24 Hours Not Enough? Learn to Manage Time Like Money

To be fair, most of us have felt at one time or another as if we simply don’t have enough money. When that happens, we either look for an additional stream of income, or we refine our budget and try to work within it. Time is similar. However, because we can’t simply make more time, the latter approach is the default. What does it mean to learn to manage time as if it’s money?

Viewing Time As a Budget

We’re all working with the same 24 hours. That part of the equation is set. Where everyone begins to differ is the very diverse ways in which we use our 24 hours. Think of your 24 hours as an allowance you receive each day. You literally can do whatever you please with your 24 hours. But for most of us, it’s not that simple, right? We decide we want housing, clothes, food, financial savings, entertainment. All those things cost. They cost money and time [unless you literally have someone handing these things to you…in which case, please come over here and advertise YOUR coaching services]. Anyhow…these things cost what I’ve come to refer to as time dollars. In planning your schedule–because you should be planning your schedule–start with 24 hours, and subtract from that each time you schedule an activity. For example, your 8-hour workday costs 8 time dollars, leaving you with 16 remaining.

But actually…it’s inaccurate to begin by subtracting from 24…unless you count sleep!

Begin By Planning Time to Sleep

Sleep is so important that I always recommend starting schedule planning by setting a bedtime, deciding how long you want to ideally sleep, and scheduling a wake-up time accordingly. We underestimate the importance of sleep. While you may think you need time to go to the library, pick up your dry cleaning, and attend the birthday party you were invited to, your body places a much greater priority on repairing cells and tissues, encoding learned information into your memory, and restoring your energy. These very important activities are just a few that happen while you’re sleeping.

After Designating Sleep Hours

Let’s say you plan to get seven hours of sleep each night. After subtracting seven from your 24-hour time budget, you are left with 17 hours of time that can be allocated to work, fun, leisure, and everything in between. If you ever find yourself feeling tempted to waste time or engage in an activity that does not serve your well-being or contribute to the well-being of others in a manner you can afford, actively remind yourself of the remaining hours in your time budget. Then asks if it is worth allocating time to participate in the activity.

Practice Makes Perfect

If you are a person who struggles with decision-making and prioritizing tasks, you may struggle at first with deciding which activities are deserving of your time. Don’t be discouraged. Simply do your best to make a decision. Evaluate the outcome of that decision. Then carry that analysis with you as you keep moving forward in approaching each day as if you are on a strict time budget. Eventually, you will become better at ranking tasks according to importance, balancing social commitments, and becoming a better decision-maker and steward of your time.

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Organizing Kids: Reining in a Messy Room

Rolanda L. discusses approaches to helping kids learn to become more organized.

This post was inspired by back-to-school season; therefore, it was written with kids in mind. However, many of the principles are easily transferable to adults. The following suggestions many help ease friction between parents and their children by making the process of getting and staying organized more manageable for a child or older youth. In addition to making the completion of chores a smoother process, families may also realize time management benefits by employing the following tactics to help kids manage their own rooms.

Acknowledge that Your Child May Be Overwhelmed

I work with adults who often have significant anxieties around creating organizational systems in their homes and workplaces. Oftentimes, they have long been afraid to experiment with the trial and error that may be involved in finding the right system. This is a common reason some people immediately shy away from the notion of establishing a system or organizing and working within it. Anxieties often begin in childhood. In some cases, a child may not understand exactly why his or room becomes messy because he or she perceives space differently than the parent. In other cases, the organizational system in place may simply not work for that particular child’s way of perceiving and interacting with his or her environment.

Differences in Space Perception

Space perception always comes into play when multiple people reside in the same home. A hyper-organized person may prefer to keep all household items hidden in closets, opaque bins, and drawers. For a child, maintaining the visibility of certain items, such as stuffed animals, Legos, books, or awards, may create a sense of comfort. To that child’s parent, I would suggest solutions that allow a few of the child’s favorite items to be neatly displayed in clear bins or on shelves. The child would then be responsible for ensuring the items are neatly stored in their display areas as one of his or her bedroom or playroom maintenance tasks.

Differences in Organizing Styles

Even at a young age, a child may be inclined to organize differently than his or her parents. An adult may have the focus to separate items into drawers and compartments. While theses exercises may be effective for helping children learn to concentrate while grouping and sorting items, incorporating an organizing system that is too detailed may frustrate and overwhelm some children if the cleanliness of their room depends on it. Therefore, parents may wish to start with simple sorting tasks, such as creating distinctly separate open laundry bins for colored clothes and whites or clearly labeling each drawer and keeping a single clothing item in each (i.e. a drawer for shirts, a drawer for bottoms, a drawer for pajamas, etc.). The key is to keep organizing as simple and as basic as possible when introducing a new system. Also many kids, and even adults, are much more able to maintain their items in clearly marked open bins versus closed hampers and boxes. When using bins for storage, it helps if the container is transparent or only slightly tinted as being able to see the items inside will serve as a constant reminder to avoid placing the wrong items in the wrong bins. Color-coding and keeping the bins in distinctly different, yet still conveniently accessible locations around the room may also make this strategy more effective. When using bins for storing laundry or items that are used daily, it is important to place the bins in an area that is intuitive for the child or adult who will be using them. For example if a child normally piles dirty laundry on a chair, relocate the chair, and replace it with a laundry bin. Helping someone else get organized is much easier when you work with the current habits they have in place. Eventually, they will become more accustomed to having an organized room, and they will be more likely to begin seeking out ways to keep their environment organized.

Break the Task Down Into Steps

Children may need to have the steps for cleaning their room clearly outlined, enumerated, and thoroughly explained. Full disclosure: this was one I struggled with as a child. My mother would simply reference “cleaning my room.” In response, I would tidy up things in the room that seemed out of place to me. My idea of cleaning almost never overlapped with hers. To avoid frustration on both sides of the equation, parents must clearly and kindly communicate their expectations. Making written lists with descriptions of how to perform each task is extremely helpful. Adults use similar tools all the time; we call them contracts and checklists. The overall goal is to ensure both parties are aware of all expectations while providing the performing party with an accurate measuring stick for determining when those expectations have been satisfactorily met.

Be Patient; Expect Trial and Error

Helping a child or family member get organized requires patience. I recommend observing the person’s habits or having a non-confrontational conversation to determine why they store items the way they currently do and to assess approaches that require little behavior modification upfront (such as placing a storage bin in the exact same area where the person typically discards items; suggesting one day at the end of the week to clear out or sort the items in the bin will help the person maintain the area). Trial and error may be necessary. I prefer to work in one-week or two-week increments to give the person time to adapt to the new system and to evaluate the potential for modifications that may make the system easier to follow and, therefore, likely to be more successful.

At the end of the day, the ultimate goal in helping a child or other family member get organized should be the well-being of the person in addition to preserving harmony in the home. Before presenting a new organizational system to someone, it is essential that you evaluate your objectives and eliminate all semblances of a desire to control the other person. Any assistance that is offered from a genuine place of wanting to help the person succeed and improve his or her quality of life will consider that person’s perspective and individual needs. Therefore, suggestions that truly come from a place of selfless concern will generally be received much better by the intended recipient.

Back-to-School Gift Ideas

Rolanda L, Professional Organizer offers gift-giving ideas for students who are going back to school.

We’re not all parents, but most of us know someone who is heading back to school. The following gift ideas will help the scholar in you life prepare for a successful academic year while staying organized!

For those of us who ARE parents and are looking to save money and stock up on school supplies now, check out my new Back-to-School Stock-Up album on Facebook.

Writing Essentials Box

Basic School Supply Packs

Student Planners

Desk or Wall Calendar

Get Organized to Go Back to School!

Many of my clients are anticipating the start of a new school year for their children. Some are even returning to school themselves, either to teach or to work on earning a degree. This post is for those who are looking to map their route to success by putting an organized plan in place for the year.

[Note: The following products are available by clicking on the images, which will direct you to Amazon’s website. I am an Amazon affiliate; therefore, Amazon will pay me a small commission for all purchases made through the links from my site. The price for the buyer remains the same regardless!…Also…you can DIY many of these ideas should you choose to do so!]

Letter Trays

I am a huge fan of these, and I recommend them in various forms to virtually any client who owns and desk and uses it!

How do I get organized by using letter trays?

I’m glad you asked. For most adults, I suggest having three trays and labeling them as ¬†follows: 1) urgent, 2) mid-term, 3) long-term.

As you may have guessed, the labels indicate the immediacy of the deadline by which you must address the items within each tray. Bills that are due within less than a month should go into urgent. Permission slips for next week’s trip to the zoo? Urgent. Choosing a new cable provider before the contract expires three months from now? Mid-term. A reminder that your yearly donation to your favorite non-profit is due by the end of the year? Long term. However, as a long term deadline nears, you should continue to move the item to the more immediate letter trays until the item is addressed.

I have seen this system work extremely well for even the most disorganized among my clients and those who absolutely hate structure. The key to staying on top of this system is to address the letter trays EACH time you sit down at the desk for the FIRST time within a 24-hour period, i.e. you should visit the letter trays once per day. If you follow these directions meticulously, I guarantee your desk will not overflow with paper.

This system also works well for older students who tend to have mid-term and longer term projects.

For young kids who have homework, I suggest using an inbox/outbox system. When the child arrives home from school, he or she should immediately place all homework in a letter tray labeled “inbox.” Ideally, the tray should remain on the child’s desk or work table. If the child works at a kitchen or dining room table, the inbox may be brought out when the child arrives from school and stored on a shelf or in another location out of the way once all the homework for the next day has been completed. Once completed, homework should be placed in another letter tray labeled “outbox.” ¬†The outbox tray should be placed near the home’s entrance (also a good location for the child’s backpack once packed) to ensure the child and parent will not forget homework on the way out the next morning. One tremendous advantage to using this system is that it provides a very natural way for parents to monitor their child’s progress in school and to ensure homework completion.

Okay, sign me up!

Here are some letter trays:

A dual wall file also works well for a simplified inbox/outbox system when attached to the child’s door or in another prominent place in the home.

Organizing Letters from School, Permission Slips, and Miscellaneous Papers

Younger students often bring notices, conduct reports, permission slips, and artwork home from school to show their parents. For parental notices, I recommend using a wall file or letter sorter with multiple compartments. Each file or compartment can be labeled by document type (i.e. one for permission slips/things that need to be signed and returned, one for PTA announcements, one for artwork/completed work the child brings home, and one very clearly labeled for signed items/notes that are ready to be returned to the teacher).

 

 

Stay tuned for follow-up Back-to-School posts on lunch boxes, backpacks, and school supplies!

Starting Point

Even people who are highly motivated to get organized may sometimes find they simply do not know where to start. There is one approach that will help jump-start virtually stalled organizing project.

Probably the most common challenges people face after deciding to get organized is figuring out where to start. It is at this point that a person is likely taking in the view of the disorganization in its entirety and feeling overwhelmed. My number one secret to starting virtually any organizing project is actually quite simple: categorize, categorize, categorize.

The easiest way to begin categorizing a pile of “clutter” is to start by grouping “like with like.” If a closet requires more organization, gather all the shirts with shirts, pants with pants, belts with belts, etc. The basic act will bring clarity and allow the clothing to be further organized by season, fabric weight, color, casual vs. formal, or in any other way that will make the closet more visually appealing and accessible.

Organizing a “junk drawer” or items that may be stored on an exposed surface like the top of a dresser may seem more daunting. Nevertheless, the same principle applies. When grouping items in these types of situations, I highly recommend maintaining groups by using drawer dividers or small baskets/boxes/bins/drawer organizers that are of an appropriate size. A key advantage to creating and maintaining categories is by doing so, you will gain a better sense of which items can and should be readily purged.

By teaching yourself to quickly categorize the items in your living or work space, you will likely find that, after your first attempt at organizing, you will be required to spend less time maintaining your newly organized space. And when it is time to reorganize or purge, being able to assess items by category may also make the process seem less overwhelming.