Reframing Time Management for Busy People

Stop managing time and start living a purposeful life

We are all busy people, but what are we accomplishing? We live in a hyper-connected world that makes it all too easy to slip into cycles of reactionary responses and slide into the perils of unproductivity. Information overload is real, and I have experienced it many times as a working mom, wife, researcher, and doctoral student. Therefore, I developed this simple conceptual framework to help me construct a methodology for framing how I make use of my time to maximize my productivity in each one of my roles.

I define purpose as the metacognitive reason for performing a task. Metacognition refers to our internal thoughts about how we work or what we need to do. For example, when we think about cleaning our house, most of us will make a list of the chores we need to do. Although we do not think about each task associated with cleaning the house, there is a process or procedures embedded in accomplishing the goal. I use the example of cleaning a house only for its simplicity. This framework will generalize to home, school, and work productivity.

Purposeful Reflection:

Managing our time starts with understanding how we identify ourselves within a continuum of roles we use to describe ourselves. First, ask yourself this series of questions:

1. What characteristics do I want to represent?

2. What do I want to accomplish today? This week? This year? In five or more years?

3. When am I working towards those goals? Do I prioritize the actions to accomplish these goals?

4. Where am I losing time to unproductive activities?

5. Do my actions show what I value?

Prioritize Productivity:

Experts refer to the internal control a person has to focus on work activities as action regulation. A standard way to self-regulate behaviors includes thinking about what needs to get done and when. Are there deadlines looming? Are there tasks I can work ahead to procure? What value can I add to my organization by taking more initiative?

Pencil in your Obligations:

Busy people cannot remember everything. Some people prefer a paper calendar, and others use something digital or a combination of options. Find what works for you. I put deadlines on deliverables as scheduled calendar events with reminder alerts set up days in advance. Consider sharing your calendar with others. For example, I have a teenage daughter. I can never remember every school event and club meeting she needs to attend. To resolve this issue, we share a digital calendar that syncs with our devices. Using such strategies became necessary because the digital schedule allowed us the ability to be synchronous is real time.

Promote what you Value:

I was once told, “We do what we value.” When I am feeling overwhelmed or unproductive, it helps to think about what I value in the role that I am struggling to fill fulfilled. Am I doing the work that brings the most value to my organization? Are there organizational barriers that can change to improve efficiency? Prioritize the actions that will lead to productivity.

Procrastinate with Purpose:

Many of us need the occasional brain break or time to decompress when transitioning from one role to the next. Innovation comes from associative thinking. Associative thinking is forming a relationship between two or more previously unrelated concepts. Taking a time out from a busy schedule is healthy. Consider ways to expand on your experiences in life that may add to your creativity in the future. Spend time outdoors, eat at a different restaurant, chat with a network of individuals who are different from you.

Reframing procrastination to be a purposeful way to set boundaries cannot be underestimated. Compartmentalizing our roles can be a survival strategy for many of us. It is also the disconnect that we need to get ready for continuously improving and regulating our productivity. It is what gives busy people like me the energy to fight on another day.

Originally published at

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