Organizing 202 – Beyond the Basics: Where Does the Time Go?! Managing Our Time, Part 1


By Sophia Noll


It’s hard to believe summer is ebbing its way out and fall is closing in fast. Those who have kids going back to school will wish for just one more hour at the end of their days. And for us who don’t have school age children … well time is a precious commodity for us too. It appears that “time” – which science tells us doesn’t really exist – is one of the hardest things for us humans to manage. As a Personal Assistant I find this to be a major contributor to clients’ clutter and disorganization of homes, offices, and their lives. Our lives continually get more and more inundated with “things” to do in our fast-paced world while trying to juggle our personal life and work. So much so that our “time” even gets cluttered and out of control. This will be Part 1 in a series of Time Management. I have adopted much of Julie Morgenstern’s philosophy on time management (See her book Time Management From the Inside Out) and hope you find it helpful and liberating!


ClockThere are 24 hours in a day and eight of those hours, hopefully, we use for sleep which if you do the math leaves us 17 hours to eat, work (jobs outside and inside the home), play, and relax… did I say “relax”?!! Yep, it is possible. But I won’t lie to you … it does take some discipline, delegating, quieting one’s own inner perfectionism, and practice. In my research I discovered a wonderful example of “time management types” created by Susan Ward (see Time Management Personality Types). Perhaps it will give you some “aha” moments and insight as to why your time has gone haywire. (Quotations are Susan Ward’s words.)


The Fireman “For you, every event is a crisis. You’re so busy putting out fires that you have no time to deal with anything else — especially the boring, mundane things such as time management. Tasks pile up around you while you rush from fire to fire all day.”


Typically Seen on the cell phone, hanging out on Facebook, daydreaming, playing games on the computer, picking lint off a sweater …


The Aquarian “There is such a thing as being too “laid-back” — especially when it starts interfering with your ability to finish tasks or bother to return phone calls. Getting to things when you get to them isn’t time management; it’s simple task avoidance.”


The Perfectionist Just one more stroke, one more detail, and just a little more time! “Finishing tasks to your satisfaction is such a problem you need more time zones, not just more time.”


The Over Committer is it hard to say, “No”? Everyone knows that you are the right person for the job and how could you let them down? If you don’t do it who will? You’re so overwhelmed and you scratch your head wondering how you got so busy!


The Chatty Kathy You find every opportunity to use your outstanding social and oral communication skills. Every human encounter can take up an hour of your precious time especially if you have an unpleasant task on the horizon.


So let’s take the first step of time management which is to analyze how you actually spend your time to determine what changes you want to make. Open your calendar or day planner (if you don’t have one I strongly suggest you get one ASAP); open it up to the week ahead or a week that has past. (For those of you who keep your calendar on your phone, you can write it out on paper to really get a good visual and to use the markers. Or if you can print from your phone then you can do the markers on that.) It will be the ONLY place where you record all of your activities, appointments, and things to do. Do not use more than one and try to juggle between them … just one please. The key here is to look for events that fit into specific categories. Everyone’s list will be slightly different but here are some common ones: Work, Family, Self, Finances, Home, Friends, Health, Spirituality, Community, Volunteering, Education. If there are more than six categories you might want to take another look at your list. If you think about organizing a clothes closet you wouldn’t have sections for white socks, striped socks, short skirts, long skirts, etc … It would be easier to maintain broader categories like socks and skirts. So perhaps you could bundle spirituality, friends, and health under “Self” but do what feels right for you.


Now grab several different color highlighters and your calendar/planner. Assign a different color to each of your chosen life categories (ex: work-green; family-blue; self-pink) and go through a week and highlight each activity that was scheduled. By doing this type of tracking you will inevitably leave out other activities that weren’t included in your day, like cooking, gardening, talking on the phone, interruptions, unplanned activities but this will give you a good visual. For those activities, guestimate (be honest with yourself) how much time you think they took, write it in and highlight it with the appropriate color. Now sit back and take a look … is there a category you forgot to choose; did you complete your “to do” list and if not, what derailed you; did you spend too much time in one category; did someone else’s crisis rob you of your time; too much time surfing the internet; are things out of balance? This method is not as exact as actually tracking each minute of your day but it will help you see the bigger picture and see where pockets of time could have been used more productively.


Time management is about making changes to the way you spend your time. “Pay attention to the areas that monopolize your time. Are those where your goals are the clearest? In order to truly create balance in your life, you need to clearly set goals for each department of your life,” says Julie Morgenstern. Do you keep saying that you want to exercise or take up pottery but you aren’t making the time to do these things? Want more time to spend with the family and friends? Until next month your homework is to make a list of activities that you really want to accomplish/achieve in your daily life. From there we will design a map that will assist you in creating balance and time for those activities. And remember that hiring a Personal Assistant like me is a great way to become more productive and free up time for activities that bring you pleasure and peace.



Sophia (In Its Place) has been organizing people’s lives for the past ten years from Maine to Asheville. She specializes in Organization, Personal Assistant, Household Management, Staging Homes, Senior Downsizing, and Concierge Services. Sophia offers free consultations and can be contacted at 828-333-3045.


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Written by Sophia Noll