Summary Burnout Module 4: Time Management

Tackling Burnout Through Time Management

This is a summary of the module Tackling Burnout: Time Management for your reference.

This article will focus on how to manage your time so you feel less overwhelmed at work. Feeling less overwhelmed and more in control of your day can lessen burnout.

What is Time Management?

Time management means learning how to be efficient with your time. It’s a skill you can improve with practice and consistency. Time management also means scheduling the appropriate number  of tasks - not too many so you feel overwhelmed, and not so few that you don’t feel accomplished.

You can improve your time management by becoming aware of how you spend your time, keeping track of your tasks, and planning ahead. This helps you manage the tasks you need to get done. You’ll also know you have the time to do them. If something comes up that wasn’t in your plan, you’ll also feel less stressed.

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What happens when you don’t manage your time?

When you don’t plan ahead for your day, you may feel disorganized. You may be unable to figure out which tasks are most important. So, they all seem urgent - like you need to do them right away. This is called the “urgency trap,” which will be discussed later.

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Get started by bringing awareness to your time

Bringing awareness to your time means focusing on the way you use your time at work. The best way to do this is to actually record this information.

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Log Your Time

Start your workday as you normally would, but write down how you spend your time. Include things that are not work-related. You can do this hour-by-hour, or by the length of time it takes for specific activities (e.g. attending meetings, answering emails, taking a lunch break, spending time on your phone, taking the dog for a walk).

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Understanding and Assigning Priorities

Now you have an idea of how you spend your time and what tasks take up most of your day. The following slides will address how to prioritize your tasks. This will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and improve your sense of accomplishment. A task’s priority can be low, medium, or high. Deciding how to prioritize your tasks can be tough if they all feel important.

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Urgency and Importance

The urgency and importance of tasks determine their priority. A task that must be completed right away (meaning it is urgent) and that has a major impact (meaning it is important) would have a high priority.

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Beware of the Urgency Trap

How often have you felt you couldn’t take a break or delay a task, even though there would be no true consequences if you did? This is the urgency trap. It’s the result of not determining the priority of your tasks. You'll then feel the need to complete unimportant tasks. When you are in this trap, you feel busy, but not productive.

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The Eisenhower Matrix

The Eisenhower Matrix is a helpful tool if you find yourself in the urgency trap. It helps you decide, based on the importance and urgency of your tasks, whether to “do, decide, delegate, or delete” the task.

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Working with your Energy Levels

Take a moment to consider when you have the most energy. Are you a “morning person?” Or, do you have more energy later in the day? Plan your most challenging tasks during the times when you have the most energy.

Consider your energy level throughout the day. When do you feel the most energetic and focused?

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"Eating the Frog"

Regardless of energy levels, you may want to try what’s referred to as “eating the frog.” You complete your hardest or least favorite task first. Doing this means you'll feel accomplished early. It also lets you focus on other tasks the rest of the day.

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Take Breaks

The importance of breaks was previously covered. Remember to take breaks that allow you to feel refreshed. You can then return to work more focused. Some refreshing breaks might be:

  • Practicing mindfulness meditation

  • Going for a walk

  • Playing with your kids or pets

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Breaks From Sitting

Taking breaks is especially important if you have a desk job. Sitting for a long time while at work is linked to mental health, memory, and attention problems. Reducing your sitting time at work by 25 minutes a day can help lessen these problems. And, breaks help prevent and reduce musculoskeletal pain (e.g. in the neck, lower back, etc).

Think about your work schedule. When would it be most helpful to take a break? ______________________________________________________________________________

Alarms and Timers

Setting alarms for tasks can help you stay on target. You may find yourself absorbed in one task for too long and as a result, other tasks are not completed. Or, you forget to take your breaks. There are many different alarms and time trackers available, but some good options are:

  • Your phone’s built-in timer

  • Digital calendar notifications

  • Using a timed music playlist, stopping work when it finishes

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Do Not Disturb

If you’re able to, set up some times during your day when you are not distracted by incoming emails, messages, or calls. This helps you to focus. You can also pause phone notifications during your breaks to truly rest before you return to work.

Which of these tools and strategies are most useful for you? Select all that apply:

  • Using a digital calendar

  • Using a music playlist as a timer

  • Using your phone's timer

  • Setting up Do Not Disturb periods

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Improve What Already Works

Take a few minutes to review how you keep yourself organized. Are you a “digital person” who uses platforms like Google Calendar, or do you use a paper planner? Continue to use what  suits your needs. You can use that method and include the time management techniques.

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Expand Your Existing Methods

How can you use your current method to prioritize tasks and manage time? For example:

  • In a physical planner, label the tasks you’ve written down with numbers to assign priority (If you have 5 tasks, 1 is the highest priority and 5 is the lowest)

  • In a Google Calendar, block time for your tasks to see your whole schedule for the day

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Talk to Your Coach

Your Goodpath coach can help you set goals around time management and hold you accountable. You can also use a Time Management Planner to practice these skills.