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A universal reality for business professionals is the need to balance personal and professional lives, striving to find that ever-elusive work-life balance. This is true regardless of industry or position.
One significant element of that stress and pressure is the ability, or lack thereof, to manage time effectively. Many will admit to feeling like there is never enough time in life. The days and weeks are insufficient when faced with the mounting list of tasks and responsibilities we navigate daily.
Accomplishing these goals on time and in good form necessitates tracking immediate tasks, monitoring long-term projects and, most importantly, maximizing the finite business hours within which we operate.
Discovering how we are best equipped to manage our time effectively is something we can all strive for, a process that is ultimately unique to each of us. To see the creation of a structured, strategic approach to achieving our professional and personal goals is to see time management in action.
The relationship between time management and mental health
It is helpful to recognize the connection between time management and mental health. The two are intertwined, affecting our ability to achieve a positive work-life balance and our ability as professionals to lead effectively.
As Deanna Ritchie, editor-in-chief at Calendar, wrote, “Time management and anxiety are cyclical, where poor time management can cause anxiety and high anxiety can result in unmet deadlines.”
Those who struggle with time management can experience heightened health concerns, including stress and anxiety, mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, and insufficient or disturbed sleep.
Conversely, as an individual’s mental health progresses, there’s a natural correlation to their quality of life improving.
Finding the ways that work for you to improve time management skills
To succeed, we must all manage our time effectively — this is an idiom we can all agree on. But how, specifically, does one define time management?
In truth, time management will vary for everyone. Every job, every position, regardless of industry, requires achieving certain goals. How that is best accomplished is dependent on the uniqueness of the individual. While the minutia may differ, there are proven strategies that can help guide our ability to effectively manage our time to benefit our mental health.
- Benefits of breaks
- Tales of tomorrow
- Plan of attack
- Mind and body
- Death by distractions
Benefits of breaks
It may seem like an insignificant action to prioritize, but the benefits of frequent, brief breaks to refresh and refocus our brains and vision can’t be understated.
You may choose to implement the Pomodoro technique, which calls for a 25/5 routine: work focus for 25 minutes and take a five-minute break. Or you might find the research-backed 52/17 technique popular in 2014 best suited for you: for every 52 minutes of work, take 17 minutes off.
What matters is that you discover the pattern that works best for your mind and integrate it into your work life.
Tales of tomorrow, tasks for today
Whether it’s easier for you to start each morning mapping out what needs to be accomplished during the day ahead, or your brain prefers to write out the specifics of what the next day holds, what matters most is having a game plan to guide you throughout your days. Consider investing in a to-do list app or notebook to make it easier to create, edit and add to your list.
Plan of attack
Finding the calendar app that best suits your needs will go a long way in streamlining your work life, bringing structure and clarity while delivering ease of use. Researching the options on the market will help make the decision a simpler one. Beyond staples like Google, Outlook and Apple, there are plenty of possibilities, including Calendly, Any.do, Calendar and Fantastical.
If your day-to-day, weekly or monthly obligations include extensive meetings and appointments, quality scheduling apps are available to smooth out an often arduous process.
Mind and body
Any effort to improve our ability to manage each day will go nowhere if our physical health is lacking. The mind can only accomplish as much as the body allows it to, so it’s critical to value our sleep, monitor our nutrition and exercise regularly.
- Adopting healthy sleep habits requires intentionality, but experiencing consistent, quality rest can be transformative. According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, a regular sleep schedule (Sunday through Saturday) maintains the body’s internal clock, streamlining its ability to both fall asleep and wake up more easily.
- The health benefits of exercise are well known, but new research has highlighted the value of short, five to 10-minute workouts. If you struggle to fit exercise into your days, consider finding simple, hassle-free options to try.
- Healthy eating doesn’t have to be overly complicated! A bit of research can yield many simple, straightforward tips, from portion control, flavor hacks and eating the rainbow, to weekly meal prep and the power of the slow cooker.
Death by distractions
Three words: Turn off notifications. From social media updates to news alerts, text messages and app alerts, our phones are a constant distraction — and they are only one part of a bigger picture of daily distractions, of which we all have unique challenges. Whether you choose to utilize Apple’s Focus Mode or the Android version, a variety of tools are available that can help you start to mitigate death by distractions.
Work-life balance benefits from time management skills, mental health focus
Our ability to accomplish what needs to be taken care of in our professional lives depends heavily on the effort and energy we invest into mastering the art of time management. Similarly, taking steps to assess and improve one’s mental health goes a long way toward creating and sustaining a positive work-life balance.