While we often think of time management in relation to productivity at work and school, it may be more helpful to consider that we are making decisions about how to behave at every moment of the day. For example, you may decide to wake up for an early morning walk or sleep in for an extra 30 minutes. You may decide between checking social media or talking to a friend or loved one.
Time management is often an exercise in mindfulness: we must anticipate and plan for the future, checking in frequently to ensure our behavior aligns with our goals and values. Here, we will explore several games and strategies to help you learn to prioritize, plan, and remain motivated and disciplined.
Time Management Fundamentals
Learning to use time effectively can help you achieve more in each area of life. Effective time management is positively correlated with job satisfaction, health, and perceived control of time and negatively correlated with stress. Before getting started with a new time management system, consider the various dimensions of time management:
Goal Setting and Prioritization
Goal-setting and prioritization are fundamental to time management. Goal-setting helps you identify what is important and establish purpose, while prioritization can help you understand how to allocate time effectively based on importance and urgency.
Planning And Organization
Consider using planners, calendars, to-do lists, and productivity apps to stay organized. You may also implement routines and habits for carrying out daily tasks, which can help facilitate the decision-making process.
Habits And Discipline
Motivation may fluctuate, but a strong sense of discipline and adherence to good habits can ensure you stick to the plan and act in ways that align with your goals.
Mindfulness And Intentionality
Mindfulness can help you remain present and aware, which may be critical for maintaining discipline. Aim to be intentional, allocating enough time towards your goals, priorities and ambitions while spending leisure time in fulfilling ways.
Delegation And Outsourcing
It may sometimes be necessary to delegate or outsource tasks you can not reasonably complete or that might not be a good use of your time. Offloading these types of tasks can free you up to focus on higher-priority items.
Balance And Boundaries
Balancing life’s domains is crucial to effective time management. Try to maintain boundaries between professional and personal obligations, recognize your limitations, prioritize accordingly, and say no when necessary.
Games And Strategies For Better Time Management
If you struggle with time management, it may be worth exploring some different strategies for prioritizing, planning, and remaining focused and disciplined.
Covey Time Management Matrix
The Time Management Matrix is a prioritization technique created by Steven Covey, author of the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It uses a four-quadrant system to organize tasks based on urgency and importance.
- Quadrant 1: Urgent and important (e.g., crises, pressing problems, projects with deadlines)
- Quadrant 2: Not urgent but important (e.g., family time, exercise, planning)
- Quadrant 3: Urgent but not important (e.g., some meetings, calls, and emails; interruptions)
- Quadrant 4: Not urgent and not important (e.g., screen time)
Sketch out a time management matrix to help you identify how to spend time and tackle your to-do list, starting in Quadrant 1 before moving on to 2. Try to delegate tasks in Quadrant 3 or spend as little time as possible on them. Aim to minimize or eliminate anything in Quadrant 4.
Race Against The Clock
The Race Against The Clock is a time management game that involves using a timer to establish a short period in which to get as much done as possible. For example, you may give yourself 20 minutes to try cleaning as much as possible or challenge your kids to get ready for the day in 15 minutes.
By instilling a sense of urgency, you can achieve more in a shorter period, freeing up time for more important tasks. This can also be a fun and effective way to help children learn time tracking and management. Consider implementing a reward system; for example, you may give yourself or your kids an extra 10 minutes of screen time if everything is completed before the timer.
The Pomodoro Challenge
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management strategy created by author Francisco Cirillo. It involves setting a timer for short, 25-30 minute blocks, during which you must focus your full attention. When the timer goes off, take a 5-minute break before beginning another productive block, or “pomodoro.” After 3 or 4 pomodoros, you may take a longer, 30-minute break.
You can gamify the Pomodoro Method by challenging yourself to complete a certain task within a set number of pomodoros, implementing a reward system for successful completion, or competing with others. You can use a Pomodoro app or browser extension to help you remain focused.
Time blocking is a highly effective time management strategy designed to help you visualize how to spend your time more intentionally. Use a planner or app to create dedicated blocks of time for each task, appointment, or activity, ensuring you devote ample time to personal and family matters, errands, and social engagements.
For example, you may block off chunks of time for your morning routine and workout, as well as distinct work tasks, such as checking email and attending meetings. By having a purpose in each moment of the day, you may use time more effectively and remain aligned with your goals.
Don’t Break The Chain
Habits are critical to time management, helping you put important but non-urgent tasks on autopilot. Actor and Comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s strategy for habit maintenance is simple yet effective: don’t break the chain. For this game, create a 7x7 grid on a piece of paper and label it with your goal or objective, for example, “exercise” or “do therapy homework.” Each day you complete your goal, put an X on the day’s square.
Keep your grid somewhere visible, and challenge yourself to keep a chain of Xs going for as long as possible. This can be a fun and rewarding way to challenge yourself and behave in ways that help you move towards your goals. Good habits can help you stay productive and maintain momentum as you work towards personal improvement.
To minimize distraction and use your time more mindfully, you might consider using app blockers, time limits, and tech-free zones to curb excessive screen time. By choosing to spend time in a healthier way, you can focus on what’s most meaningful and maximize productivity and personal fulfillment.
App blockers such as Opal offer a gamified intervention, allowing you to compete with other users and receive badges for time spent productively. Others, such as Habitica, allow you to gain points and rewards for completing certain activities and maintaining habits. Consider exploring these and other productivity games and apps to help you find ways to stay on-task.
Therapy For Time Management
Learning to spend time meaningfully can involve addressing bad habits, unsustainable situations, and, in some cases, underlying mental or emotional issues. You may also work with a therapist to establish achievable goals and implement a plan for achieving them, as well as work through issues that might be limiting progress. If you feel you are not spending time in valuable or meaningful ways, consider connecting with a therapist. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been extensively studied and found to be effective for treating a wide variety of mental health issues and may help address unhelpful patterns that can impact personal improvement.
However, attending in-person therapy sessions seems impossible given your current time limitations and obligations; online therapy may be an option worth considering. Online therapy allows you to attend sessions from the comfort of your home and often includes additional features like group sessions, webinars, and therapy homework as part of your subscription.
Online therapy has been found to be just as effective as face-to-face therapy and may be preferable for those with busy schedules that make it challenging to attend in-person appointments.
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