Five Twenty-Something Time Management Tips

                                                            Image by Dan

Today I have some 20:40 vision with a guest post from Molly Ford, founder of Smart Pretty and Awkward, one of my favorite places to go to get smarter about all things pretty and awkward. Molly has a great way of synthesizing tips that seem so simple yet make such a big difference — you wonder why you’ve never thought of them. I’ve worked with Molly and I’m always amazed at how much she gets done. She’s a social media consultant, she founded her own growing blog/business, just completed her first year of her masters degree in marketing, goes on multiple speaking engagements …and all the while makes time for fun, friends, fashion and feeling good.


So my question to Molly is how do you do it all? It made me wonder if it’s a generational thing after all. Are the digital natives in on a whole new form of multi-tasking? With access to all aspects of our lives at any time, the relationship between home, life, and work and blur. I know we all know this…but where it makes a difference is in how we manage our time. Balance is a desired goal for 20-somethings and 40-somethings alike…the key to our wellbeing. The question of how do you balance work and life often comes up in the form of the question, “Can you have it all?” Most 40-somethings say yes, but not all at once. But maybe 20-somethings are on to something. When you can flow seamlessly between work and life fluidly (at your fingertips and without a beat) juggling becomes less stressful. It becomes less about sequencing and more about integrating the parts more seamlessly. Fluidity is key to Molly’s time management tips.


Five Twenty-Something Time Management Tips – Molly Ford

As the balance between work, school, relationships, hobbies and errands gets more blurred each day, managing your time becomes less about multi-tasking and more about fluidity. Fluidity is the time management concept of having different parts of your life flow together. Instead of being divided between work and play, and thinking each activity can only be one or the other, fluidity can make a hectic life work for you by allowing you to envision these activities as intersecting parts of a whole.


The concept of fluidity helps all of the moving parts of my twenty-something life fit together (a career, a blog, grad school, and relationships); and helps to keep my brain from compartmentalizing each into different areas.


Below are five tips I employ on a daily basis.


1. Use travel time effectively (even if it means using it to relax).

I have written my best blog posts on Amtrak trains to and from visiting out-of-state friends; when I am walking to work is when I make my daily phone call to my family; and I always sleep on planes. Use travel time to your advantage, even if you are using it to catch up on sleep or to scout new music on your iPod. Basically, never get off a transportation device without feeling either refreshed or productive.


2. Don’t waste time arguing with people or things you can’t change.

Time doesn’t stop moving when people are being stubborn, and some people just will not change. Your boss might never want to run your pitch by a client, and your crush may never want to be your boyfriend. Every second spent trying to convince people to change is a second not spent finding new pitches and new crushes.


(But if you really must mull over ways to change people, at least try to do it while you are doing something mindless but productive, like folding socks).


3. Spend time with people while doing other things (eating, errands, shopping)

If you have a best friend, and she needs to grocery shop, and you need to grocery shop–go together. Same for the gym. And the Laundromat. And eating dinner out on nights you don’t want to cook. You are not the only person who needs to pick up a prescription and some toothpaste from the drugstore on a Saturday afternoon; find the other people in your life who need to run similar errands and team up (financial bonus: you can share coupons and 2-for-1 store offers, and you might find out about a cheaper nail place).


4. Get a notebook (or a really long ‘save as draft’ email).

Every great idea you have that is not remembered is wasted. The easiest way I have found to remember big thoughts is to write them down or type them up in the second you think them. Get a notebook, or get seven notebooks (one for each purse), or get three notebooks and have a constantly updated draft email of your to-do list open on your computer. (Note for tech-challenged: both Gmail and Outlook have a ‘draft’ category, so when you want to reference your to-do list, just hit the ‘draft’ category on the left hand side and your to-do list should be easy to find). Whatever you do, write down everything, from where you want to vacation next, to what you need to drop off at the cleaners that night, to what type of vintage store you want to open after grad school. Writing down ideas as they come instantly frees your mind, as you don’t waste time trying to remember important items later.


5. Align Busy-ness with Values.

The more I observe people, the more I see, almost always, busy people get more done than anyone else. Be as busy as you can while being happy. Some people like to work 23 hours a day and are happy doing so. Others like to work 6 hours a day and are happy doing so. Find the balance that works for both your financial goals and your life values.

If you value finding a husband but can’t find the time to go on a date, the way you are choosing to spend your time betrays that value’s relevance and importance in your life.


Line up your time and values, and stay busy doing them. (A quick exercise to see if your values line up: take a piece of paper and fold it in half. On the left hand side, keep track of each activity you do during the day. On the right hand side, write down all the values you have. Then draw lines from each activity on the left to each value on the right. What value is not being represented by an activity? What value is being over-represented? What small changes can be made so each value is represented in your daily tasks?).


Thank you Molly. The more I think about it, I see that what gives 20-somethings balance is being able to engage in all sides of their “self”:  the creative, the professional, the playful, the philanthropist. No one job or pursuit does it all so they create ways to do it. Balance isn’t the result, it is the action of fulfilling all facets of your desired self.


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