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What’s your biggest complaint? Is it that you don’t get to travel as often as you’d like? Maybe you don’t spend as much time with family as you think you should? Is there a home project you can’t seem to get around to?

All these problems have one thing in common—time. A lack of time is possibly the most common complaint among adults. As you get older, time seems to run in shorter supply, leaving you stressed and unsure of how to balance it all. And during the busiest times of year, like the holidays, stress surrounding time management can become even more heightened.

So how can you lessen the burden that time places on your life? The secret doesn’t lie in the ability to time travel, although that would probably help. There are a number of practical time management solutions that you can employ to ensure you get everything done—with time to spare.

The basis of time management.

We all know someone who, despite having the same amount of time as you, is able to accomplish a lot more. It can be frustrating to watch people seemingly sail through the day, from one task to another, without allowing so much as a single distraction.

The truth is, no one is naturally gifted with this ability; like everything else, it’s something you learn after considerable practice. To put it simply, time management comes down to how you balance time between activities so that you can function at optimum productivity. As obvious as this sounds, it can be a little more challenging in practice. A good first step is to identify the reason (or combination of reasons) behind your time management problems. Once you do, you can
better pinpoint a plan to help you overcome them.

If you have trouble clearing your schedule…

Take a good look at your calendar. Do you have meetings or appointments that overlap? Is every hour of the day for the next three months booked solid? This is a real problem—for your productivity and your mental health. Many of us obsess over how busy we are, and when we aren’t running around doing a million different things, it almost feels wrong.

These push-and-pull feelings can be particularly strong during the holidays, when some people often have to balance time between multiple families and events. But instead of giving a little bit of yourself to each event and spreading yourself too thin, it’s more important to be fully present, no matter what you’re doing.

Instead of clearing your calendar completely and stressing over what you might be giving up, try some of these strategies:

• Allow yourself a set number of tasks or activities per day, and stick to that number. If your to-do list is longer than your grocery list, you can probably cut back or shift priorities around.
• Dedicate some days to personal time and others to getting tasks done. If you break up work and leisure time instead of trying to cram both into the same time period, you’ll find you have more hours for both throughout the week.

If you never have time for yourself…

This is a problem that many people struggle with, but it’s also one of the easiest ways to free up your schedule. If you notice that most of your hours are spent on other people instead of the things you really want to do, you’re setting yourself up for a breakdown. Try these ideas to help you set aside more time for yourself so that you can feel more refreshed:

• Write down a list of goals or activities you’ve always wanted to do, and put them in your calendar. Treating “me time” the same as any other scheduled activity is imperative to leaving a moment for personal happiness.
• Remember that leisure time is just as important as work time. If 90 percent of your schedule is dedicated to other people and 10 percent is dedicated to self-care, the imbalance can take a toll, mentally and physically.

If you start tasks and can’t finish them…
There’s no point in having a to-do list if you continue to add to it without checking things off. If you have a lot to do in just a short amount of time, it might seem easier or more productive to start all the tasks in front of you at once, but this can actually cause confusion and even more stress.

Instead of living in a constant cycle of unfinished business, keep these strategies in mind to get more accomplished with your time:

• Keep your checklists manageable. Overdoing it can lead to stress and can harm productivity. Recognize when you’re pushing yourself too far, and try to set limits.
• Cross things off before moving on. Commit to always crossing something off your to-do list before starting something new, and only put items on your list that you know you can confidently complete.

If you always give in to distraction…

Our world is wrought with distractions, from constantly refreshing emails to scrolling social media. If you’re looking for a diversion, you can find one. Everyone can benefit from a break once in a while, but what might seem like a few minutes can quickly turn into a few hours of zoning out.

If you find that distractions are preventing you from getting anything done during the day, use these tips to eliminate (or at least reduce) them from your life:

• Remove all distractions from view. This tactic works for a lot of things, but particularly with cell phones. When you can’t see the notifications popping up on your screen, you won’t be tempted to check them.
• Set aside specific times for distractions. Instead of taking a few minutes here and there to check social media, give yourself specific windows throughout the day. This can help you avoid feelings of missing out without it overtaking your life.

There are only twenty-four hours in a day. Everyone is given the same number of hours, but it’s what you do with those hours that really matters. If you feel like time is the enemy, you certainly aren’t alone. But sticking to the same behaviors without a plan will never make you more productive. If you constantly feel the pressure of the sand in the hourglass running out, these time management strategies are a great place to start.