There’s no doubt that time management is an important life skill.
Because we all want to feel that we are making the best use of our time. We want to get things done, accomplish goals, and move toward the life we want to live.
But we want to feel good about it too. When we’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed getting more things done doesn’t always make us feel better.
So what’s the solution? What best way to get things done, and made progress towards our goals, without feeling stressed, frazzled, or completely burnt out.
The answer is holistic time management.
What is holistic time management?
Holistic Time Management is managing your time so that you can accomplish what you have to do as well as want to do in a way that honors your individual needs and your wellbeing.
It’s about using your time well, in all areas of your life, so that you can get to the end of your day, week or month feeling accomplished and fulfilled rather than frustrated or defeated.
It’s not about optimizing every minute to squeeze more into your day. Nor is it letting everything go in order to completely simplify. It’s about achieving the right balance for you and your life.
At the the heart of holistic time management is self-care. Because when you take care of yourself, everything else falls into place.
Simply put, holistic time management helps you use your time in a way that makes you feel good. Good about your choices, good about your progress, and good about your results.
How does holistic time management differ from regular time management?
While holistic time management and regular time management can use similar strategies, there are a couple of important differences.
Firstly, holistic time management looks at the bigger picture. It takes into account you as a whole person, rather than the separate parts of your life.
Work you, home you, study you, leisure you are all one person. While you may have different roles, demands and requirements at different times, your personality, your preferences and your health and wellness encompass your whole life.
Your likes, dislikes, needs and desires must be the foundation of your time-management system. You come first, the system follows, not vice versa.Julie Morgenstern, Time Management from the Inside Out
Secondly, they have different success indicators.
Holistic time management goes beyond efficiency. It’s not about getting a certain number of things done in the quickest amount of time.
It’s about how you feel when you get to the end of the day, week or month. There no point blasting through a list of x number things in x amount of time if the end result is you feeling stressed, dissatisfied or worse – completely burnt out.
Yes, getting things done is important. But they need to be the right things. The things that will benefit you.
How to manage your time holistically
1. Establish your Why
Start by looking at the big picture – WHY is it important to you that you manage your time well?
For me, managing my time well is important because I want to build a business whilst still nurturing, and enjoying the company of, my friends and loved ones, without compromising my wellbeing.
Rushing or feeling pressed for time makes me feel tired and anxious. Drifting makes me feel unfulfilled. Managing my time is important to me because it helps me to feel grounded, calm, and accomplished.
It helps me to see that I do have time for everything. I can make progress toward the goals I’ve set myself, I can be spontaneous, and I can enjoy simple, everyday moments.
Maybe you want to manage your time better because you feel out of balance. Perhaps you feel there’s something that’s missing from your life at the moment – something you enjoy doing or something that you want to do more of.
Perhaps you want to find more time to spend with friends or family? Or have more time to yourself? Maybe you want more time to spend on a favourite hobby? Or start a new one?
Whatever your reasons, it’s important to keep your big picture why in mind as you manage your time on a day-to-day basis.
Keeping your why in mind helps you to clarify whether the tasks and activities you are spending time on a day-to-day basis are actually important.
(By the way, I’ve never going to tell you that spending time on social media, watching Netflix, reading a book, or daydreaming isn’t important. If you enjoy doing it, if it brings value to your life, then it’s important).
Remember, holistic time management is about fitting in both the things you must do AND the things you want to do, into your life.
2. Define what productivity means to you
Productivity is subjective, so it’s important to establish what it is that makes YOU feel productive.
It is accomplishing a certain amount of things each day? Or is it something else?
To me, being productive means making progress.
Productivity to me isn’t just about completing things. It’s about starting – and then keeping the momentum going. For me, this means taking small steps and tackling small tasks.
Being productive means asking myself whether the things I’m doing are getting me closer to where I want to be. Or am I filling my time with busy-work – perhaps as a distraction, or a way of procrastinating?
Essentially, for me being productive means spending time intentionally – in a way that aligns with my values, and making progress, however small, towards fulfilling my goals, and the life I want to live.
Read more: What does being productive really mean?
3. Experiment with strategies
There are countless tips, techniques and strategies out there to help you manage your time, and certainly many of them can be very effective.
It’s important to recognise however that the techniques themselves aren’t the entire solution or a magic bullet. Their value lies in whether or not they can be adapted to you, your needs and your life.
Try out a technique or strategy for a while and notice if it’s a good fit for you. Bear in mind that any kind of change can feel challenging or difficult at first, so try to keep an open mind and give it a decent amount of time before deciding if it’s right for you.
Time blocking, for example, doesn’t need to be for a prescribed amount of time, or consistent over every single day. You may prefer to time block in 15 or 30-minute chunks on some days, but then in 2-hour chunks on other days. Your mornings could be different from your afternoons and evenings, and your weekdays could be different from your weekends.
Be curious, and adapt strategies to suit you.
Read more: How to Make Time-Blocking Work For You
You might find that a particular tip or strategy works well for a while but then becomes less effective. If this is the case think about ways you can change or refresh it. Or perhaps try some new ideas.
4. Prioritize self-care
Self-care is at the heart of holistic time management. In fact, I believe self-care should be at the heart of everything.
I’m not talking about spa days, bubble baths and glasses of champagne (lovely though they may be…)
I’m talking about true self-care.
It’s the small actions you take consistently to protect, maintain and improve your physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing.
True self-care is all about:
- staying fit and healthy
- being aware of what depletes you and taking steps to replenish your mental and physical health
- treating yourself as kindly as you would treat others
Because when you take care of yourself, everything else falls into place.
So be sure to dedicate time to self-care every day.
Read more: Self-care: What it is & Why you Need it
5. Resist perfectionism and embrace self-compassion
It’s fair to say that no matter how precisely we try to manage our time there will be occasions when all our best-laid plans and intentions fly out the window.
Managing our time is about managing what we can control. So don’t beat yourself up about the things you can’t control. Accept that when unexpected things happen your plan will need to change, and that’s okay.
There will also be times where staying on track is just really hard. You might feel distracted, bored or just plain unmotivated.
It’s times like this that you need to be kind to yourself. Speak to yourself with compassion and understanding, and accept that while things may have gone off course today, tomorrow is a new day with a clean slate.
Adopting a holistic time management mindset can have a big impact not only on our productivity but also on our overall well-being.