I started a time management coaching course a few weeks ago. The
best tip to come out of the class so far is the seemingly simple
idea of looking at your calendar as if it were a closet.
The course is being taught by America’s favorite organizer,
Julie Morgenstern, who showed us side-by-side photos of a messy
closet and an over-booked page from a day-timer. The similarities
were amazing. In the messy closet, shoes were jumbled on the floor
with purses. Pants and skirts were intermingled with no room for
tops or dresses. In the messy calendar, to-do lists were scribbled
between confirmed appointments and ideas were written in the
margins with no room left to fit in scheduled workout, reading and
Both a closet and a day have limits, one space, the other time.
To get a handle on your day, start by looking at everything you do
— work, kid time, spouse time, exercise, reading, errands,
commuting, hobbies, sleep, etc. Put down what productivity expert
David Allen calls “the hardscape”: the hours you sleep, the time
you absolutely have to do certain things, for example, be at work
from nine in the morning to five in the afternoon or pick up the
children from school at 3 p.m. each day.
In terms of clothing, the hardscape would be the suits or
uniform you need for work, jeans for casual Friday, a black dress
for funerals, your tuxedo or whatever you consider
Next, look at the remaining hours in the schedule. How could you
best use your morning hours before work, your commute time, your
evenings, your days off?
Clothes-wise, think khakis, a party dress, yoga outfits, and
anything else that you either need or would like to fit into the
Morgenstern stresses that the important thing to watch out for
in time management is keeping “like with like.” As in a
well-organized closet, where you hang pants together, blouses
together, skirts together, in a schedule, nothing defeats
organization as much as mixing tasks and times. This is especially
tricky for people who work from home.
If you designate 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to work, but really take time
out to settle arguments between the kids, mow the lawn, check
Facebook and do a little housework, you are not getting the most
you can from your “work” hours, and the result is probably that you
make up for it by working more in the evenings or on weekends.
Even for someone working in a traditional office away from home,
keeping on task and minimizing interruptions is tricky. Like
anything in organizing, it takes support and discipline to make
Again, like a closet, we have to purge a few things to get
everything to fit and to keep only those items that really serve
us. Is there anything you can toss or donate (delegate) from your
schedule? Like your clothing, your schedule should reflect who you
are and it should help you work toward your goals and dreams. If a
task fits the description of a priority — good time management
starts with identifying your priorities before you so much as open
a Day Timer — a creative solution can always be found.