Sometimes our lives are cluttered with things. Sometimes it’s things to do that clutter our mind and time. I wonder if I will ever get my To Do list done before I die. Sure, I make time to nap, read, recreate, and take vacations so it’s not like I don’t take breaks, but still I wonder if I will ever really get caught up. So here’s a collection of tips I’ve developed over the years to deal with taming time.

1. Pray first: Even if you’re not “religious,” taking time daily to contemplate who I am and what’s important – is important. If I wait till there’s time, other priorities crowd out this spiritual time. Now that we are no longer in the active parenting stage of life, first thing in the morning works for me. For those with other bio-rhythms last thing at night can qualify as first in anticipation of the next day.

2. Set priorities: Most time-management gurus advise identifying no more 3 priorities that you hope to accomplish each day. Do those first, starting with the top priority. This is good unless your top priority is to create world peace or it becomes a day long project. Solution: Estimate the time your top priorities will take and if one might take more than 1/3 of your working day, reevaluate. Set deadlines. Exception: 3 Minute Rule. If several things are not top priorities but are quick and easy, do them early.

3. Keep a To Do List: Consider a To Do list not as a burden but rather a tool that frees you of the stress of keeping everything in your head. Some things are necessary and have a deadline; others are nice to do if time allows. One beauty of a To Do list is the satisfaction and joy of crossing tasks off (in red) when accomplished. My daughter recently co-authored a playful Wall Street Journal article, America Is Drowning in Lists, which includes ideas from the Ivy Lee Method to Bullet Journals.

4. Develop Email/Text/Phone Protocols: Only check emails after your basic priorities for the day are set lest you wallow in email purgatory before starting the important stuff. However, email does allow you to identify some 3 Minute Rule tasks from your To Do list and quickly cross them off.

  • Reduce Email:
    – Don’t reply to all unless “all” really need to know.
    – State the goal and deadline clearly. For example: Need a reply by ___.   OR   For your information – No need to reply avoids unnecessary “Thank you for your email” emails
    – Expedite scheduling large group meetings with an app like Doodle.
    – Filter and/or Unsubscribe from unwanted repetitive promotional emails.
  • Texting: Best for short messages, your kids, or times that might interrupt a person’s job. But, don’t overdo it. Don’t contribute to another person’s phone clutter.
  • Phones: Turn alerts off or ignore during meals or meetings unless your mother is in the hospital. The live person in front of you always comes first.

5. Check social media last and only for a limited time – maybe 30 minutes. Use Social Fixer to prune unnecessary Facebook posts.

6. Save Time for Recreation & Relaxing: This might come under setting the day’s priorities if you tend to be a Type A personality like me. Accomplishing a lot is good. Being a balanced person is better. Don’t waste time complaining unless you can do something to fix it.

7. Laugh, Turn it Over Sometimes people and life will interfere with even the best time management system. Think of these as a spiritual call to pay attention to the humans and life around me. Laugh at the folly of trying to completely control my life.

For additional ideas see my past posts under the TIME Tag cloud (bottom of right column), especially Wasting Time/Saving Time.