Disclaimer at the onset: I’m no master in time management or productivity. In fact, I often end most of my days feeling that there was something missing or that I could have done better.
But like anything in life, I’m always trying to push forward into a better, more optimized reality — and I believe that with a little bit of discipline, focus, and planning, you can too.
Over the past few years, I’ve begun to move my view on time from productivity (where we do because we feel external forces acting on us) to a more creative approach of designing my time — where I become the architect of my own day.
Designing your time requires taking a step back and understanding what you want to get out of each day, week, and month. This can be especially challenging if you have competing pressures from work and family life, but it is achievable with some effort.
Evaluating Your Time Usage: A Checklist
Consider the following questions to assess your current time management habits and identify areas for improvement:
- Are you often overwhelmed by the number of tasks on your to-do list?
- Do you frequently procrastinate, especially on important tasks?
- Are you facing challenges in meeting deadlines?
- Do you feel like your day is filled with more low-value tasks than high-value ones?
- Does your work often spill over into your personal time, affecting your work-life balance?
- Are you regularly skipping breaks or meals to get more work done?
- Is your sleep schedule frequently disrupted due to work or other commitments?
- Do you find it difficult to say ‘no’ to distractions or unplanned requests?
- Are you using any tools or techniques to organize, track, and prioritize your tasks?
- Do you often feel stressed or anxious about your workload?
If you answered ‘yes’ to several of these questions (don’t worry, I do too) then it might be time to look for ways to optimize and streamline your personal time management.
Rethinking Our Time
It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of time management — needing to complete specific tasks within a set amount of time.
But there’s more to managing your time than just completing tasks. After all — what kind of life is it if we are just stuck checking off items from a to-do list?
Time design is about optimizing our lives and getting the most out of every moment.
It’s about understanding how to create the most productive routine for yourself and learning how to better prioritize tasks in order to make room for joy, fulfillment, self-care, and rest.
It’s not just about being busy; it’s about being productive doing those things that bring us joy and purpose. It’s about ensuring that each day is filled with activities that bring us closer to our goals and create a feeling of accomplishment.
But think about it — do we approach our time management and design from a taskmaster’s perspective or from a mindful one?
Before we can even begin to consider how to better manage ourselves, we need to think about how we speak to ourselves when we fail to meet our goals.
Let’s change the dialogue: instead of beating ourselves up for not getting ‘enough’ done, let’s focus on making time to do what we love and make it part of our routine.
Let’s learn how to create meaningful pauses in between tasks and make sure that each day is filled with activities that bring us joy and purpose.
Let’s learn how to prioritize tasks in order to make room for ourselves and things that matter.
Crafting Your Time Design Routine
Time management is not about rigidly sticking to a plan and crossing off items from your ‘to-do’ list. Rather, it’s about learning how to structure our daily schedule in order to achieve both short-term and long-term goals.
By creating a routine that works for us, we can ensure that each day is organized and productive.
Step 1: Start by setting aside a few minutes each day for planning and goal-setting. Even a ten-minute sprint to “brain dump” can make all the difference.
Step 2: Choose a few tasks you want to accomplish in the upcoming days, weeks, or months — and be realistic about what you can achieve. Remember to include both short-term and long-term goals.
Step 3: Break down each task into smaller, achievable steps that you can work on each day. This is where tools like planners, digital apps, or even a simple ‘To-Do’ list come in handy — they help keep track of your progress and provide useful reminders.
Step 4: Ask yourself why you want to (or need to) accomplish each task. Setting an intention behind your goals can help you stay motivated, especially when things get tough.
Remember: Time Management Isn’t The Point
Living a healthy and fruitful life will always come up short when we try to live by the clock.
Time management is about prioritizing tasks by importance based on someone else’s agenda.
Time design puts the control back in your hands.
Remember, you are constantly using up time — a resource that cannot be replaced. Spend it wisely and focus on the tasks that truly matter to you.
By learning how to structure our time, we can learn to maximize our productivity, achieve work-life balance, and improve overall mental health.
Ultimately, effective time management is about recognizing the preciousness of each moment — and using what we have as best as possible.