• Ana Gascon Ivey

3 Ways to Take Control of Your Time

I attended my first funeral as a teenager. One of my teacher's mom had passed away. I don't remember much about the eulogy or the service. What I do remember is what happened afterward. My best friend and I got the giggles — bad. We went from a little nervous laughter to full-on hysteria faster than you can say, "Boo!" I guess Immaturity got the best of us.

Fast forward a few decades and dozens of funerals laster. I no longer get the giggles. Instead, I get reflective. I celebrate the person's life and wonder about their time here on planet Earth. Then I think about my time — am I spending it well? Are you?

A time management post usually has a list of 10+ tips to to help you with productivity. This is not that post.

This post is about making life changes that will impact how well you spend your time. These three simple tips have helped me take control of my time personally and professionally. Consider the following:

Minimize your possessions. In January I took a good, hard look at my overstuffed closet. I owned enough apparel to dress a small South American country. I started purging: blouses, pants, dresses, skirts, scarves, purses, shoes. I filled bag after bag. The more I gave away, the freer I felt. I would argue that the less you own, the more time and energy you have for the things that matter. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who wears a gray T-shirt almost daily, puts it this way: “I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community.”

Mark Zuckerberg photo by Stephen Lam, Reuters

My closet was a start. Next up is my kitchen. Anyone need a punch bowl?

Clean out your email. Show of hands — how many of you have over 100 emails sitting in your inbox? Yep, just as I suspected. Here's something I tried recently that worked.

I decided to place my emails into three categories: delete, file and/or to do.

  • First I scanned hundreds of emails in multiple accounts and deleted anything I didn't need.

  • Next I went back through my emails and filed (or placed under labels in Gmail) anything I wanted to keep that did not require further action.

  • Lastly I looked at the remaining emails — emails that needed further action. I placed the action on my to-do list, and then put the email in a folder/label or deleted it.

Guess how many emails I had left when I was done? ZERO. Everyday when new emails come in, I delete, file or put them on my to-do list. I now have more time for writing, planning and marketing, all because I took a couple of hours to clean out my email and made a commitment to keep it that way.

Next up is my office. I'm going to use the same system to trash, file or do something about all the papers on my desk. Who's got a paper shredder?

Do something good. It's not about me. It's not about you. It's about us. Humanity.

I recently attended a Wix website designer conference in New Orleans. Last time I visited NOLA was about 8 years ago. I had forgotten how many homeless people live on the streets of the French Quarter. Every time I walked past someone, my heart ached.

Not one to give cash away to strangers, I decided to buy packages of peanut butter crackers and hand them out. Not a big deal, I know, but it was something. I just wanted them to feel like they were not invisible; like they mattered, if only for a moment.

As you go about your days, think about ways to do something good. Touch base with an old friend or family member. Make a meal for a neighbor in need. Do something unexpected for your spouse or partner. Volunteer in your community. The smallest gesture can go a long way, and isn't that worth your time?