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Time Management Strategies

September 14, 2017

Why Is Time Management So Hard?

By: Sarah McCarren, RN, MSN, CPNP

There are always one or two people who you encounter on a daily basis who are chronically late. Perhaps it's the new employee who wanders in late regularly when you have worked there for ten years and have only been late twice; or maybe it's the student who is outrageously creative at coming up with excuses as to why their assignments are always late. Why do so many people struggle with time management?

The reasons can vary from obsessive compulsive disorder, ADHD, depression, procrastination, difficulty with understanding time required for tasks, having too many responsibilities, or simply having a laid-back personality. In the end, everyone can benefit from effective time management.

Goals of Time Management:

  • Increased productivity
  • Fewer mistakes
  • Better understanding and recall of material
  • More recreational time
  • Reality based sense of accomplishment
  • Reduced anxiety and stress


There are many time management strategies that I teach as an executive skills coach. Most of my students adapt the strategies that I provide to fit their own learning style. However, there are two strategies that I always employ - checklists and focused time segments (FTS).


Checklists are not only a idea, but also essential to the success of many professional and personal processes. When I begin feeling overwhelmed with multiple responsibilities, I notice myself sleeping poorly, becoming less effective, and maybe even becoming a little grouchy. I have learned that creating a checklist and working through one priority at a time creates a more balanced and effective self. Atul Gawande describes the effectiveness of creating checklists in his book, "The Checklist Manifesto". Dr. Gawande describes many examples of how checklists have become essential to medicine, aviation, and NASA. Personal use of checklists also increase productivity and decrease mistakes.


Focused time segment (FTS) is a term I devised while teaching mindfulness as a study tool for my clients. Specifically, FTS means that when a person is trying to accomplish a task, they will be able to use their mindful techniques during the allotted time to be conscious of their level of attention. When they are aware that their mind has wandered, they are able to bring it back into focus.

The timing part of the concept goes back to the 1980's with the Pomodoro Technique by Francesco Cirillo. Cirillo used a pomodoro tomato (shaped) kitchen timer to dedicate 25-minute uninterrupted time segments for work or study. However, my own experience with clients has observed that time interval of 10 or 15 minutes is more effective. I do not recommend restarting the timer if the time segment is interrupted.

Stay tuned to for the launch of our Study/Exam Care Package! It will include a specialized planner designed to optimize your monthly, weekly, and daily time management as well as a great array of tools for organization, focus, and self-care.

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