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Own Your Calendar to Own Your Life

Inspired by this week’s featured Reflection Weeks episode of the Moms Making Six Figures Podcast with our founder, Heidi Bartolotta, who believes in owning your calendar to own your life.  There is freedom in taking back your most finite resource: time. 


One of the perks of mentoring teens through some of their most tumultuous years is getting to be a first-hand witness to their astounding growth as they step into their identity and find their passion for life.  Their contagious energy is also wildly admirable (yes, I realize they sleep in absurd stretches of time, but have you seen what they juggle and accomplish when they are awake?!) and I often find myself thinking back to my own college days while drinking my third cup of coffee, “How do they do it? How did I do it?”

Quite simply, young adults are experts at time management (please suspend your disbelief, I can hear your cries of outrage echoing across the internet).   Really, it’s true.  Their schedules are every bit as demanding and filled to the brim as our own, but they have the hard-wired training and resources to manage all the moving pieces (with our guidance, chauffeuring, and financial support of course). They know the secrets many of us have forgotten when we left the world of 18 credit semesters and part-time jobs behind: the secrets of time blocking and a balanced calendar.  Here are six strategies you can begin implementing today to take back your calendar, and your time, to find freedom for fun and pursuing your passions.


Time Blocking

Unlike teens and university students, most of us don’t have dedicated and focused amounts of time (blocks) throughout our day for specific and similar tasks, like our ENGL 101 course. When we were students, whatever remained to be completed at the end of a class got put on the back burner while we focused our attention on the next block, and it didn’t come back to our mind until we hit our study block later that day.

Looking over your own calendar, begin by identifying all the daily tasks that are an essential and necessary part of your routine, both personally and professionally.  Group like tasks, and assign blocks of time to each.  Instead of living by a to-do list that will inevitably lead to burn out, with time blocking you focus your attention and energy on related tasks in a set period of time; what remains to be done, will remain to be done, and you move on to the next block.

Color Coding

Now that you’ve organized your calendar into blocks of time, designate each block with its corresponding color of your seven chakras.  This isn’t just some new age magic or an excuse to play with colorful pens, instead this technique allows you to see, visually, where your calendar and likely your life is out of alignment.  Each of your chakras corresponds to one of seven energy points in your body; if we’re trying to better manage our time, motivation, and energy, it would make sense to start from a point of reflection to achieve more synergy.

Here is just one way to approach this technique according to LinkedIn blogger John Rampton, “For example, because red is the root chakra symbolizing survival and safety, you would want to use that color for all work-related tasks.  For creative tasks, you might choose to use orange; yellow would represent the items that help you grow; green is reserved for personal events like lunch with a friend; blue equates to activities that express your mind like writing, and indigo is meant for activities that deserve your attention.”

E-mail

It’s a necessary part of doing business, and most parts of our modern lives.  If we don’t manage our e-mail, our avoidance of it will eventually manage us.  You have to commit time to organizing your personal and professional communication, and once you have a system in place, in order to maintain it, you need to give it its own block in your day.  We said we what we said, there is no way around it.  See Do It Yourselfbelow.

Eat the Frog

There’s a reason this time management technique took the business world by storm when it first debuted, and continues to do so.  According to Brian Tracy, the technique’s founder, when you tackle your Most Important Task of the day before you turn your attention to anything else, you can, “go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worse things are going to [go] all day long.”  Even science proves that our most productive and focused hours are in the morning, before other distractions and tasks consume our energy.

Determine when your “Power Hours” are and dedicate that Time Block to your biggest work frog each day; best to eat it before lunch so you can cleanse your palate as the day continues.

Schedule Everything

If it isn’t important enough to make it on your calendar, it probably doesn’t deserve one of your time blocks.  Conversely, there are aspects of our lives that are essential to our well-being and our soul’s nourishment; if these areas aren’t making it onto your calendar, you’re likely experiencing some alignment issues between your personal and professional life.  Just as you would schedule a block of time for meetings, schedule a block of time to take care of your physical and mental health, whatever that looks like for you. And, if you have a tendency to allow your work day to linger long into the evenings and time with your family and friends is continually being compromised, it’s time to begin scheduling an ‘Out of Office’ time as well.

Make yourself an optional list of ‘electives’ and ‘extra-curriculars’ you’d like to pursue if there are openings in your schedule, but that can also be the first things to be removed when your calendar begins to feel chaotic or life begins to feel unbalanced.  And perhaps the biggest challenge, dare we say it, begin to block open time into your day every single day that you can choose how to flexibly fill depending on what the day and your dreams demand

Do It Yourself

When you find the system, or systems, that work best for you, the most successful entrepreneurs have found that as soon as they begin to outsource their time management, they begin to outsource their control over their own life as well. Maintain your own calendar, reflect on it and refine it often, and share it with the people who it affects the most, but never outsource your schedule to someone else to plan for you.


Teens and young adults are exceptional at time-management because they have no other choice but to be.  When you own your calendar, you own your time and ultimately you own your life.  Fine tune this skill and achieve your personal and professional goals while also gaining better alignment and freedom with your most finite resource: time.

 

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Effective Time Management Tips for Busy Moms

Does it ever feel like 24 hours in a day just aren’t enough? Those deadlines, meetings, and endless chores can leave you time for little else. Add kids to the mix, and it’s a whole different ball game.

You’re always on your children’s time. Their sleep schedule, school runs, sports and other after-school activities, bath time, homework… it never ends. As working moms especially, we can feel like we’re constantly playing catch-up. If only we had more time, we could do it all!

Unfortunately, I can’t give you more hours in the day, but I can share with you effective tips to better manage your valuable time. We can all use more ways to stay organized and find those hidden pockets of time in our day—believe me, they do exist!

How Much Time Do You Really Have?

It’s easy to get so busy that hours can rush by in what feels like minutes.

Let’s say you have 4 hours from the time you get home until you go to sleep. It may seem like plenty of time to get things done, but in reality, that time gets used up quickly. Between cooking dinner, helping the kids with their homework, bath time, and chores, you’ll be lucky if you get an hour to yourself.

Be realistic about gauging how much time you actually have to accomplish tasks so that you don’t get overwhelmed and try to accomplish too much in the time allotted. Follow these time management tips to get a better handle on your valuable time!

Prioritize and Eliminate

Do you ever feel like you’ve been busy all day, but haven’t gotten anything done—running to put one fire out after another? I get it! There are days when the unexpected just keeps pushing you off track.

Try to avoid unexpected delays by planning ahead as much as possible. On Sunday night, write down your tasks for the week and prioritize them. Don’t try and do it all—you don’t need to! Make appointments with yourself to finish the important tasks first. Be specific about when each task will start and end, and complete it within that time frame.

Also take a moment to identify the time-wasters throughout your day. A 5-minute break to check your Facebook page can easily turn into 30 minutes or more if you’re not careful. Save these things for the end of your day, when the priority tasks on your list are done.

Learn to Say “No”

I’ve said it before: it’s okay to say “no”! It’s wonderful to volunteer, but you don’t have to participate in every school fundraiser or take on additional projects at work.

If you find it difficult to say “no”—or feel guilty when you do—try to put it in perspective by looking at the big picture. Saying “no” will free up time that could be better spent having fun with your family or accomplishing a project on your to-do list that’s been bothering you for months. Just be polite about it—there’s no need to feel bad! A simple, “No thanks, I can’t make it” will suffice.

Interruptions: The Reality of Mom Life

No matter how perfectly planned your day is, there is always something that interrupts your plans. Such is mom life.

Schedule time for these interruptions. If you have 4 hours to accomplish your tasks for the day, factor in a at least one hour for unexpected interruptions. That way, when you are interrupted, it won’t derail your entire day. If—by some miracle—there are no interruptions in your day, then you may even be able to get additional things done or enjoy some rare “me time”.

Remember, interruptions can occur at any time and you may have to rearrange your schedule around them, so it’s important to stay flexible and not panic if things don’t go as planned.

Get Good Quality Sleep

Your kids shouldn’t be the only ones with bed times—you should too! Even if you can’t plan out your day as much as you’d like, make sure to get some sleep by scheduling and sticking to a time for going to bed.

If your kids are young, this may not be uninterrupted sleep (from 1am feedings to snuggles after nightmares, it’s always something!), but make it a priority for yourself. Between 6 to 8 hours (ha!) of good quality sleep will help you function your best. When you’re well rested, dealing with both the planned and unplanned events of the day is a lot easier.

So many moms, myself included, run ourselves ragged staying up hours after the kids’ bedtime to get some of our endless tasks done. But you won’t be much good to your kids or yourself if you’re not well rested.

Do yourself a favor and invest in a good bed. The last thing you need is aches and pains nagging you throughout your busy day!

Stay on Track: Be Judicious With Your Time

There are only 24 hours in a day. If you want to clear your to-do list, your time is the one thing you shouldn’t waste. Don’t add things to your plate that you don’t have to. Prioritize what means the most to you and your family, and practice saying no without guilt. And when you do have some extra time, make sure to spend some of it on yourself—you deserve it!