down and place them somewhere where you can see them every day. This will help serve as a reminder when life gets hectic, and will help you stick to your goals when it may seem easier to skip them.
2. Create a timeline.
Once you have determined what your goals are, spend some time creating a timeline. I like to start from the finish line and work backwards. For example, let’s say your goal is to run a particular, figure out how much time you will need to prepare. The same concept can be applied for other goals such as weight-loss, gaining mass or even getting more sleep. Start at the end and figure out how much time you will need to reach your goal.
3. Figure out what you need to do.
Now that you know where you are going and how much time you will need, it is time to write down exactly what you will need to do. If you want to lose weight, for example, you will likely engage in exercise, change your eating habits, drink enough water and get adequate sleep. Tackle each of these areas individually. What will you do for exercise? How many days a week? Will you take classes? Run outdoors? Get super specific and write these things down. Changing your eating habits requires you to make a grocery shopping list and plan your meals. If you eat out, set up some guidelines, such as choosing vegetables for side dishes, having a source of lean protein and drinking water or other calorie free beverages. Getting enough sleep requires you to make some healthy changes, too (see 5 Tips for Avoiding Sleep Deprivation). Again write down these steps to help you get where you need to go. The clearer, more vivid you get, the better you will be in managing your time and reaching your goals.
4. Schedule your workouts.
Keep your workouts, trips to the grocery store and other healthy “to-dos” in your calendar, just as you would your work meetings or doctor’s appointments. Set reminders on your calendar to help you stay on track. Even better, arrange to exercise with a friend, which will increase your commitment and keep you accountable.
5. Plan your grocery trips.
Make it a point to schedule in time each week to go grocery shopping. Create a list and, if possible, keep it on your phone. By making it a point of going to the grocery store and taking a list with you every week, you will save yourself time and guess work, and reduce the temptation to fall off track with your eating habits.
6. Prepare your food in advance.
Now that you have gone to the store, build in time to prepare your meals. This can be done a few times a week (say Sundays and Wednesdays) or every morning for the day. Whatever your timeframe may be for preparing your food, it is important to build it into your day to make it easier to stay on track and work toward your goals. If you end up eating out often, spend some time reviewing the menus ahead of time so you have an idea of the healthy options available.
7. Take advantage of your “down” time.
When the kids are down for a nap or you have an extra few minutes at the office or on the weekends, take advantage of this time. What tasks have you been putting off? Use this time to get them done. If you are at work, take a walk. If the kids are asleep, get in a home workout. While it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and feel like you just “don’t have the time,” the reality is we can create the time if we make our goals a priority.
8. Check in weekly.
Once a week, take the time to evaluate your progress, your time and the plans for the upcoming week. Do things need to shift a bit? What were your barriers? This step is important as it will help keep you balanced and present. It allows you to shift things around and refocus for the next week.