A Simple System for Effective Time Management

I’ll be the first to admit that I have assigned myself a lot of jobs. In any given week, I am balancing:

  •      Being a stay-at-home mom
  •      Creating art
  •      Learning the ins and outs of the small business world
  •      Reading and voting on submissions for The Masters Review
  •      Keeping the house from being featured on an episode of Hoarders
  •      Being a writer

Whew! At the beginning of this year, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed – I was mostly spinning my wheels, not making it anywhere. In short, I was driving myself crazy.

effective time management calendar system

I. The System

Thankfully, in February, I managed to create a super simple but effective time management system. I downloaded this cute, free printable calendar, and I started scheduling myself two goals for each day. I space out different types of tasks throughout the week, so I don’t spend three solid days updating Etsy or give myself hand cramps practicing calligraphy too frequently. This also keeps the work interesting – since the types of tasks rotate, I feel refreshed and ready to tackle each one.

Here’s a week I made up as an example:

  • Monday: Master’s Review reading, market research
  • Tuesday: Write two reference letters, write blog post
  • Wednesday: Pin new blog post, write two reference letters
  • Thursday: Master’s Review reading, work on latest art piece
  • Friday: Send out newsletter, write two reference letters
  • Saturday: Practice calligraphy, market research
  • Sunday: Unpack a box in the basement, work on latest art piece

The amount of tasks in a week add up, but on a day-to-day basis it feels totally doable. And my favorite part? This system is totally flexible. If I miss a day because the kiddo decided to wake up at 4 am and I am a zombie, catching up over the next day or two is totally doable.

II. Who Is It For?

Now if I were really playing to the broad audience on this one, I’d be shouting “Everyone! Everyone! We can all use it!” But I think it’s most useful for people like me: people who crave structure in a setting that can feel completely unstructured. Maybe you’re a stay-at-home parent too, or you’re a freelancer, or you’re starting your own business. No boss is breathing down your neck, tapping a watch to remind you of your next deadline. No one is checking on your progress.

The idea sounds exhilarating, but personally, I like deadlines. Sure, they can be stressful, but they’re also a clear goal to work toward, and I can measure success by whether or not I meet or exceed them. (Can you tell I was one of the nerds in school? Feel free to insert eyeroll here.)

When I switched from my office job to being a stay-at-home mom, I struggled. Hard. I felt like I never got anything done; I felt like I was failing at everything. Slowly but surely (at times with the help of a therapist – no shame!), I’m learning how to take control when I can and let go when I can’t. This two-goals-per-day system sounds stupid simple at first, but such a simple yet effective time management system has done wonders for my productivity and sense of self. Sometimes, the simplest things are the best things in life.

III. Additional Tips

If you want to implement a similar effective time management system, I recommend making a master list of all the tasks you’re anticipating for each month. (To the best of your ability, anyway – life happens, so some tasks will pop up out of nowhere.) That way, as you build your rotating schedule for each week, you can make sure there isn’t a category of tasks being left off by accident.

Along with that master list, I’d also suggest writing down a few goals or desires you have in mind that you haven’t been able to get to. This part is totally optional, but if you end up with some space in your normal schedule, you could use that time to do something for yourself. (Crazy, right?!) Maybe there’s a book you’ve been dying to read, or a new cookie recipe you’ve been wanting to try. As you get a better grasp on time management overall, you will most likely find yourself with extra time you can spend on personal goals. I finally found time to actually read the books I get out of the library!

Do you have a tried-and-true, effective time management system to keep you on track? How long did it take you to develop?


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