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5 New Year’s resolutions you should be making about time management

Time management coach Elizabeth Grace Saunders explains her surprising approach to having your most productive year yet.

5 New Year’s resolutions you should be making about time management
[Photo: mangpor_2004/iStock]

You likely already have too much to do, too many goals, too many unfinished projects, and too many disappointments from this past year.

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So as you look ahead to 2020, the idea of adding more seems kind of exciting but also a bit daunting. That’s why as a time management coach, I recommend that you do the opposite. Resolve to do less, and experience your best year possible.

Less is more. Here are five resolutions to make it happen:

Do less

Take a good hard look at how you’re spending your time and see what you can eliminate, or at least reduce, in your schedule. Here are a few examples, but anything that saves you time counts:

  • Delegate something at work that someone else could easily do.
  • Quit a responsibility such as a committee, club, or leadership position.
  • Check social media less frequently or cut it out entirely. For many, it helps not to have the social media apps installed on their phone, so they can only check it from a computer.
  • Look for other small ways to streamline tasks outside of work. Order groceries online. Get things resolved by phone instead of going into a store. By items for a party pre-made instead of making them from scratch. Little choices like these can save you hours.

Resolution: I resolve to reduce activities that are okay uses of my time but that squeeze out the best uses of my time. I will not make excuses for myself like saying I don’t have enough time for exercise or sleep when I’m spending an hour or more of unproductive time on my phone each day.

Know less

It’s okay not to be up-to-date on everything. You don’t have to have seen your friend’s latest Instagram update or your colleague’s LinkedIn post. And you don’t need to read every story that shows up on your Facebook feed either. To cut down on these distractions you might:

  • Turn off social media notifications on your phone or uninstall social media apps altogether.
  • Unsubscribe from notification emails or newsletters you don’t read regularly.
  • Have a very boring page when you open a new browser tab. I have mine set to go to a simple Google search bar. No tempting articles requiring willpower to avoid.

Resolution: I resolve to be less aware of “interesting” things so I can be interested in and present for the people around me.

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Care less

This one may sound a bit callous. And for the record, those who know me well would tell you that I’m a caring person. But to be that kind and thoughtful person for my friends and family and to serve my clients well—who I do care about—I can’t care about everyone who wants my attention professionally. What that means is that I say “No” a lot. Here are some ways I do this:

  • I usually don’t respond to emails where someone I don’t know at all is reaching out to me to further their own agenda, which has no mutual benefit for me.
  • I don’t feel an obligation to set up calls with people because they want to connect to talk. I will set up calls, when I can, with students or with individuals where our work is aligned and it makes sense to chat. But I have a strong aversion to sales calls masked as networking chats when I’m not interested in buying anything.
  • I am available to my coaching clients Monday through Friday, during the day. I do care about my coaching clients and serving them well. But I don’t feel an obligation to be available 24/7. Being able to unplug from work in my personal time increases my ability to serve my clients well when I’m in the office.

Resolution: I resolve to care less about what others want me to do, particularly strangers, so that I can align my time with my highest priorities and take better care of the people closest to me.

Forget less

Once you turn your attention from the swirl of random input to the reality of your own life, you can start to really commit to showing up as your best self. That includes being a person who remembers what they need to do and follows through on those commitments. Here are some ways that you can make that happen:

  • Write down what you said you would do, if you aren’t completing a task right away. This could be writing the task in your calendar, task management system, or planner, or just on a piece of paper.
  • Check said list and/or put reminders in your calendar or task management system.
  • Give yourself time to follow through. I have big goals that I work on later in the day. But at the start of each day, I try to make time for the little tasks that I need to follow through on doing.

Resolution: I resolve to follow through when I say that I will do something. And if I’m not going to do something, I resolve not to make the commitment.

Regret less

It’s rare to look back over your year and to say, “Wow. I really wish I had spent more time answering emails.” But it is common to wish that you had really moved forward projects that were professionally or personally important to you; that you had taken time to do meaningful, fun activities; and that you had taken care of your health. Here are some ways that I avoid regret:

  • I ask myself the question: Fifty years from now, which choice would make me happy? Asking myself that question is what gave me the courage to take a couple of weeks off at the beginning of 2019 to go on a once-in-a-lifetime trip even though it was a very busy season for my business. Fifty years from now, I wouldn’t remember the extra work, but I would appreciate having gone on the trip.
  • I’m very conscious to intentionally connect with the people who are the most important to me. Some of those individuals I have intentional connection time with multiple times a week, and others it looks more like once a month or once every few months. But I don’t let friendships slip because I simply forgot to reach out. I have reminder systems in place; for instance, on the first of each month, I have a task in my calendar to be in touch with certain people.
  • I know which professional projects are most important to me, and I’m willing to say “No” to any other requests that may keep me from accomplishing those goals. As a business owner, I know I have more freedom than is always possible as an employee. But even as an employee, you should be aware of your top objectives and have some serious discussions with your boss if additional projects would jeopardize what’s most important to the business.

Resolution: I resolve to make choices both personally and professionally that will help me avoid regret at the end of the day, week, or year. That means paying less attention to my impulses in the moment and more attention to the person who I want to be.

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Is it easy to do less? No. There will always be pressure to do more. But will it lead you to the best outcomes in the end? Yes. You’ll thank yourself for it at the end of 2020.

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