Time Keeps on Tricking

Time and I have never been great friends. Not surprising coming from a champion procrastinator, still, I haven’t had as much patience for Time as I’d like. It’s not that I expect to love the way Time operates, but it’s just that Time has always struck me as being a little skittish. You’re in the middle of doing something important and suddenly Time is gone like you hadn’t been working together to accomplish something. Then there are those moments when you’d like Time to get going and instead of hopping on it, Time just lingers and lingers, hanging around like a bad smell. All in all, I find Time just a bit too temperamental for my taste.

My lack of simpatico with Time has meant that I’ve had to come to an agreement about certain things just so I can avoid Time conflicts. For instance, when I travel, I get Time on a leash. I watch every second as if it were my last and plan for all eventualities because if you’re not careful when you need it most, Time will get away from you. One moment you’re flying and the next, you’re stuck at the airport and Time has hopped the last plane without you. I also don’t play around with Time when I have critical deadlines or meetings. I make sure  I’m well prepared in advance in case Time slips away.

Rather than be defeated by Time, I thought it would be better to go back to basics and implement some tricks for managing Time.

11 Time Management Tips:

  • Schedule time for the things you care about. If you don’t make time for these things you will find yourself living without the things you love or crashing into other priorities because you didn’t make the time.
  • Identify your priorities. Do the important things first.  Every day, decide what matters most and get it done or at least make some progress on it.
  • Set time limits. There’s nothing like a deadline to sharpen your focus and push you to get a task completed in a timely manner.
  • Schedule time to be distracted. Years ago an old boss told me that I should schedule half my time for the things I needed to accomplish and half my time for the things that would get in the way.
  • Set objectives. Before starting meetings, tasks or calls, determine what you want to get from them.  This will allow you to focus your time more effectively and you will know whether you have been successful.  Don’t forget to take the time afterwards to determine whether you achieved your objective.
  • Create systems for staying organized. Organizing systems don’t have to be complicated, they are really meant to create shortcuts for deciding where things should go or what order they should be done in. It can be a simple as a filing system or reducing the amount of email that comes across your desk.
  • Make sure you get enough sleep. Different people need different amounts of sleep, but we all need to sleep. Experts suggest that you get no less than 7 hours but you may need as much as 11 hours to feel well rested.
  • Eat well and Exercise. When we are healthy, we are more productive.  Studies show that exercise increases the blood flow to the brain increasing alertness and focus. Exercise also increases our energy level and brain function.
  • Schedule time to think. If I can only do one time management trick, then that’s the one. In order to plan, perform and produce, I need to think. No matter what you are working on, it will go faster and smoother if you think about it first, even if time doesn’t seem to be your friend.
  • Say “No”. Don’t overburden yourself, it adds stress and means that you are constantly fighting an uphill battle to meet objectives. Even a great opportunity can become a problem if you don’t have the time to manage your priorities.
  • One thing at a time. The quickest way to overwhelm yourself is to try to tackle everything on your list at once. Break activities down into digestible pieces and do them one at a time.

What do you think? Are you friends with time? How do you manage time when it decides to manage you?
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69 responses to “Time Keeps on Tricking

  • As sailors used to say, “Time and tide wait for no man”
    If there is a constant it is time slips by us. I think when we get old enough to understand it, we are too old to enjoy the extra time we used to have as youths.
    Kind of depressing when you think about it, but it does make you appreciate the time you have left.

    • Debra Yearwood says:
      December 5, 2017 @ 09:35 pm

      I have to admit, as each year passes I’m much more appreciative of time and what I should be doing with it.

  • Oh my- I have to work on my time management. I love writing to do lists and crossing things off of daily checklists/monthly planners. However, my sleep schedule is all over the place due to needing to work whenever my little one is asleep. This is not conducive to the healthiest lifestyle. I need to work on maybe 9/11 of these! Thanks for the great post!

    • Debra Yearwood says:
      December 5, 2017 @ 09:20 pm

      I remember those days. My little ones are no longer that little, but I remember feeling like having young children was like taking a masters degree in time management.

  • Time is quite the culprit! It can rob you of so much. But without it, we can accomplish nothing. Quite the Catch 22!

  • Solid tips Debra! Personally, I don’t manage time, I manage priorities and energy. For example, I know that my most productive time is in the morning so the first hours of the day are always set aside for writing or anything that requires my full attention. My mind gets a little muzzy later in the day so I save things for later that are more mundane and don’t involve too much detail. Managing my schedule is pretty easy now that I work at home, but even when I worked in the corporate world I was consciously aware of the value of focusing on my peak energy periods and prioritizing the important over the urgent things.

    • Debra Yearwood says:
      December 5, 2017 @ 09:05 pm

      I totally agree with you Marquita, it’s about priorities and energy. I’m a nighthawk myself. I can get the tedious tasks done in the morning and be more creative in the afternoon.

  • Agree with the points you make. However one thing I have learnt is to accept when something happens that you can’t do anything about and not focus on how annoying it is for instance that you are losing time. If you are on an airport and a plane is delayed it’s one thing. But when you are sitting on a train somewhere and can’t get out you just have to shrug your shoulders and you could actually use the time to do something useful for yourself such as read or if that’a not possible contemplate some issue that needs to be resolved and the time will, hopefully, be well spent.

    • Debra Yearwood says:
      December 5, 2017 @ 09:01 pm

      I agree with you Catarina, you can burn a lot of energy getting upset about things you can’t control and that’s a total waste of time.

  • I have good time management. I plan my day and write ‘to do’ lists. I prioritise on completing essential tasks and moving other tasks to the following day. I agree with your time management tips, primarily allowing time to do just browse. If you do not allow grazing time, you will become distracted throughout the day.

    • Debra Yearwood says:
      December 5, 2017 @ 08:56 pm

      I really like the idea of prioritizing tasks. I find that even if I complete a number of less critical tasks but don’t get to my important ones that the day has been wasted.

  • Hey Debra,

    The older I get the more time seems to slip away from me. I swear it’s like it’s making my life go by faster for some reason.

    I am a very organized person so time management has never been an issue with me but when it comes to blogging things just crop up that we never had planned. Just like the example of your husband and the theme. Things just happen, updates go wrong, plugins mess up your blog, your hosting service has issue, things just go haywire that are out of your control and you still have to fix these issues. That’s time you never had scheduled but have to find time for now. Yep, it just happens I’m afraid.

    I wish it wasn’t so.


  • Planning saves time, I guess. I guessed because I have never planned my time yet…Lol 🙂 Just heard or read from people. In your husband’s case it is this new blog that is snatching his time away from him. I faced similar problems when I first started my blog. Things are slowly coming back to track now… It is normal because when we start learning a new thing or a skill, we need to give more time to it..Gradually we learn to act fast..

  • Hi Debra,
    I love what I do and because of that, the passage of time is a pleasure. I schedule my time so I have ample to accomplish all I desire, and like you, I give myself some wiggle room.

    Since you’ve been asking people for a handle on time management, I will tell you my approach:
    I separate the urgent from the non-urgent and the important from non-important. I look after the urgent-important matters first and schedule appropriate amounts of time later for the less urgent, less important matters. I will encourage you to establish this habit,as it is most effective.

    In the process, it’s important to schedule breaks, otherwise you’ll run out of energy sooner.

    Kind Regards,

  • I have my daily To Do list and if it doesn’t get done I put the cursor on it and slide it over to the next day! I guess you wouldn’t call that time management but I try not to sweat the small stuff and focus on what needs to get done today. I used to be religious about posting the same day every week but now I have a more laissez-faire attitude and if I publish within the work week that’s fine and it hasn’t hurt my traffic at all. We all have this fantasy that our subscribers are sitting by their computers just waiting for our next bog post. Ha!

  • I used to be friends with time, but as I come closer to another birthday, I seriously have to wonder what have I been doing with my time. Something you can never get back? Thus, I have made up my mind to take a trip this summer to Europe. No more watching my life flash by!

  • The older I get the faster it goes! Remember when you were a child and time lagged? No more. I always prided myself on being a multi-tasker when I had my flight school. It was necessary then. Next came social media and multi-tasking became a time waster. I try to set up blocks of time for various tasks and it is helping. Nice post.

    • I hear you! I’m forever running out of time, but then I know people who say the older they get the more time they have. I keep waiting for that to happen to me. 🙂

  • As a new blogger, I can relate with your husband. I liked the idea of giving time to things that will “get in the way”. There’s a huge learning curve when starting a new endeavor and one can easily become frustrated with the time it takes. It’s a bit of the process vs. product/outcome syndrome. On the flip side, with a bit of time behind me, I’m able to look back and see the growth and accomplishments 🙂

  • Suzanne Fluhr (Boomeresque) says:
    May 25, 2014 @ 03:51 pm

    I wish I could be like my husband who can focus like a laser beam, is a master of time/project management and doesn’t procrastinate. I’m a procrastinator—but I always accomplish my tasks and usually on deadline, but by putting off things til the last minute, I make them more stressful than necessary. Now that I’ve been dealing with time for 6 decades, I’m pretty good at estimating how long a project will take and subconsciously getting started with enough time to finish a project on deadline. The one exception is my relatively new endeavor of blogging. (I sympathize with your husband). Blog posts usually take me more time than I expected.

    • Suzanne like you I meet my deadlines but do it with more stress than necessary. I think it’s because I can judge how long it will really take to do the work that leads to the procrastination. 🙂

  • I am a time management freak! In a good way. You see I manage people’s social media for them for a living, so I have to limit myself to being online to only 35 minutes once or twice a day for my own social media efforts. The answer for me – a kitchen timer and an assistant that has a regimented schedule of what I want her to accomplish in the 10 hours a week she works for me. Yes, I am a task master, but the only way for me to get everything done and still have time for me to relax. Plus, I believe in laughing while we work and having fun. Makes the time go by faster and we have fun, too.

    • I keep promising to get myself a timer and I haven’t done it yet. I know that it’s a great way to keep track of time so it’s one thing I should stop procrastinating about. 🙂

  • jankedonna says:
    May 23, 2014 @ 11:26 am

    I seem to schedule more than fits into a time slot, but if I look back at what I’ve accomplished I realize I’ve been very productive. It’s just that I sometimes expect to get more done. Prioritizing is important. Tackling the most important and/or hardest item first is a good idea. I agree on the importance of taking time to think. We are so enamored with being busy these days that we forget its importance.

  • jbutler1914 says:
    May 23, 2014 @ 08:44 am

    The older I get the better I get with time. I plan things a lot better now. Having been out of college for 6 years now I know the value of time. It waits for no man.

    • You’re moving in the right direction. If you continue to get more comfortable with time as you get older then my hat is off to you. I’ll be curious to know what you think of time if you decide to have children. 🙂

  • I am not a friend with time. My job is great and gives me lots of time to work through but unfortunately, my goals seem to require more time than I have. Thus, I’m always asking time to move slower and slower but never are my wishes granted.

    Thanks for such a thought-provoking post!

  • Louise says:
    May 22, 2014 @ 02:44 pm

    Not being a procrastinator (and at the risk of sounding pompous), I try to manage time rather than let it manage me. No matter what I’m doing, from meeting a friend for breakfast to writing a grant application, I figure out how much time it will take me by working backwards step by step from the due date/hour. Rather than set aside time at work to think, so difficult with all the distractions and noise, I do my best thinking (such as it is) in the bathtub, just before falling asleep or walking home.

  • Meredith says:
    May 21, 2014 @ 10:51 pm

    I can soooo relate to your husband! I feel that the frustrating (technological) things about blogging wouldn’t be half so bad if I didn’t feel like there are a million other things I need to be doing in a day. I like your idea to schedule time to just think, instead of always doing.

    • What’s striking for me is that he is used to working on projects that take years to complete and can be patient, but something about the blog… just didn’t work. 🙂

  • After I moved back to Idaho, my schedule really got out of whack. I used to track my hours and stopped. That lead to me working later in in the day than I would like. Now I’m gradually getting back on a better schedule. What I’m most glad about is that I’m at a place where I can stop working on travel memoirs for a while and focus on a three month stint to finish the next draft of my novel. Writing out my big tasks for the day also helps too. I’ll even do that for weekend stuff too. I could be super-productive as a teacher, but it took a long time to transfer that productivity to freelancing.

    • Every disruption or change has such a tremendous impact on time and our perception of time. Although I could have anticipated the challenge for myself and David, it was still disconcerting.

  • This is a perfect post for me right now. I am so overwhelmed with stuff, moving stuff, blog stuff, visitors and their stuff. The fact is I can’t do it all and I feel like a failure. I have not been as active as I would like on my favorite blogs and this and other concerns keeps growing. I have never be a procrastinator, well not to much anyway… laugh. Your thoughts on this are something I really needed and I thank you for that. 🙂

    • Susan, you and I are sitting in the same boat. I wrote this because I have been struggling with time for the last couple of months. I was starting to get really frustrated with myself for how inattentive I’ve been so I needed to step back and think about what was causing it. My husband’s behaviour was the last straw. Guess what? I started a new job and was doing a number of new projects … research shows that impacts your time in reality and your perception of it. 😉

      As for you, you didn’t just move, you changed your lifestyle and said goodbye to some things that had tremendous sentimental value. I bet your sense of time is completely out of synch.

  • Hi Debra! I love the phrase champion procrastinator. I think my husband qualifies for that as well. I’m kind of a mix. I’m really talented at finding distraction when there is something I’m avoiding. Conversely, there are times when I feel like all I do is work and there are just not enough hours in the day. I do work more productively when I plan or make a schedule. It does seem that is the best way to use time for your advantage. I really enjoyed this article!

    • Hi Erica, good procrastination takes years of practice and I’m very proud of my ability to avoid things I don’t want to do. 🙂 Having said that, when I want something done, there is little that time or anyone else can do to stop me, scheduling is part of how I do that.

  • I don’t think my issue is time. I think it’s making a list and then ignoring it. Or wanting to do something but not getting started. If I “like” my list, I often get it done in time. Today I’m not sure what is a priority, so I’m commenting on your post instead. I suppose that was the priority!

    • All I’ve ever done with most lists is ignore them, so I’m not a big fan of writing them. I’m glad I made it in as a priority, though I suspect I was in reality more like procrastination. Either way woks for me, I support good procrastination. 🙂

      • I am reading how responded to me – laughing out loud at using you as a method of procrastination. Oh, give yourself a little more credit … I enjoy the connection! I remember needing to do something that was a little more of a pick-me-up earlier this week.

  • Arleen says:
    May 21, 2014 @ 11:29 am

    Debra- You are still young, when you get to my age time does pass like a roll of toilet paper. I think you realize that importance of time and if you do not use it wisely it will get away from you. I have also learned not to beat myself up when I don’t get what I want done at a certain time. It will be there tomorrow when I am more refreshed to tackle the situation. I do not waste time because that is what we all really have to work with. One never knows how long we will be here. So I try to manage my time wisely.

  • Time is rarely on our side it seems. I know there are all kinds of way to time manage, but somehow I find them elusive. As soon as one thing is under control then another thing comes up. But I think the think to do is to try not to sweat the small stuff, and get bogged down in stressing about it. Pick out the important things, do those first. The fact is , some things just won’t get done. Good post Debra. Thanks so much.

  • Like most people, I bicker and fume when time won’t cooperate with me. I can usually give ample time for whatever I do. Sometimes this means waiting around but I figure that’s better that not having enough time. When I find that time has left me high and dry, I cuss under my breath, then deal with it.

  • Debra I have been enjoying your posts for a while now, but this one was the best. How anyone can take something as elusive as time and write a post about it – and keep it fascinating enough to keep us reading to the end – is amazing.
    I love the statement by your old boss: “schedule half my time for the things I needed to accomplish and half my time for the things that would get in the way.” That’s so important because not having enough time for the things that get in the way leads to burnout.

  • Oh my…what a very tricky subject. There is something uncomfortable about putting things like dreams, introspection, aspiration into a box named time! Tasks are completely different in my mind…they belong in that box. But how I wish those two completely different things didn’t have to share what often seems like restrictive space 🙂

    • I hear you about the discomfort of coupling time with those things that really matter, but given my opinion of time, no surprise. 🙂 I like the way you think about tasks instead, takes the pressure off.

  • Of all your posts Debra that one was awesome. I can totally relate to your husband. me and time have been friends for as long as I remember but the added pressure of writing a blog and self-imposed deadlines mixed in with creativity and technology seem to sap the relationship of its steady warmth. Now it runs hot or cold. Mayhem or, I was going to say boredom but that’s really not true. Mayhem or contained energy 🙂

    • I love the description of going between mayhem and contained energy. I would like to come to a point where I’m on friendly terms with time, but it will take…time. I will admit to a certain uncharitable glee at watching my husband discover the challenges I’m so familiar with, but if I know him, he’ll figure it out and once again be buddies with time.

  • Setting my own schedule means i have little concept of time any more. I was actually confused about the day of the week recently.

  • Apparently time, as we use it, is man made. In the universe the past, present and future exist at the same time. And also according to Einstein, for that matter. So if mankind hadn’t come up with time maybe we would have lead our lives in a different way?:-)

  • Hi Debra. I believe that time management requires much tailoring to the individual .Certainly there are basics that most people can use to a greater or lesser extent. but the emphasis needs to take account of each mindset. I agree with your old boss, in that I avoid stress by allowing ample contingency time for the unpredictable issue or opportunity. If the unforeseen arises there is no domino effect. If it does not, I can get ahead of tomorrows schedule or, like yourself, devote extra time to productive thinking.

    • Absolutely Paul, what works for my husband does not work for me when it comes to time management. Most of our encounters with time are a reflection of our own perceptions of it. You have to love the human mind in all of it’s quirkiness.

  • The Productivity Superdad, Timo Kiander, recommends doing exactly what you are doing, Debra: planning your day. This includes thinking about what you are going to do, before you do it. This strategy works, too. You (and I, and many, many others) are living proof.

    Time, however, seems to elapse at a faster rate for me. I’m not sure why. I’m not that slow at getting things done! Yet, somehow, it speeds by and I don’t know what to do about this. I’ve been struggling with this issue for a while. If I ever get a handle on it, I will let you know. For now, time has it’s own tricks it plays on me. Sadly.

    • We just had a long weekend here in Ontario, I had about a million things I thought I could get done. As it happens, I got even less done than normal or so it seems. Despite loving every minute (or because of it) the weekend was gone before I knew it. I expected today to drag, not a bit of it, it’s flown by and that seems to be the norm for my relationship with time. If you can get handle on it, please do share. 🙂

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