Take Control: Tips to Manage Your Time, Find Balance, and Live on Your Terms

May 26, 2021
Life Coaching

Guest blog by Tanya Dickson

Tanya Dickson

Prior to becoming a coach, Tanya worked in various demanding corporate jobs, traveling the Caribbean managing staff and projects. While those were exciting times, she also suffered 2 severe burnouts along the way, which nearly cost her sanity and the life of her then-unborn child. This profound wake-up call drove Tanya to transform how she approached integrating work and life as a high-achieving Mom. 

As a Life Design Coach to Moms, Tanya supports ambitious women to identify their power, take back control of their lives, and live fearlessly on their own terms. As a coach and trainer, Tanya is dedicated to helping organizations create people-centric cultures, not only to become more financially successful, but because human emotions matter too. A graduate of the JRNI coaching program, Tanya is currently in the process of becoming a Corporate Culture Design Trainer. To follow Tanya’s work on Instagram, visit @momsontheirownterms


It seems like time scarcity is a subject that touches ALL of us these days. Not only the high achieving moms that I work with as a Life Design Coach, but everybody. Who out there isn’t attempting to juggle more than one thing, hoping for some success (or should I say happiness) along the way? 

Our cries are all the same: How can I get all the mundane obligations out of the way, pursue my passions, and still have time to play?

I’ve been researching and mining for insights into how best to manage my time more effectively for what seems like an eternity. Some strategies stuck, while others fell to the wayside. After years of experimentation, what I can say is that the particular strategies I am sharing here have made a measurable difference, for both me and my clients. 

The trick is to practice them consistently.

For this blog, I’ve broken down effective time management into 5 major components. To reclaim your time and your life, consider giving some attention to each of these areas:

  1. Morning Routine
  2. Effective Planning
  3. Addressing Procrastination
  4. Embracing the Word "NO" 
  5. Shifting your Mindset

Start the Day Off Right: Your Morning Routine

You may be wondering: What does managing my time have to do with a morning routine?

Here’s what I’ve learned: finding time to achieve work targets, be present with your family, and achieve your personal goals has EVERYTHING to do with a healthy morning routine. Why? Because a morning routine sets the tone for your day. 

Now here’s the part that might sound counterintuitive. Your morning routine should not be focused on “goals”, or the actual outcome of “achieving” something. 

Instead, a powerful morning routine is about setting the intention or feeling that you would like to vibrate on throughout your day. That may be calling in a feeling of love, happiness or contentment; the feeling of health or beauty; or the experience of abundance or confidence. 

If we start the day with intention, our mind is put into a more resourceful state.

From this place of psychological balance, we are better able to face anything that comes our way during the course of our day. We are able to manage our schedules from our deepest values, rather than following along as our schedules control us.

Apart from setting intentions, I’ve found a healthy morning routine contains one, some, or all of the following elements from Hal Elnod’s Life SAVERS routine (from The Miracle Morning.)

S - Silence (meditation, prayer, gratitude)

A - Affirmations

V - Visualization

E - Exercise

R - Reading (inspirational/self-improvement books)

S - Scribbling/Journaling

Taken together, these elements help remove limiting beliefs and give the confidence boost we need to believe in our own capabilities. They also help us zero in on and analyze any feelings we may be experiencing as we start our day. They sharpen our memory and thinking, fostering our sense of self-worth. 

A consistent, intentional morning practice makes us feel stronger and more powerful. These are all traits we need to seize our days, and feel accomplished and content at the end of them.

Effective Physical Planning of Your Week & Day

We each have our own unique approach to planning. What’s important is to take the time to do it. The planning process that has worked best for me involves:

  1. Writing everything down
  2. Using the Eisenhower Matrix to prioritize tasks
  3. Deciding on my weekly and daily “Big 3”

As a high achieving Mom, I’ve learned to never again let my Baby Brains mess with my life! I’ve faced the fact that I can’t remember everything - and I don’t need to. That’s what notepads and pens are for. So I write every single thing down: either on paper, or in the notes app on my phone. 

I commit to a specific day (preferably Sunday or Monday) to plan out my week. I start by plugging in everything I wrote down into the Eisenhower Matrix - Dwight D. Eisenhower's famous prioritization framework. (image credit: DevelopGoodHabits.com)

Eisenhower Matrix infographic

This tool has really helped me with prioritizing my tasks. It’s also made me much more conscious of my own “urgency syndrome”, which made me believe (falsely) that things that are time sensitive must also be important. Not so!

When we really stop and think about it, a lot of the urgent things we do are not moving us any closer to achieving our real goals. The Matrix helps us understand that while we can do anything, we really cannot do everything

Using this tool helped me to realize that delegating some of my tasks just made more sense. It helps me preserve my time and energy for what’s most important to me every single day. 

When I find it hard to delegate, I ask myself: 

  • Does this task take up a lot of my time, but doesn’t really contribute to my immediate goals? If YES, I delegate or hire it out if possible.
  • Can someone else besides me handle this task?  If YES, I delegate or hire it out if possible.

Once I have categorized my entire list of tasks in the Matrix, I take the Top 3 items from the 1st quadrant of my Eisenhower Matrix. These items are what I will focus my best efforts towards completing by the end of the week. 

Yes! I focus on ONLY 3 items for my week. I call them my Weekly Big 3.

This “go get it” society that we live in has somehow convinced us that a To-Do list of 10 items is more acceptable than that of 3 items. But I think we all know it’s just so much less pressure when we have shorter lists, and chances are higher that you will get everything ticked off. 

The research backs me up on this one. Consistently accomplishing what’s most important and crossing it off boosts confidence, and helps keep you focused as you move into the next week. 

What’s next? Every day for the week, I map out tasks that I will need to do in order to achieve my Weekly Big 3. And again, every day I stick to only 3 tasks. 

Kick Procrastination to the Curb

Some of us have a bad case of the procrastination bug, myself included. But rest assured: it can be managed. I haven’t discovered if procrastination can be healed yet, so I won’t be the one selling you that dream! But from my experience, the urge to procrastinate does not have to hamper you from being productive throughout your day. 

There are many tips I can share on this one, but for today I’ll focus on my Top 3. (What can I say, I like 3’s!)

1. Neutralize the Negative Stimulation

Fun Fact: When you think of doing something that you would rather not, you activate the areas of your brain associated with pain. Therefore, your brain looks for ways to stop this negative stimulation. Enter procrastination.

The trick around this is to tell yourself that you’re going to work on the task for a very small amount of time – say, fifteen, twenty, or thirty minutes. 

By committing yourself to only having to do the dreaded task for a limited period, it’s a lot easier to get started. And once you get to work, you’ll most often discover that the discomfort disappears.

2. Ask Yourself: What Do I Fear?

Sometimes procrastination can stem from inner childhood wounds. If that’s the case, getting to the root of the problem can also really help. So go deep with this question. Don’t be satisfied with the more superficial answers that your rational brain may throw at you. Peel back the layers to the inner child to find out why this task in front of you is so scary or unpleasant, or why you feel like rebelling against doing it.

Once you have figured that out, ask yourself: “What’s different now?” Embrace your inner child, and remind them that things are different, they are safe, and you will both get through this together.

3. Process vs. Product

In order to stop procrastinating, focus on the process instead of the product. “Process” refers to the flow of time and the actions that you take during that time. On the other hand, “product” is an outcome. By focusing on the process, you can relax into the flow of the work itself.

Now let’s talk about using my new favorite 2 letter word: "NO"

Confession: I’m a recovering people pleaser. I thought that by meeting everyone else’s needs, I would be less stressed and more happy. But saying yes to everyone and everything only led me to burnout. I was overcommitted and overstretched, with even less time for my personal priorities. 

In working with others around this, one thing I’ve noticed is that we often just don’t know WHEN to say Yes or No. 

Here’s what I started doing to overcome that problem in my own life: I would give myself a time limit to respond to any request. This might be 30 minutes or 24 hours, it really depends on how confident you are in saying “yes” or “no.” 

During that time, I ask myself these questions:

  1. If this opportunity wasn’t handed to me, would I spend time creating it myself?
  2. What makes this “yes” important to me? Does it excite me personally? Or is it coming from an external desire to be liked, or to receive approval from others?
  3. If the “yes” is based on an external desire, what am I giving up in order to make this “yes” happen? “Every “yes” is a “no” to something else. What will I NOT be able to do from my own list of priorities if I say yes to this? Am I OK with that trade? 

My answers to these questions help me determine if I am saying “yes” simply out of habit, or if my “yes” aligns with my values, and helps me get closer to where I want to be in life.

Shifting Your Mindset

Repeat after me: “There will always be more to do, and that’s OK.”

In a nutshell, what this mental shift comes down to is accepting the facts of life. We cannot manufacture more time, and we will always have more to do than time available in which to do it. It's time to stop beating ourselves up for not ticking every task off the list, and extend ourselves understanding, acceptance, and kindness instead. 

To successfully do this requires cultivating 3 key elements, according to Dr. Kristen Neff’s self compassion research:

  1. Self-Kindness: Instead of criticizing and judging yourself, recognize it's ok to mess up. None of us can avoid falling short of perfection. 
  2. Common Humanity: Know that everyone has challenges - it's part of life. We all have days where we don’t get everything done and feel overwhelmed. We are not alone in these feelings of frustration or inadequacy. 
  3. Mindfulness: Try to distance yourself from the negative thoughts and emotions you might have in response to the stressful situations. Instead of judging what's happening, simply notice these negative feelings and look for ways to gently replace them with more positive thoughts or affirmations.

Our “Just Do It” society drives us to keep wanting, keep achieving, and keep going… at all costs. What’s easily forgotten is that these are not the only things that are needed for our holistic happiness and success. In fact, "getting it all done" is probably not even the primary thing.

In these busy times, it’s vitally important to remember the wisdom of our ancestors: there is a time to sow, to rest, and to reap. If you yearn for a more balanced and contented life, make time for all three of these on a daily basis.

Interested in putting these ideas into practice?

Grab a free copy of Tanya's Power Moms Planner & Guide.

Want to Become A Life Coach?

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