Much of good time management consists of developing consistent habits for handling the ongoing tasks we have to fit into our busy days! Once established, a habit gets you to brush your teeth regularly, put on your seat-belt when you get in the car, or sleep on the same side of the bed every night without even thinking about it! It can also get you to:
- finish your top priority tasks first every day,
- plan each day the night before, or
- set limits on your time-wasting behaviors.
The problem is — how do you develop a new, desired time management behavior into a habit, so that it’s not just an intentional practice, but an automatic reaction? Here are a few strategies:
- Focus on one new habit at a time. The key to habit formation is consistency, and we all have very busy, often complicated lives, making it easy to forget anything new (that’s why habits are so helpful and important). So, instead of trying to remember and work on multiple new habits at once, pick just one new habit to practice for the next three months. If you’re consistent at your new habit by the end of that time, you can start working on a second one. If not, keep practicing the first until it becomes a true habit.
- Tie your new habit in to some existing habit. If you always hit the alarm button when you get up in the morning, place a note on the alarm clock reminding you of the new a.m. habit you want to develop. If you always have lunch no matter how busy you get, place a reminder on your lunch bag (or wallet, if you buy lunch out), reminding you to practice your new habit before you go to lunch. This is simple conditioning, and it works! Again, the key is consistency, so linking the new in with the old will increase your chances of remembering your new habit and making it automatic.
- Set up your environment to support your new habit. Place reminders in the place where you want to do the new habit. Put out the equipment, supplies, or clothing you use when doing your new habit.
- Setting out your exercise gear the night before your new morning workout routine will make it much easier to remember and reduce the excuses you might feel like making the next morning when your gear is all ready to go for you.
- Set a recurring alarm to remind you of your desired new goal. If you want to make your “To Do” list for the next day before you leave work each day, set an alarm to remind you at 4:45 that it’s time to review your accomplishments and plan for tomorrow.
Pick just one positive new habit you want to develop, and focus on making it consistent. It can become as easy as remembering to brush your teeth!
Maryann Murphy has spent over 35 years helping people become better organized and more productive. She holds a BA in Psychology, MSW in Social Work, a certificate as Specialist in Chronic Disorganization, and certification as a Certified Professional Organizer®. She has been working full time with both residential and business clients for the past 10 years, helping them get their spaces better organized and reduce the clutter in their lives.
Maryann is the author of the upcoming book “Stop Wasting Your Precious Time”, and creator of “28 Days to Time Management Success” and “Putting Paper in its Place” email coaching programs. She works regularly as a speaker and trainer with corporations and associations to help them maximize their productivity and organization.
Maryann is Immediate Past President of the National Speakers Association New England chapter, a Distinguished Toastmaster, and has held leadership positions at both the national and local levels in NAPO.