time management

3 Ways to Use Time Management to Stop Stress in its Tracks

June 24, 2024

Reading Time: 10 minutes

How to set boundaries

3 Ways to Use Time Management to Stop Stress in its Tracks

Ever feel stressed, like you just can’t add one more thing to your plate? When we’re that overwhelmed, sometimes the time management tools that are supposed to help just feel like one more thing to do.


Today, we’re talking about your new secret weapon for stopping stress in its tracks.

No, it’s not some complicated system that’s going to take a ton of time to implement. And it’s not a new app you have to download on your phone, or a command center that you have to assemble.

We all know that stress is a part of life. Whether it’s work deadlines, family responsibilities, or personal goals, we each experience varying levels of stress in different areas of our lives. And while time management is supposed to help us manage these stresses, sometimes it can feel like just one more thing to worry about. But here’s the thing, it doesn’t have to be that way! Time management doesn’t have to add to that stress. In fact, with a few simple adjustments, time management can be a huge stress reliever – and today, you’ll learn 3 ways that you can use time management to stop stress in its tracks. 

In this episode, I’m sharing

  • The secret to effortlessly prioritizing and delegating tasks so you can breathe easier.
  • How to stay inspired and on track without getting stressed out and overwhelmed
  • A proven method to organize your week, bringing calm and clarity to your schedule
  • A powerful bonus tip that will set you up for your most productive and stress-free week ever

Before we dive into this episode, since I know how much this community is invested in supporting the overall wellness of women, I wanted to personally recommend the podcast “Thoughts from the Couch” with licensed mental health counselor and anxiety treatment specialist, Justine Carino. On her podcast, Justine discusses ways ambitious and high achieving women can manage anxiety and stress, overcome perfectionism, create healthier boundaries between work and home, and let go of their exhausting people-pleasing tendencies. If you’re craving advice from a professional that is relatable and down to earth, tune into “Thoughts From the Coach” every other Monday on iTunes, Spotify and Amazon.

Prioritize and delegate for less stress

Alright, let’s dive into our first strategy for using time management to stop stress in its tracks: prioritizing and delegating tasks. Now, I know that just thinking about prioritizing and delegating can sometimes be stressful. We often feel like there’s so much to do and not enough time to do it. But I promise, there’s a stress-free way to approach this.

Prioritize with Boulders, Big Rocks and Pebbles

First, let’s talk about prioritization using my favorite method: Boulders, Big Rocks, and Pebbles.

Imagine your time and tasks as fitting into one of these three categories: Boulders, Big Rocks, and Pebbles.

Boulders: These are tasks that are urgent but not necessarily important in the traditional sense, yet they help you be your best self. Personal examples of Boulders might include working out, nurturing relationships like date night with your person or one-on-one time with your kids, and taking care of your finances with something like a Finance Friday routine. Professionally, Boulders might look like “thinking time,” research, prospecting, and professional development. These tasks are crucial for your well-being and long-term success, even if they don’t always feel immediately urgent.

Big Rocks: These are the urgent and important activities in life and work that move the needle and get you closer to achieving your goals or your vision. Think of them as your key projects or high-impact tasks. For example, completing a major work project, preparing for an important presentation, or working on a key aspect of your business. These tasks are essential for your progress and require your focused attention. On the personal side, planning a big vacation, coordinating a home renovation, or organizing your linen closet could all be considered big rocks if they align with your larger goals. 

Pebbles: These are the unimportant, usually non-urgent tasks that must be done but won’t make or break your goals. Examples of Pebbles include filling out a reimbursement form, booking a flight, or scheduling a dentist appointment. Tasks like these are necessary but shouldn’t dominate your time or cause undue stress.

By categorizing your tasks into Boulders, Big Rocks, and Pebbles, you can prioritize what truly matters and avoid getting overwhelmed by the small stuff.

Delegation for less stress

Now, let’s talk about delegation. I understand that delegation can be challenging. It’s hard to let go and trust someone else with a task, especially if you’re used to handling everything yourself. But starting small can make this easier and less stressful.

Try delegating minor tasks first – those Pebbles we talked about. These are the perfect tasks to start with because they need to be done but aren’t critical. For example, ask a colleague to help with scheduling a team meeting or preparing a report. Ask one of your kids to unload the dishwasher.  Over time, as you build trust and communication with those you delegate to, you’ll find it easier to let go of bigger tasks.

When delegating, it’s important to clearly communicate your expectations and provide any necessary resources or instructions. This helps ensure the task is completed to your standards and reduces the likelihood of needing to step in and redo it yourself. One of the biggest mistakes we can make is to delegate something that we don’t really understand. In the Book E-Myth by Michael Gerber, he calls this Delegation by Abdication. You delegate something because you don’t want to do it, but you can’t really tell the person you’ve delegated how it should be done… and then when it isn’t done correctly… we get frustrated and never want to delegate anything ever again! The secret is to be crystal clear about what you want. 

The key takeaway here is that effective prioritization and delegation can free up your time and mental space, significantly reducing your stress levels. By focusing on your Boulders and Big Rocks, and entrusting others with the Pebbles, you’ll be able to manage your time more effectively and feel more in control.

Remember, prioritizing and delegating tasks doesn’t have to be a source of stress. It’s about making thoughtful decisions about where to invest your time and energy. Work smarter, not harder!

Set realistic goals and deadlines

Alright, let’s move on to our second strategy for using time management to stop stress in its tracks: setting realistic goals and deadlines. Now, I want to start by saying that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having high standards and big dreams. In fact, I encourage it! Having ambitious goals can be incredibly motivating. But there’s a balance to be struck. When every goal feels like an uphill battle, it can quickly become overwhelming and stressful.

That’s where the SMART goal framework comes in. If you’re not familiar with it, SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. It’s a great way to ensure your goals are clear and reachable. But today, I want to put a special emphasis on the “A” in SMART – which typically stands for Attainable.

But if you’ve ever come to Ready, Set. GOALS or done any kind of goal setting with me, then you know I like to think of “A” as being both attainable and adventurous. It’s important to have a mix of both types of goals.

Attainable goals are those you know you can achieve with the resources and time you have. They give you a sense of accomplishment and keep you moving forward. Adventurous goals, on the other hand, push you outside your comfort zone and inspire you to reach new heights. They’re exciting and can lead to significant growth.

However, if every goal is adventurous, you might find yourself feeling stressed and burnt out. To strike the right balance, you need to ensure your goals and deadlines are realistic. This is where “The Reality Test” comes into play. 

The Reality Test

Whenever you set a goal, ask yourself these three questions:

No. 1: Is this goal achievable within the given time frame?

Be honest with yourself about how much time you have and whether the goal fits within that time. It’s easy to underestimate how long something will take, so give yourself some buffer time if possible.

No. 2: Do I have the resources and support needed to accomplish this goal?

Consider whether you have everything you need to achieve your goal. This includes time, money, tools, and support from others. If you’re missing any key resources, think about how you can obtain them or adjust your goal accordingly.

No. 3: What potential obstacles might I face, and how can I plan for them?

Every goal comes with its own set of challenges. Identifying potential obstacles ahead of time allows you to plan for them and reduce their impact. This could mean setting aside extra time, finding a backup plan, or seeking help from others.

By ensuring your goals pass The Reality Test, you can prevent burnout and maintain your motivation. This balanced approach helps you stay focused on what’s important and reduces the stress that comes from feeling overwhelmed by unrealistic expectations.

Watch out for The Planning Fallacy

In addition to using The Reality Test, I want to remind you about something called the planning fallacy. The planning fallacy is a productivity pitfall I talk about in my book, Time Management Essentials, and it’s the tendency for us to underestimate how much time is needed to complete a task. It’s a common cognitive bias that can cause us to set unrealistic deadlines, leading to stress and frustration when we can’t meet them.

To beat the planning fallacy and set realistic deadlines, here are two suggestions:

1: Double Your Estimates.

When you estimate how long a task will take, double that time. If you think a project will take an hour, plan for two. This buffer can account for any unexpected interruptions or challenges and helps ensure you meet your deadlines without stress.

2: Think Small to Win Big 

Break larger tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. Estimate the time for each step rather than the entire project. This not only helps in creating a more accurate timeline but also makes the task feel less overwhelming.

By keeping the planning fallacy in mind and using these strategies, you can set more realistic deadlines that keep you on track and reduce stress. It’s all about finding that balance between pushing yourself and being realistic about what you can achieve in the time you have.

Setting realistic goals and deadlines is about finding that sweet spot between attainable and adventurous. Use the SMART goal framework to define your goals, and always put them through The Reality Test to ensure they’re manageable. And don’t forget to account for the planning fallacy by doubling your time estimates and breaking down tasks. This way, you’ll stay motivated and avoid the stress that comes from constantly feeling like you’re falling short.

Beat stress with a Winning Week

Alright, let’s dive into our third strategy for using time management to stop stress in its tracks: designing a Winning Week. 

This is all about planning your week in a way that helps you stay organized, focused, and stress-free. A Winning Week is essentially a template or tool that helps you plan your week. It’s about creating an ideal version of how you’d spend your time, ensuring you make space for your priorities without feeling overwhelmed.

The idea here is to give yourself a clear roadmap for the week ahead, so you can navigate your days with purpose and intention. Here’s how to create your Winning Week:

Step 1: Identify Your Key Priorities

Start by identifying the key priorities for your week. Think about your Boulders and Big Rocks. What are the most important tasks that need your attention? These could be both personal and professional. I like to make a list and write a Big B next to my Boulders and BR next to my Big Rocks. 

Step 2: Create Time Blocks for Each Priority

Once you’ve identified your key priorities, create specific time blocks for each of them. 

Time blocking is a powerful technique where you assign a fixed period for a particular task or activity. For example, you might set aside 9 AM to 11 AM on Monday for working on a critical project, or 6 PM to 7 PM for family time.

When you’re time blocking, start with your Boulders. Then add your Big Rocks, and then use the remaining space for your Pebbles. This ensures that you’re addressing what’s most important while also taking care of necessary but less critical tasks.

Step 3: Review and Adjust Throughout the Week

Your Winning Week is a flexible plan, not a rigid schedule. It’s important to review and adjust your plan as needed throughout the week. Check in with yourself daily or a few times a week to see how things are going. Are you sticking to your plan? Do you need to shift any time blocks to accommodate changes?

Being flexible and adaptable with your Winning Week allows you to stay organized without feeling trapped or boxed in. It’s all about finding a balance that works for you.

Benefits of a Winning Week

Creating a Winning Week helps you stay organized and ensures that you’re addressing what’s most important. It reduces the feeling of being overwhelmed because you have a clear plan in place. You know exactly what you need to focus on each day, and you have time allocated for it.

A Winning Week also helps you create space for self-care and personal priorities. By intentionally blocking out time for activities that help you be your best self, you’re more likely to follow through and less likely to feel guilty about taking time for yourself.

So, to recap, creating a Winning Week involves identifying your key priorities, allocating time blocks for each priority,  and reviewing and adjusting your plan throughout the week. This method provides structure, reduces stress, and ensures that important tasks are addressed.

Alright, now that we’ve covered prioritizing and delegating tasks, setting realistic goals and deadlines, and creating a Winning Week, I’ve got a bonus tip for you that ties it all together. It’s called a weekly planning session. This simple practice that takes 30 minutes or less can significantly decrease your stress and help you step into each week feeling calm, prepared, and ready for anything. 

Seriously, Imagine spending just 30 minutes at the end of each week planning for the next one. It’s a small time investment that can lead to huge stress relief. 

Here are a few ideas for what you can include in your weekly planning session:

Review the Past Week:

  • First, look back on what went well and what didn’t. Celebrate your wins and lessons learned. This step – looking back – helps you understand what works and what needs adjustment before you start to look forward and make plans. 

Set Priorities and Goals:

  • Next, identify your key priorities and goals for the upcoming week. Focus on your Boulders and Big Rocks. What are the most important tasks that need your attention?

Schedule Time Blocks:

  • Then, create specific time blocks for each priority. Use your Winning Week as your guide and adjust as necessary. Include buffer times to handle unexpected events. I always, always add drive time to my calendar – even if it’s a drive that I make all the time. This keeps me on track during my day whether i’m doing daycare drop off or heading to a physical therapy appointment for my wrist. 

Plan for Self-Care:

  • Finally, don’t forget to block out time for self-care and personal activities. This ensures you’re recharging and maintaining your well-being. In the HEART method, the R for recharge includes rest, recreation and relationships. How will you rest? What will you do for fun? What relationships will you nurture? 

So, to recap, our bonus tip is to incorporate a weekly planning session into your routine. Spend just 30 minutes reviewing the past week, setting priorities and goals, scheduling time blocks, planning for self-care, and adjusting as needed. This small investment of time can lead to a week that feels calm, organized, and productive.

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