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time management

Fall is my favorite season. Yes, I love the relaxed pace of summer, seeing neighbors at the pool, digging holes in the sand and jumping waves at Lake Michigan with my family. But Fall, with its crisp air and gloriously- colored-leaves, has always felt to me to be the season of new beginnings. Fall is when the Jewish New Year happens, which my family celebrates; it is the start of the new school year, and it is when all kinds of new activities begin.

Fall is also the BUSY season filled with meetings and commitments that were temporarily paused for a summer hiatus.

Given how many folks I know who are struggling with staying on top of all the many demands of their daily lives, I wanted to share some ideas for effective time management. The first strategy is to choose a minimum number of main priorities for the day. Beyond the basics- such as brushing your teeth and eating- what *must* get done? It’s too easy to get pulled into simple, quick tasks- like responding to emails that could wait until later or throwing in a load of laundry. Sure, those things might need to be done at some point- and they are easy to do- but the question is- at the end of the day-will you have accomplished your most essential priorities? It is often the more complex, more important responsibilities that people procrastinate doing. And understandably so- they take more concentration, more effort, less interruption. But if you want to get the important stuff taken care of- you have to carve out the time to do it. So, I recommend as part of your evening routine- thinking about the day ahead of you tomorrow- and consider what 2-3 activities are truly important and necessary for your well-being and goals.

Once you’ve identified your daily priorities, the next strategy is to consider the best time of day to do those activities. It is important to be realistic about both your existing schedule and how your brain-and-body function. If you look ahead at your day and see that it is already filled with back-to-back work meetings, kids’ appointments, and other time-sensitive places to be- then you either need to cancel something or re-assess your plan- moving the task you thought you were going to do tomorrow to a day later in the week. Set yourself up for success by allowing enough time for your essential endeavors.

Even if you have an entire day available to you, thinking ahead about how to work with your natural tendencies will make you more efficient and productive. I am a night owl and have found that my best time to do writing and other creative projects is in the quiet of the 10 o’clock hour- after my children are asleep and there are no interruptions. While I love to go for runs on dirt trails, I’ve found that if I don’t get out the door first-thing, before I start receiving emails and other requests, the likelihood of pulling myself away from the computer to go for that run gets smaller and smaller as the day progresses. I know these things about myself and try to schedule accordingly. If you tend to do your deepest thinking right after your morning caffeine kicks in- then schedule your analytic projects then and save your errand running for 2 pm when your energy is starting to slump and you need to get out of the house. The particulars will be different for everyone but by considering how to match your energy and your priorities- you will maximize the precious, limited time you have.

Wishing you a delightful Fall season- full of all the good kinds of busy- jumping in piles of leaves, sipping warm drinks, and apple-picking!