By Sarah Zucker, Psy.D.

Time Management - Psychology San DiegoTime management is something we all talk about, but does anybody really know what it means? If it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day, one of two things is possible: You’re over-committed and need to cut something out, or your time management skills could use a tune-up. Below is a compilation of some very basic, very doable time management techniques to help you maximize time in a sustainable and energizing way.

1) Write things down. One of the most basic and essential factors for staying organized is to write things down. Keep a small planner with you at all times so you can jot things down as they arise. Write assignments and deadlines down immediately. Some people find it helpful to then transfer deadlines and appointments into their phone calendar or onto a large wall calendar at home.

2) Except for days of intended relaxation, create a to-do list. Sometimes the students I see try to memorize everything and are dismayed when they “aren’t the type of person who can remember everything.” Well, none of us are. Creating a to-do list each morning will guide you through your day. Don’t be afraid to put dreaded things and more fun things on the list. This list, whether you get through it or not, provides you with a wealth of information about your priorities, your goals, the practicality of what you expect to get done in a day, and what may still need to be done tomorrow. The most crucial things should always be at the top of your list.

3) Keep your work with you. Keep something you can work on with you. This way, if you have some extra time and feel like doing something, you can. If you don’t, that’s OK too, but it’s always good to have options. This may include keeping your workout gear with you so you can squeeze a run or walk in during an unexpected break.

4) Be honest with yourself. When are you the most productive? When do you get a little sluggish during the day? Are you getting enough sleep? Is a certain food making you crash every afternoon at 3pm? Do you have to get home in time to catch that gorgeous and re-energizing San Diego sunset? Do you plan to do a little work in the evening but end up watching Youtube all night? It’s OK, you’re not alone. Knowing the truth about your habits is a big key to your success. Taking a look at them and honestly evaluating which ones you want to keep and which ones you could try to do without or reduce will likely solve a big piece of your time management puzzle. Whatever you do, try to do it mindfully and with intention. This is always a process, so just do the best that you can.

5) Say “No.” It’s a powerful word, and it’s one you should get comfortable saying. If you can’t do something, it’s important to your health and well-being to say so. This goes back to being honest with yourself. You’re not doing anyone any favors by over-committing and burning yourself out. If you need to get to sleep early, study for a test, get some work done, or just stay home and relax, love yourself enough to say “no.” This is just as important at work, where we want to take on as much as possible to show we’re competent and capable. But when we’re stretched too thin, our work suffers. We all have our limits. This self-care strategy is especially challenging for parents who juggle so much at once. If saying no feels scary, you may want to consider seeing a therapist or mental health professional. Appropriately saying no to someone else means saying yes to yourself and asserting your worth, and this is critical to your mental health.

These are just a few time management tips. A therapist can provide much more personalized feedback on time management and getting organized. This can be especially helpful for teens and young adults before they become overwhelmed. Therapy is helpful not only for deeper issues that we typically associate with needing treatment, but also for things like getting organized and most effectively managing your time. Psychologists can also help with the biggest enemy of time management: procrastination. So take the first step in not procrastinating and get proactive about managing your time today. Now.