Time Management vs. Self Management: 4 Helpful Tips

ClockSome time ago I listened to a talk about time management for bloggers.

The speaker loaded the 90 minutes with great ideas and advice, but I had trouble getting past his first statement, “There’s really no such thing as time management because we are all given the same amount of time. The real issue is self-management.” (That’s my paraphrase.)

Boy, did that hit home with me. When I find myself without enough time in my day it’s because I allowed things to steal that time away from me. And that is because of my own lack of self-discipline. Here are a few ways I’ve found to discipline myself better so that it seems that I have more time left over.

1Do the Worst Task First

If I have a job that I really do not want to do, I do it first. Get that bad boy out of the way and the rest of the day looks like a breeze. For me, it’s making phone calls or paying bills. I will do anything to avoid doing those tasks. So if I need to call the insurance company or mechanic, or balance my checkbook, I do that first thing.

2Reward Yourself

If I’m tempted to go outside and play with the chicks, or sit and watch the bees fly in and out of their hive, or read “just one chapter” in my novel, I will use that as a reward for something else that must be done. I will tell myself, as though I’m both the parent and the six-year-old, “You can read a chapter after you fold the laundry.”

Or, if it’s work time and I’m on the computer and that Facebook tab has a little “12” on it telling me I’m missing out on a great conversation, I will say, “You can check Facebook after you write one blog article.”

3Use a Timer

I know, you’ve probably heard that a thousand times, but it really does work. So that my coffee break doesn’t turn into an hour, I will set the timer for 10-15 minutes so I know it’s time to get back to work. If I have several projects to complete, I will set the timer for 30 minutes to work on the first project, go get a glass of tea, and come back for another 30-minute session on the next project, and so forth. That way I know that each project got some attention that day.

4Break Large Projects into Small Segments

This technique I use mostly for house cleaning. I hate house cleaning. And if you ever drop by unexpectedly, you will know I’m just being honest. But if you call ahead, I will use this technique to whip the place into shape. First, I make a list of all the things that need to be done:

  • Clean the bathroom.
  • Fold all the laundry and it put away.
  • Mop the floors.
  • Clean off dining room table.
  • Vacuum the living room.
  • Sweep the porch and water the plants.

Then, I set the timer for 15 minutes and work as fast as I can on the bathroom. When it beeps, I reset it for another 15 minutes and work as fast as I can on the laundry. When it beeps, I reset it for another 15 minutes and start mopping the floors. Then, when it beeps, I reset it and rest for 15 minutes. That is one hour. I continue in this fashion until either the list is done, or I’m out of time.

Why not just start at the top of my list and work my way to the bottom? Because I may only get the bathroom and laundry done and you will come onto my porch which is covered in leaves, enter my dining room that has some project all over the table, and you’ll stick to the tile as you walk to the living room where dust bunnies greet you from under the furniture. But, with my method, at least every area of the house will have had some attention.

Some folks are taught a more disciplined lifestyle as children and do not struggle with self-discipline as adults. Others have employers or a spouse to keep them on task. I don’t have an employer and my spouse is not home all day watching over me. That’s why I’ve developed these little tricks to help me. What do you do to help you get things done? Do you need a higher level of self management?

Leave a comment to explain how you manage your work. What tips can you share with other readers? Leave a comment!


  1. Jonathan K

    Great article thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. Britt McCrimmon

    Nice article but I will admit that doing the worst task first is sometimes hard to do. I tend to want to do the things that i like first knowing that I can blow through them but when I get to the worst task it never gets done.

    This really takes discipline to do!

    • Carol J. Alexander

      I agree, Britt. It is extremely hard. But when accomplished, the rest of the day goes so much better.

  3. These are great tips. I always do the worst task first in order to get it over with. If I don’t, it just sits in the back of my head and annoys me. The one tip that I have trouble with is splitting large projects into smaller ones. I like to do it all at once, but it results in me getting burnt out a lot of the time.

    • Carol J. Alexander

      Good point, Jake. And if you get burned out, the next time you won’t want to do that project at all.

  4. Cleva

    I am “newly” at home and I needed this list. Its amazing how quick the day flies by. It seems like as soon as I get going, the kids have to be picked up. Thanks for this.

  5. Carol J. Alexander

    Glad to help, Cleva. I think it’s so much easier when you’re in the workforce and have someone telling you what to do than being at home. Just too many temptations to distract from the task at hand.

  6. Teisha

    Great article!

  7. Cherie

    Carol – Great article. Many of these suggestions are those our household has adopted from the books Eat That Frog and Getting Things Done. Do the thing you dread the most first (eating the frog) and break those big tasks into “the next step.”

    Asking myself “What is the next step and can I do it now?” puts me in action since it might be something small & doable in the moment.

    The power of the pen is also key for me. I make my lists the night before since I’m not a morning person. As I wake from my morning fog, I only have to look down and see where to start.

  8. Carol J. Alexander

    Thanks, Cherie. Love the name of that book. Will have to look that one up. And lists are something I should have added–on stickie notes!

  9. L Cole

    I used to be a home health nurse, and I would schedule one of my favorite patients to start my day with a laugh, then do my least favorite. I would also try to end my day with another favorite. At home, I have to keep telling myself, “No, you need to finish THIS first. Then go do That.” Getting a least favorite chore done first does help. If I have a ton of laundry to fold and put away, I put in a favorite tv show and fold it all at once while watching it.

    • Carol J. Alexander

      We don’t have a TV, L Cole, but just yesterday I was thinking while ironing, “I should have put in a movie while I did this.” You’re right. Distraction is a good way to get through a mindless task.

    • Holly

      DVD’s are the only reason my husband has ironed shirts to wear for work, lol!

  10. Resa

    I had to laugh as I read your article!! That’s exactly what I do – I’m self-employed and I have to do the worst part of my day first like making the phone calls – I tend to have more energy in the morning to deal with difficult customers. On the 15 minute task by task – It really does work! With 4 boys, laundry was always a problem for me (till they began doing their own). Folding clothes for 15 minutes then moving on makes the pile go down a little each time & I don’t get bogged down or lose momentum for the other rooms! I always thought I was weird for how I clean house, but it’s good to know someone else uses the same method!!
    Thanks for the encouragement!!

    • Carol J. Alexander

      Thanks for sharing, Resa. And I’ll tell my boys there’s someone else out there like me. Cause the 15 minute deal drives them nuts.

  11. Joolie

    When I house clean (which is less often than I should) I do the least necessary things first; the things I’ll be tempted to blow off if they were left until later when I’m losing momentum. The bathroom is done last because I can’t even pretend it isn’t too bad, and because it offers the greatest return on my investment!

  12. jerrylewis

    I agree just like what I have posted on the blog before this, that we all have the same time and it is up to us on how we spend it. It is all about self management and how we do things in a way that makes everything fall on its proper place.

    great post and thanks for sharing. POINTS TO PONDER

  13. Debra

    I like what the article said about self-management. It’s something I struggle with. I love (seriously, love) my calendar. It helps me to write down what I need to do and keep appts straight.

  14. Carol J. Alexander

    Oh Debra, I’m constantly on the look-out for the perfect planner. One that is stuck to my forehead would be great. That way I can’t lose it under a pile of papers and forget it exists. 😉

  15. Tiffany

    Thank you so much for this article. I find myself starting projects and never finishing them, which leaves me frustrated and just giving up. I end up sitting down to “get my mind in order,” and end up lollygagging!

    I will definitely be putting these suggestions to use. I will get started first thing Monday morning!

  16. Karen Lange

    These are great tips, Carol! Have much to do in the coming weeks, so will keep these in mind. Doing the worst task first – I try to do that. Some days I am better at it than others. :)

  17. Christa

    I’m a photographer and mom of six children (ages 3-10). Staying home with them, educating them at home, and everything else I do requires all of what you listed. Love it!

  18. Elina

    This is a very wise approach to getting things done! I enjoyed your article, Carol.