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Thursday
Jun072018

What is the Best Time Management Question When You Are Overscheduled?

For all of the overextended, cup-runneth-over, and time-poor people out there this post is for you! If your life consists of a steady flow of appointments, events, projects and responsibilities with little or no time to catch your breath, then keep reading. Even if life isn’t always hectic you’ll want to keep this one question at the ready for the periods of time that are.

 

Before I share the question, I’d like to give you some background. A while ago my coaching friend and colleague, Cameron Gott, shared a series of wonderful questions with me. I jotted them down and rediscovered them recently. While these questions can be used for many situations, one of his questions works beautifully as the best  time management question to ask when you are overscheduled. It is . . .

 

“What’s most important now?”

 

I love how simple and direct it is. The question helps us to work through overwhelm and competing time demands and then focus on the present. The question is action-oriented. It helps us prioritize. We can then mindfully use our time to focus on what is most important.

In recent weeks, I found this question extremely useful as I navigated various time-intensive activities. By continually coming back to, “What’s most important now?” I was able be more mindful and engaged with the present. Simultaneously, I let go of thoughts relating to everything else that needed to be done. The question was liberating.

 

These are just some of the things that needed my time, focus, and presence:


Time for Fixing – The washing machine broke. My computer crashed. My car needed to be replaced.

 

Time for Emptying – Tag sale season arrived. I prepared, edited, and let go of stuff to be ready for our June 9thand 10thtag sale.

 

 

 

 

Time for Self-Caring  Aside from tag sale season, it was also doctor appointment season. I scheduled and had my annual medical appointments. After all, if we don’t take care of ourselves, how can we take care of others?

 

Time for Being – This most often meant getting outside and being in nature. I spent time walking in the woods, sitting by the river, bathing in the sun, taking photos of spring blooms and bubbling brooks. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time for Updating  We were overdue for updating our wills and other legal documents. It was time. 

 

Time for Working – Organizing is one of my passions. I spent time writing, presenting, being interviewed and organizing with clients.

 

Time for Family  I’m acutely aware that good relationships need a time investment. I invested fully in time with our daughters, visits with my mom, and conversations with my siblings and other relatives

 

 

 

 

 

Time for Nothing  As important as it was to get things done, at times I also needed to not do. I took time to just be without an agenda or pressure to accomplish something. Especially when I felt the “to do list” stress, taking a time out became even more important.

 

Time for Entertaining  With Memorial Day being the unofficial start of summer, we hosted a (last minute) BBQ for our friends.

 

Time for Meditating  I practiced. My daily mindfulness meditation helps me focus on being in the present moment.

 

Time for Loving  For a pre-anniversary (35 years) getaway, my husband and I went to Saratoga Springs for a long weekend. Focusing on fun, connection, and relaxation is an essential. Our time can easily be filled with everything but so it’s important to make love a priority.

 

 

 

 

So going back to where we began. What’s most important now?  What helps you manage your time when you’re feeling overwhelmed and overscheduled? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Come join the conversation!

 

 

 

 

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Reader Comments (16)

Thanks for the shout out Linda! I love how you bring a context based approach to time. My Global Creative clients will appreciate these prompts.

June 8, 2018 | Unregistered Commentercameron gott

@Cam- You're most welcome. Thank YOU for being an inspirational force! I'm happy to know that you like the melding of your question with the time concept.

June 9, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

So nice to find this reminder in my inbox this morning, as well as a nod to my friend and mentor, Cam. This is one of my favorite all time re-centering questions. A question, that like you, I have been utilizing often in these fuller days of summer in which there are SO many options available for spending one’s time. “What’s most important now?” is the first question for me. The second question that I use to check in with myself is “What makes this most important now?” which provides further contextualization for my sometimes impulsive self. 🙂 Enjoy your day my friend and may it be filled with what you consider most important.

June 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

Great question, Linda. My follow up question is: What's the best use of my time right now? If I only have a few minutes, I can get a chore or two crossed off my list. These chores may not be all that important but I can get them completed and off my mind if I have a short amount of time. And, sometimes doing nothing - or nothing important - is a great use of my time. It allows me to relax and let my brain recharge.

June 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDiane Quintana

Hi Linda,
I love time management questions. I love how you looked at all of the areas in your life and Ithink that having a balance in all areas is so important. Thanks for the great question. I am inspired on my day off today.

June 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKim

Time for nothing is what is resonating with me right now. I'm not sure where we get the idea that being productive every waking minute is what is desirable, or even healthy - I know that when I take time for "nothing", I'm always more focused and creative when I need or have to be. Thank you for the reminder!

June 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSara Skillen

@Andrea- Ahhh. Such a wise and useful followup question that you added to the conversation! Thank you, my friend. The quality of the questions we ask have such an important influence on how we live our life. Thank you for adding to the richness.

June 11, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

@Diane- Another great question! I love how you define important as what will help ease your mind at that moment so that you can allow your mind to relax and recharge. So many completely things vie for our attention. Have some qualifying questions for our "go to," can help us more easily wade through the choices.

June 11, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

@Kim- We can use questions, as you said, in all areas of our life. Questions like these can help us focus on the present...so that our moment-to-moment experiences and choices are more intentional. Happy to provide some inspiration for today. And it all started with Cam's question. Have an awesome day, Kim!

June 11, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

@Sara- I wonder if the being "constantly productive" is a cultural thing. I don't know its origins either, but I agree with you 100% that it's essential to do nothing at times. We need time outside of sleep to recharge and refresh. In the quiet of nothing we have a chance to do that.

June 11, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

I find that removing distractions like turning off the TV or radio, turning off notifications on my phone, etc... help me double down and get things done. Oh and a little chocolate doesn't hurt. lol

June 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSabrina Quairoli

@Sabrina- I love your "removing distraction" techniques. Those phone dings and beeps can be super distracting. Every time I do an update or upgrade, it seems to disturb my settings. So I have to go back in and change them again so that I don't get disturbed unnecessarily. When those dings happen, it breaks my focus and splits my attention. I really appreciate (as it sounds like you do too) have some quiet when I'm working. It's especially helpful when I'm doing things like writing or planning or financial tasks.

June 11, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

I love all the ways you ponder this question. It's intuitive really to us what's most important now, however at times that's hard to follow through. With this question it gives us permission to be in the moment, savor it, and follow through.

June 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEllen Delap

@Ellen- Being able to pause to ask "the" question helps keep us in the present moment. You're absolutely right that the question helps to give us permission to be here now.

June 17, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Drilling down on this question is extraordinarily powerful. It is such a simple question, and yet we so often muddle it up with guilt and worry. I love the many options you outlined. At some time, we should be prioritizing all of these. When I ask this question, my instinct is always to jump first to what will be "due" the soonest. Do I need to prepare for a client session? Is my self-imposed blog deadline coming up? Have I committed to showing up somewhere for which I need to prepare? I have found using my planner to be very helpful in that I can be intentional about blocking out time for my less urgent - though equally significant - needs. I've also learned over the years that life is often more flexible that we might initially think. Plans can be changed if necessary. The key to the overwhelm for me is being honest and open with myself and others.

June 18, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSeana Turner

@Seana- We can get overwhelmed in the prioritizing, so by asking that one question, sometimes it can cut through all the muck. I agree with you that as much planning as we do, flexibility is SO important...essential, really. What is that expression? "Man plans, God laughs."

June 18, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

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