We’ve all had the experience of slipping into work 10, 30, or perhaps even an hour late because we just couldn’t seem to get out of the house; having to call a friend to say it will be “just another 15 minutes” before we arrive for dinner because that quick errand we had to run took longer than we expected; or missing an appointment entirely because, well, we simply forgot about it.
In a world where on time is late, arriving at engagements at the proper hour is essential. Avoid having to apologize yet again for your tardiness with these time management and organizational tips.
Map Out Your Schedule:
While reminders on Post-Its and invitations stuck to refrigerator doors can be helpful, it doesn’t usually cut it for today’s working women.
Since we can’t always remember every single engagement we have planned, Renee Kutner, a professional organizer, recommends that we create a “time map” for ourselves. “Begin filling in the time slots you’re unable to change, such as work or book club meetings. Then add in other obligations that can be more flexible, such as grocery shopping or working out,” explains Kutner.
In addition to providing a road map for your week and giving you control of your time, the time map also creates a snapshot of how you spend your days “When you’re able to see how your schedule plays out visually, it’s easier to realize when you’re overbooking yourself, spending too much time doing one thing, or not enough time doing something else,” says Kutner.
But planning your life down to the minute won’t be helpful unless you take the time to review your schedule.
Claire Kurtz, founder of The Well Organized Woman, advises that this be done multiple times a day. “I like to wake up fully aware of everything I have going on. I review my schedule the night before and multiple times during the day. Because we’re so busy, we can easily forget between the morning and the afternoon that we have a commitment in the evening,” says Kurtz.
Plan for Buffers Between Engagements:
When there’s a lot to get done, we often think we’re saving time if we can squeeze in a haircut before an appointment or finish a report before we head off to a meeting.
According to Kurtz, trying to get too much done at once to preserve your own time can easily lead to you wasting someone else’s time. “You should always plan a window between commitments because things come up. A meeting runs late or there’s traffic, and then you’re rushing and feeling out of control,” says Kurtz.
If you do end up with an extra 15 or 20 minutes, she advises that you be prepared with something to do. “You’ll notice successful business people always have something they can be working on. They bring a computer with their work, make phone calls, or listen to an audiobook. You’re still getting ahead, but not at another’s expense,” Kurtz explains.
Choose an Outfit the Night Before:
One of the quickest ways time gets away from us in the morning is when we are unable to find something to wear.
We can’t find the blazer to match our pants or we discover that our last clean shirt is torn.
To prevent this hassle before work, Kurtz suggests that an outfit be picked out the night before, including all of your accessories. “A lot of people are hesitant to do this because they know they’ll wake up wanting to wear something a little different. But if you already have your shoes and jewelry and undergarments picked out, swapping another shirt when you want to won’t be as big of a deal,” says Kurtz.
You can further minimize time spent choosing an outfit by organizing your closet and removing what you no longer wear.
According to productivity expert Erica Duran, we only wear 20 percent of what we own. “There are questions we can ask ourselves to determine if something belongs in the closet, including ‘Does this literally fit my body right now?’ and ‘Does this clothing give me good or bad memories?’” says Duran.
By narrowing our clothing choices to the most likely options, we save ourselves time by not bothering with what we already know we don’t want.
Pre-Make Your Meals:
For those who spend their mornings frantically throwing together a packed lunch, Kutner advises that these tasks be moved to the night before as well.
“Do as much prep work at night as you can, including for your breakfast. It may not be a bad idea to have your box of oatmeal or cereal already sitting on the table with a bowl and spoon, ready to be used,” suggests Kutner.
In addition to preparing your breakfasts and lunches, some may also find it convenient to have dinner already picked out and ready to be prepared.
Duran advises that dinners be mapped out as far as two to four weeks ahead, with fresh ingredients being the only necessary shopping. “Plan two hours after grocery shopping to prepare everything. Wash and chop all of your ingredients and set them aside, just as a restaurant would. Then you can just throw things together at night,” says Duran.
She goes on to recommend that large batches be made, providing you with leftovers for future lunches and dinners.
Monitor Yourself with Timers:
It’s entirely too easy to get distracted right before we head out of the house.
We start folding a basket of laundry or we try to upload our vacation photos and we suddenly realize we were supposed to leave 10 minutes ago.
To prevent ourselves from losing track of time, Kurtz advises that we set kitchen timers or phone timers as warnings. “I recommend that you set a timer five or 10 minutes before you’re supposed to leave. You don’t have to stop doing what you’re doing right away, but you know you have to wrap up,” says Kurtz.
Because our internal clocks are not always the best, Kutner agrees with this idea. “Start a stopwatch and then begin doing a task.
Stop the watch when you think it’s been five minutes or 15 minutes. You’ll be surprised how off your concept of time is,” explains Kutner.
She recommends that we start timing some of our everyday activities so we have an accurate sense of how long something truly takes.
“If you already know washing the dishes takes 20 minutes, you can better judge whether or not you have time to complete that task,” Kutner says.
Create a Departure Station:
One of the secrets to organization is keeping like items in the same area. According to Kurtz, we can stop ourselves from running around and be sure we have everything we need when we create a designated area with items to take with us.
“Set up a corner near your door with your purse, your work bag, your gym bag, your lunch, your umbrella, your cell phone still plugged into the charger, your keys, and any other item you need to take with you for the day,” Kurtz advises.
She says that when each item has its place, it’s easier to realize when something is missing. We can also create similar stations on our desks at work to ensure we’re taking everything we need home with us as well.
Familiarize Yourself with Your Route:
Many of us have found ourselves in the terrifying situation of leaving for an interview or out-of-town meeting, only to realize our GPS doesn’t recognize the address for where we need to be, or worse, we get to the location and realize it’s not right.
We can lower our stress levels and the chance of being late by making ourselves fully aware of the route we need to take.
By pre-programming your GPS and comparing the route with MapQuest or another tool, we can be sure the directions given to us on a moment’s notice are accurate ones.
But the correct destination isn’t the only thing that should concern us. According to Kurtz, we should also familiarize ourselves with the traffic in the area.
“In many cities, the time it takes to get from one place to another can alter quickly. It might take you 10 minutes to get across town one day, and it might take you 40 minutes the next day. It’s best to assume you’ll hit traffic,” Kurtz says.
Those who find themselves traveling frequently into unfamiliar areas may benefit from a GPS that monitors traffic and alters routes accordingly.