Mindful Time Management – How to beat stress and get organised

As a small business owner, time is one of the most valuable commodities. I’m always keen to learn new techniques to help me manage both my time and myself!

Jo Howarth 250So I’m delighted to bring you this guest post from Jo Howarth who runs a company called The Happiness Club. Her job is to teach people how to be happy and she loves it.

With over 20 years of studying mindfulness and hypnotherapy, Jo believes it is a simple choice – that everyone can choose happiness every day. Jo’s mission is to teach people the tools and techniques that will set them on the path of happiness, whatever their definition may be. So here is her technique for mindful time management:

Most of the stresses and strains of every day are down to us being disorganised which leads to us feeling stressed which builds until we can’t cope. I was taught this method of time management by an ex-headteacher and I used it, with great effect, in my previous career as an Event Manager. When I became a Mindfulness practitioner I revisited the method and inserted a few mindful techniques into the whole thing to further relieve that stress.

So here goes, are you ready?

Step 1:

Make a massive list of everything you need to do this week, get it out of your head and on to paper, free up your headspace. Half the stress we feel is because we are walking around with an endless list of things to be done whirling around inside our heads. Get it out of there.

Step 2:

Take 3 pieces of paper and write at the top of the first “Urgent”, at the top of the second “Important” and at the top of the third “Can Wait”. Now slot the jobs on your massive list onto once of those pieces of paper according to their priority – which are most time sensitive? Which need to be done most?

Step 3:

Once you have completed the three lists I would like you to take the “Can Wait” list and………………destroy it. Get rid of it. Screw it up into a little ball. Tear it into little pieces. Shred it. Do whatever you need to do but get rid of it. If you really, really, really, really can’t bear to destroy that list then fold it up really, really small and put it at the back of a drawer that you never open. I guarantee that you will never get it back out again. If any of those jobs need doing at some point in the future then they will make it on to your “Important” or “Urgent” list. For now, you can put them out of your mind completely.

Step 4:

Now you have two smaller lists to work from. Start with the jobs on your “Urgent” list – focus on that list first so now you don’t have one enormous daunting list of jobs to look at every day. I’m going to teach you how to take that one step further. In your diary split your day into hours and very simply slot the first job from your “Urgent” list into the first time slot of the week. Carry on slotting the jobs in according to their urgency until you have no more jobs to add in, simples!

Beat stress and get organised by applying mindfulness to your time management

Now there are some important things to remember:

It is a good idea, if possible, to set yourself an hour or two every day specifically to deal with emails. Then ignore them for the rest of the day. Communicate to your clients, colleagues, friends etc that this is what you are doing so that they know if they send you an email at 10am you won’t read til 12pm for example. Emails and Facebook messages etc are among the most distracting and time-consuming things in our lives these days. Make it easy on yourself and only deal with them at set times.

Remember to MONOtask. Do one thing at a time and do it until it’s finished then move on. It sounds backwards but you will actually be more productive and work much faster if you focus on one thing at a time rather than trying to multi-task.

Take regular breaks. If you keep going and going and going then you will break so make sure you take a five or ten minute break at regular intervals throughout your day.

Build in an hour of time every day as “flexible time”. Unexpected things happen and if you’ve filled your diary to the brim with jobs to do and something else crops up then it’s liable to send you into a panic, into overdrive. If you’ve put a spare hour in your diary then when that unexpected thing happens you have time to deal with it calmly and effectively. And if nothing unexpected happens then you have a whole hour to play with – imagine what you could do with that time? Ace.

Most importantly once all the jobs are planned in then you can stop fretting. When we have jobs flying around our heads or big lists of things to do then we spend a lot of headspace worrying about when and how we are going to do them all. With this method everything is planned in ready, you will have an idea of any spare time slots that you have and if Job X pops into your head you can flick through your diary until you find Job X and say to yourself “oh it’s okay, Job X is 3 weeks on Tuesday at 10am, I’ll deal with it then”. I very rarely consciously remember what I’m doing in two days time but I know without a doubt that my diary will tell me. So no need to fret.

And last but not least reward yourself. Pick one job each day, preferably the one you are least looking forward to doing and put an asterisk by it (*). Then when you have done that job give yourself a reward. Mine is generally a cup of tea and a bar of chocolate while I sit down for ten minutes in peace. Yours can be anything you like, big or small, as long as you see it as a reward.

And that is my method of mindful time management, I hope it helps you to feel more organised and more in control of what you are doing. I have been using this myself for many years and I swear by it.


If you have any questions or would like to find out more about my work please have a look at my website www.thehappinessclub.co.uk or contact me on [email protected]