Twelve Tips for Time Management

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Between work, family, chores and/or doctors’ appointments, we all have many demands on our time. There may be times when you feel overwhelmed by all things you need to do in a day. Good time management can help you better organize your time so you can complete more tasks and feel less stressed. Time management is a skill that you can learn and improve.

Here are 12 tips to help you make the most of your time:

1. Make a to-do list. Put your list where you will see it often. Cross off items as you finish them. If a task will take you less than a few minutes to complete, do it now. Set priorities each day and make sure the most important tasks get done, but try not to worry about items further down on your to-do list.

2. Get organized. Organize your home and work spaces by making sure everything has a place. Get rid of clutter. If you do not have to search for things, you can finish tasks much quicker.

3. Break down large tasks into smaller tasks. For example, if you need to clean your home, tackle one chore at a time, such as taking out the trash, sweeping the floor or cleaning the sink. It’s easier to clean a little bit every day than to try to clean a whole house in a few hours. Use a chore chart to keep up with tasks. Have others in your home help with chores, too.

4. Use tech to simplify recurring tasks. Set up automatic bill pay for your regular expenses, such as mortgage payments or utilities. Ask your pharmacist to automatically refill your prescriptions. Order your groceries online and pick them up or have them delivered to your door.

5. Remove distractions. When working on a task, silence your cell phone. Avoid checking your personal email and social media accounts more than once or twice a day. If you check a social media feed, you may end up scrolling for much longer than you intended. Take advantage of settings on your cell phone to monitor and reduce your screen time. You can set time limits on activities or pause notifications to help you kick your social media habit. On iOS devices, you can use Screen Time, and on Android devices, you can use Digital Wellbeing.

6. Create routines. Start every day on the right foot by following a morning routine. By doing the same thing every morning, you are less likely to forget things or be late for work or school. A nightly routine before bed can also help you get more sleep. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day.

7. Keep work life and home life separate. Set clear boundaries for yourself to separate your work life from your home life. If possible, end your work day at the same time every day, and do not check email or answer calls after hours. End your work day the same way every day so you signal to yourself that it is time to do and think about other things. If you work from home, this may mean turning off your computer and leaving your desk. If you commute, this may mean listening to favorite songs on your way home.

8. Do the most when you feel your best. If you find that you have the most energy in the mornings, start your day by crossing items off your to do list. If you do not feel well, do not start a task. If you are fatigued or unfocused, it may take you longer to complete a task or you may make mistakes. Allow yourself to rest and come back to the task when you feel better.

9. Take breaks. Taking a break may seem counterintuitive, but people can only focus on a single task for so long. A quick break allows you to recharge and come back to the task refreshed. Take a short walk or call a friend. Even with a short break, you may finish the task in less time because you will be more focused.

10. Learn to say “no.” If you already have a lot of responsibilities on your plate, try not to take on more. If a fun activity starts to feel like a responsibility, remember you can always politely say no or ask to reschedule when you have more time.

11. Ask for help and accept help when offered. Learning to let go and to accept help will lower your anxiety and raise your spirits. People want to chip in, but they may not be sure what kinds of help you need. When friends or family members offer to help, you can give them specific tasks. You can also use a caregiving app to plan meal deliveries, set up rides to treatment or ask for volunteers to help with chores. Examples of caregiving apps include Lotsa Helping Hands and CaringBridge.

12. Mange side effects. The side effects of cancer and cancer treatment, such as fatigue, pain or nausea, can zap your energy. Cognitive (thinking) side effects—sometimes called “chemo brain”—can make it difficult to focus and multitask. Talk to members of your healthcare team and ask for a referral to palliative (supportive) care for help to manage side effects.

Share your best tips for time management in the comments below.

Related Resources

Managing Stress: How stress affects you and ways to cope

Managing Side Effects

LLS Health ManagerTM mobile app

Caregiver Worksheets

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