You Can't Make More Time but You Can Tackle Stress With Better Time Management
Last updated: March 2022
“There are just not enough hours in the day!” Does this sound familiar? As a therapist and coach, I work on managing stress with nearly all of my clients, and I hear this statement all the time. This work often means clarifying priorities and establishing time management strategies as a means of managing stress and other concerns. When considering diabetes, where stress can impact blood glucose control and you need to make time for self-care behaviors, time management is particularly important.
Time holds endless possibilities and equally endless constraints. For many, too much empty time on their hands contributes to or exacerbates depression and too little time lends to anxiety.
Effective stress and time management tips
If you would like to better manage your time, consider these tips for effective time management:
What are your goals for time management and where do your priorities lie? Do you want to find more free time for mindfulness, relaxation, and self-care? Are you trying to find time to fit in all the activities and behaviors you wish to achieve? If so, what are they? List them out. Or, do you find yourself looking for things to do with your time now?
Take a time inventory
Where are you spending your time? Does the distribution of your time spent on various activities reflect your goals? For example, your goals and actions are not in alignment if, your goal is to cook at home more often but you struggle to find the time to cook and grocery shop, and you spend 3 hours per day watching television or on the internet.
Goals and actions being out of alignment is another area of stress for many individuals. Doing a time inventory and making boundaries helps to clarify.
Tidy up your time
Based on your inventory, identify areas you can make easy or quick changes. Eliminate or reduce large time wasters. Find areas where you can be more efficient or opportunities to ‘kill two birds with one stone.’ Delegate tasks wherever possible.
Use a calendar
When are you fitting in the healthy behaviors you aim to make part of your routine? Based on your time inventory and goals, identify times and days when you are able to fit in the activities. Be as specific as possible (i.e. the goal of “walk for 20 minutes at 8:00 am on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday” is more effective than “walk most weekdays”). Actually schedule it on your calendar. This is you making an appointment with yourself. Treat it as an important appointment.
Consider shifting sleep
Something I have noticed in many individuals who struggle with time management is that they tend to stay up later at night, a time when less productive tasks generally take place. Instead of staying up until 11:00pm and waking at 7:00am, shift your schedule up an hour. Going to bed at 10:00pm and rising at 6:00am increases the odds of you doing tasks that can be accomplished in the morning (household chores, exercise, etc.) and helps to reduce time in the evenings that tend to be filled with more unproductive things (TV, social media, internet surfing, etc.).
Plus, sleep science shows significant benefits of snoozing during the 10:00 pm to 2:00 am time frame. In fact, Shawn Stevenson refers to this as “money time” in his book, Sleep Smarter.1
Make a to-do list
You know that feeling when you are ‘running in circles’ or ‘spinning your wheels’? Making a to-do list helps me to avoid this feeling when you know you have so much to do but don’t know what to do next or where to start. By having a list, you can set priorities and better delegate which tasks happen each day. That’s also why I recommend making a to-do list for each day, week, and month. This helps to set priorities for each and allows you the flexibility to roll over if needed.
To-do lists also give you a place to dump these things that pop up so you don’t have to take up mental real estate trying to hold on to them. We all have those demands that pop up but you know you won’t be able to fit it in today; this gives you a place to keep it on your radar but off of your mind so you can better focus on priorities for today.
Use helpful tools
A to-do list is definitely one of my favorite tools. Other helpful tools for managing your time may include a personal agenda, or a calendar (on your phone, computer, or wall). I also like using alarms and timers on my phone to help with reminders and help me to avoid spending too much time on tasks that can easily get drawn out (which I am prone to do). I also like using tools like Trello for organizing projects, both work and personal.
Don’t overdo it
Be realistic about your goals and avoid trying to do everything in one day. This is where using tools and to-do lists that give you a place to assign tasks in the future is helpful.
Plus, we all have days where we are more motivated, have more time, or more energy, and get more accomplished. But they certainly are not every day. Consider days when you may be prone to lower energy and be considerate of this.
Face the giant
Tackle the thing you dread the most or that is the most challenging task first thing. This helps you to go ahead and get that thing off of your to-do list and relieve stress. Plus, no matter what else happens that day, you will feel a sense of accomplishment.
Having a specific place for everyday things reduces clutter and saves you time when you need to find things. This is a big stress saver too. Spending just 5 minutes filing and tidying up your workspace or counter can make a huge difference in your stress level and organization.
How often do you find yourself craving sweet snacks?