To-do lists, calendar apps, time management skills, daily planners—all of these are tools, and frequently heard buzz words, to help us make the most of our days.
But time management can be more than just figuring out how to organize our days and be as productive as possible. It can also be a pathway to better mental health. Please seek help if you have mental health concerns; support and advice are available at MyTherapist.
Seven Ways Time Management Can Boost Mental Health
- You can lower levels of stress.
- Time for sleep may increase.
- You can feel a greater sense of productivity and accomplishment.
- You can have more time for exercise and activities.
- You can find more time for relaxation.
- You can have more time to connect with others.
- You can increase your likelihood of reaching your goals.
Nine Time Management Tips and Tools
- Track your time: For a week, write down how you spend your time. You’ll get a realistic idea of how long things take and where you can adjust. Time tracking apps are available, or you can simply write down how you spent your time.
- Make three types of to-do plans:
- A semester or term plan – Note important dates for class assignments, exams, registration for classes or housing, activities, work commitments, social events, holidays, and breaks. A long-term overview can help you plan ahead, know what to expect, and feel more in control.
- A weekly plan – Before each new week starts, make a plan for your to-dos for the week. Break it into daily tasks so that you know what your week will hold and can plan accordingly. You can always be flexible and adjust if needed.
- Daily review – Each day, review your plan and goals. Remember to have a sense of adaptability. If you need to readjust your plan for the day, that’s okay—don’t let it add to your stress. You can be in control of your time and figure out how to best and most efficiently schedule it to meet your needs.
- Prioritize your tasks: There are all sorts of terms for how to prioritize, but basically you can try categorizing your tasks and goals into groups. Try simple categories like “must do—urgent,” “need to do,” “should do,” and “could do.” Tackle the tasks in order of importance.
- Figure out your prime time: Determine when you work most efficiently, productively, and attentively, and do your most challenging tasks at that time of day.
- Break down large tasks: When faced with a large task, you may feel overwhelmed, which can lead to procrastination. Try to get going by breaking large tasks into pieces. Set a timer for 30 minutes or so and just get started on a small section.
- Avoid multitasking: For the best productivity, focus your attention on one task at a time.
- Set a timer: Tell yourself you’ll work as hard as you can for a set amount of time. Hold yourself accountable by setting a timer, which can be motivating.
- Give yourself breaks: Make sure you give your brain and body time to unwind. Fresh air, a short walk, nutritious food, a talk with friends, or listening to music are all examples of relaxing and energizing activities.
- Be realistic and adaptable. Set realistic goals and give yourself time to do them. If you run out of time or have unexpected obligations, be adaptable and kind to yourself.
Try to think of time management as personal management. With good planning, you can help yourself to have enough time not only for work, but also for other important parts of life, like fun, relaxation, exercise, connecting with others, sleep, and self-care. You can be more productive, feel more in control, and experience less stress and better emotional wellness with balanced, thoughtful, consistent time management.