In 2020 so much of what we could traditionally “plan on,” hasn’t gone as planned. From school closures to business shutdowns to travel restrictions to grocery runs to riots, our sense of what we could depend on was rocked. And trust was broken in both our experience of our present and our vision of our future.
In the midst of unrest and uncertainty, the idea of focusing on your time management may seem ridiculous.
Why should I take time to plan when my plans may have to change at any moment?
Here’s why: As a time management coach who has been working with coaching clients around the world throughout this year, I’ve seen that effective time management is even more important than ever. In fact, I believe it is one of the most essential elements of not only being productive but also maintaining your sanity at these uncertain times.
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Here are my three secrets to managing your time in 2020:
1. Clarify Your Priorities
Investing your time in alignment with your priorities is always important. But during this time of extra strain and stress, having absolute clarity on what’s most important right now is even more critical.
What you prioritize will depend on your situation. If you find that you’re stretched to the max between normal work and home responsibilities as well as your children doing remote learning, your primary goals may be simply getting your work done, trying to keep your kids on track, and getting some sleep and exercise.
Almost everything else may need to take a back burner until the schools in your area reopen and you get back seven to eight hours of your day (or more).
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If you’re having the opposite problem of feeling isolated because you don’t have as many people around and can’t participate in your normal activities, then your priorities might look very different.
For you, investing in activities that improve your mental, emotional and relational health may need to be primary. That could include getting exercise, seeing friends and family, volunteering, going to church, or doing whatever else you can to keep yourself in a good mental space.
Mental strain, including anxiety and depression has increased tremendously since February. If you’re feeling that personally, do what you can to help yourself regain mental stability. There is hope for your future.
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If you’re feeling pretty stable with your work/life balance and mental health, then you may be able to take on something new like volunteering, going for a promotion, starting a business, or doing a home remodel. But if you’re not in a great headspace, it’s OK to decide that these new things aren’t a priority right now.
Your sanity matters and maintaining the status quos may be all you can handle at present. The main goal is to make it through 2020 with your health, relationships, and job intact.
2. Set Realistic Expectations
Another key to managing your time in 2020 is setting realistic expectations. This is important so that you don’t end up unnecessarily frustrated.
Given all that’s going on, expect everything to take longer to figure out and longer to complete. For example, with many businesses, you need to call ahead to make sure they’re open and to check the current hours and protocols.
For me, the sensation this year has been the same one that I have when I move to a new home. You have to discover where to go for everything from your oil change to your haircut and more.
Mentally preparing yourself that things will take longer helps you not to get annoyed. And it helps you to know how much you can actually fit in a day. Maybe you can only get one thing done in an evening instead of three.
Needing to adjust expectations is especially true if you have your children at home 24/7. Your work and just getting normal life things done will take much longer than if your kids were in school or in daycare. Plan in that margin and if possible, get help with a nanny or by coordinating with your spouse who has responsibility for the children throughout the day.
3. Make Simple Routines
When you feel like you can’t control many things in your life, having some very simple routines that you can-mostly-count on can provide an incredible amount of comfort.
They could be as simple as a time you wake up in the morning, when you have your morning coffee, the walk you take after work, or the time you wind down for bed.
Decide on a few simple things that make you feel good and centered in your day and preferably are independent of external influences, meaning not something a governor could tell you that you could or could not do. Then integrate those into your lifestyle.
Those simple touchpoints can give you a sense of flow, normalcy, and stability even in the midst of change.
Although I don’t know all of what 2020 will bring, I do know that when you follow these three secrets to managing your time: clarifying your priorities, setting realistic expectations, and making simple routines, you will have a more peaceful, productive end to the year.
Elizabeth Grace Saunders is a time management coach and the author of “The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment” and “Divine Time Management.” Find out more at www.RealLifeE.com