Time Management – One Day at a Time

Cup beside a frame and text One day at a time

I started working with John* in early January to improve his time management. He felt “all over the place” in recent months and wanted to take back control of the workday. Like John, many people feel they are on a productivity rollercoaster. One minute we are progressing steadily towards our goals, and the next we are flipped into a loop-the-loop and sent to the bottom again.

John and I sat down (virtually), to discuss what was happening and the daily actions he could take. Like so many other people at the moment he had a heavy workload, was managing a team, helping to homeschool the kids, and doing his best to keep it all together. By the end of the session, John recognised the best approach at the moment was to take things one day at a time.

If John’s situation feels familiar, you could follow these steps for “one day at a time” management.

Focus on the desired outcome

Identifying the desired outcome, or the results that need to be achieved, in the days ahead is the first and most important task. Clarity on this allows us to measure progress, know how far is left to go and acknowledge when our work is complete. If these are results set by senior management, line managers need to ensure that the correct information reaches their teams to avoid unnecessary stress and potentially wasted effort.

Embrace the “good” days

Make the most out of the days that you are feeling motivated. With the desired outcome in mind, identify the most important tasks to be completed and get stuck in. Allow yourself to get into “the flow”, but be mindful about getting lost in work. Ensure that you take your breaks and finish work at a reasonable time so that the day ends as well as it began. Before you finish, be sure to write down your progress. 

Accept the “other” days.

On those days that you are struggling, for whatever reason, the best thing you can do is to accept that it just isn’t a good day. Everyone has them, and you are not the only one experiencing them more than usual at the moment. By taking an outcome-oriented approach, identify the “must do” items for the day and then allow yourself the space to take care of your personal needs. This space also applies to people in leadership roles; nobody is ok all of the time and leading by example sometimes means taking the rest when needed. At the end of the workday, write down the first thing you will do the next morning and then draw a line under the day. It is done.

Taking this approach to time management allows you to focus on the most important work while also looking after your wellbeing. Above all else be kind, mind your mind, and remember that we are all only trying to do our best.

* Client name and some details have been changed to protect privacy. This blog was kindly shared by IBEC in the Wellness Roundup, February 2021

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If you found this helpful then you may also want to read: Plan your week and reclaim your time.

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