self-care time management

Reclaiming Your Time: Tips for a Productive Semester

[IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Black woman sitting on steps holding a notebook on her lap with a pen in her right hand]

I’m no stranger to interruptions, but that doesn’t mean I welcome them.

I’ve come to understand interruptions as the byproduct of not clearly communicating my needs and expectations to those around me.  Over the years, I’ve gotten more confident in telling people what my priorities are and how they fit (or don’t) into my plans. This type of communication is not easy, but it’s necessary for me. I live by the “teach people how to treat you” mantra and it’s never let me down. This mantra was confirmed for me when I saw Congresswoman Maxine Waters communicate her priorities to U.S. Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin.  Auntie Maxine reminded us of the power of letting people know our needs and expectations. This is invaluable for all of us as we enter another academic year. Here are my tips (and reminders for myself) for how to ‘reclaim your time’ this year.

Get a planner. Digital and/or paper.
How can you reclaim your time if you don’t know where it goes? I use a digital calendar because it’s a seamless way to schedule meetings and it syncs with my phone. The alerts on my phone and computer help keep me moving from one activity to another. I also use a paper planner (Day Designer is my favorite!) because it allows me to combine my activities with my to-do list. I’ve always had both types of planners because it works best for me. Find a system that works for you and how you like to organize your time.

Tell a friend and a neighbor.
It’s important to communicate your priorities and needs to those around you. If you are entering a busy season, tell people! It can be as simple as sending an email or text to family and friends letting them know that you are working on a big project and will be unavailable for last minute requests. I am a fan of using ‘out of office’ replies to let people know when I may be busy because of upcoming deadlines. It lets people know that I’m not ignoring them, I’m just putting my energy elsewhere.

Just say “no”.
I use to struggle with saying no. I had a habit of signing up for things and being upset after I hit ‘send’ or ‘submit’. They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I finally decided to say “no”o to opportunities that aren’t high on my priority list.  Sometimes we think that saying no means that another chance to do XYZ will never come around again. What’s the point in saying yes to something that may cause you more stress. Let it go so you can put your energy into things that matter. Remember what you put in your planner!

Remember your goals.
Another reason why I like having a paper planner is that it provides a dedicated space for my goals every day. My Day Designer has a section to write daily goals and it’s become a great way to set my intentions. When I’m intentional about each day it makes it easier for me to stay focused. This doesn’t mean that each day is without distractions.  But when your goals are in front of you, you are more likely to be able to achieve them and communicate them to others.

Progress not perfection.
I’d be lying if I said any of this was easy. However, it’s important to make ‘reclaiming your time’ a priority this year. As Black women we are surrounded by messages that say our time and our needs aren’t important. I’m sure Auntie Maxine has even struggled with this. But we can see in the video that her voice was clear and with conviction. My hope is that we can practice teaching people how to respect our time. May your voice be as clear and firm as Auntie Maxine’s!

Need some theme music as you update your planner and goal list? Check out Mykal Kilgore’s, “Reclaiming My Time – Gospel Mix”.

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