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How to Manage Time for a Truly Balanced Life

How to Manage Time for a Truly Balanced Life

Health and meaningful relationships add years and quality to our lives. Few people contest this fact.  Does it then follow that more people are focusing on these areas of their lives?  Do you regularly exercise and go for holidays or fun meals with your spouse/partner and family?  If the answer is no, why not?  Expense could be an issue.  If your reason is  “I can’t find the time,”  you’re not alone.  You keep track of your expenses and know how much your bank balance is, but do you also know exactly where your time goes?  Here are simple tools to manage time and become conscious of how you spend it.

1. Pause and review your past week.

You attend to many things at work and after work.  How do you decide on which tasks to prioritize?  Usually, you first do those that need to be finished sooner or whose deadlines are looming.  This generally works, but over the long term it could turn into crisis management rather than a way to manage time.  Cheryl Richardson in her book Take Time for Your Life challenges us to check where our time goes. Determined to get an accurate indicator for the exercise, I came up with these forms that assign colors per Life Area to make it visually easier to track time.

First, look over a typical week.  On the Time Tracking Daily Form, block the hours spent per day according to color of the Life Area they fall under.

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    Next, total those hours by Life Areas on the Time Tracking Weekly Totals Form. An optional step is to convert those weekly totals to a pie chart for a more dramatic visual.

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      So just where does your time go?  Aside from sleeping and eating, which area of your life do you spend the most time on? Which life area gets the smallest portion?  I had expected work to eat up a big chunk of my time, but was surprised at how little I spent on Spiritual well-being and on Fun and Adventure.

      2. Make a plan to manage time; decide which life areas need attention.

      These forms are not absolute and have room for improvement.  Exercise, for example, is grouped with sleeping under Physical and Emotional Health. Although this area gets the largest share of your time, it does not necessarily mean you are spending that time on exercise.  Watching TV falls under Fun and Adventure, but it’s a poor substitute for traveling or participating in a hobby. Reading falls under Physical and Emotional Health when it could actually be considered a hobby.  You can tweak the activities that go under each life area or even change the colors altogether.  What’s important is you’re aware of the other areas of your life you may be neglecting and can then decide to manage time so these get more attention.

      The Simple Abundance Companion author, Sarah Ban Breathnach remembers the shock she had felt while looking at her calendar and realizing, in her own words, that “there was no space in the day, week, or month for me to take care of my needs.” She talks about how our inability to say no to family, friends, colleagues, and volunteer work can quickly fill up our calendars, leaving no time for ourselves. Taking action, she set aside two hours a week on her calendar just for her.  She didn’t label it, but blocked the time with a bright yellow marker. This visual prompt made it easy for her to say no to any activity that was in conflict with her “just my own” time.  Her color-blocking tip inspired me to use colors on my weekly and daily schedules.

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      3. Prepare your weekly to-do list and daily schedule to prioritize those life areas you want to focus on.

      Planning what you want to accomplish on a weekly basis works well.  List the tasks by Life Area on the Weekly To-Do List.

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        These tasks can then be carried over to your Daily Schedule.  At the end of each day and week, review what you have accomplished.  The colors will clearly show which life areas you spent most of your day and the week on. You can then decide to focus on the other areas in the coming days and weeks.

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          Often, there will be demands on your time beyond your control. These effective, colorful tools will equip you with some leeway for deciding how you spend your time.  Consider it like a bank or expense account that shows you where your money goes.  Unlike money, time is a finite resource.  Once spent, it can never be recovered. When you consciously manage time, you can balance not just your finances, but more importantly, your life.

          Featured photo credit: Hour Glass, flickr, Nicole Gaunt via flickr.com

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          12 Best Brain Foods that Improve Memory

          12 Best Brain Foods that Improve Memory

          Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function and staying sharp into the golden years. Personally, my husband is going through medical school, which is like a daily mental marathon. Like any good wife, I am always looking for things that will boost his memory fortitude so he does his best in school.

          But you don’t have to be a med student to appreciate better brainiac brilliance. If you combine certain foods with good hydration, proper sleep and exercise, you may just rival Einstein and have a great memory in no time.

          I’m going to reveal the list of foods coming out of the kitchen that can improve your memory and make you smarter.

          Here are 12 best brain foods that improve memory:

          1. Nuts

          The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study linking higher intakes of vitamin E with the prevention on cognitive decline.[1]

          Nuts like walnuts and almonds (along with other great foods like avocados) are a great source of vitamin E.

          Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that reduces stress by boosting serotonin levels.

          Walnuts even resemble the brain, just in case you forget the correlation, and are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which also improve your mental magnitude.

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          2. Blueberries

          Shown in studies at Tuffs University to benefit both short-term memory and coordination, blueberries pack quite a punch in a tiny blue package.[2]

          When compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries were found to have the highest amount of antioxidants (especially flavonoids), but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are also full of brain benefits.

          3. Tomatoes

          Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to help protect against free-radical damage most notably seen in dementia patients.

          4. Broccoli

          While all green veggies are important and rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood even among these healthy choices.

          Since your brain uses so much fuel (it’s only 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy), it is more vulnerable to free-radical damage and antioxidants help eliminate this threat.

          Broccoli is packed full of antioxidants, is well-known as a powerful cancer fighter and is also full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function.

          5. Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

          Your brain is the fattest organ (not counting the skin) in the human body, and is composed of 60% fat. That means that your brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA to repair and build up synapses associated with memory.

          The body does not naturally produce essential fatty acids so we must get them in our diet.

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          Eggs, flax, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring are great natural sources of these powerful fatty acids. Eggs also contain choline, which is a necessary building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, to help you recall information and concentrate.

          6. Soy

          Soy, along with many other whole foods mentioned here, are full of proteins that trigger neurotransmitters associated with memory.

          Soy protein isolate is a concentrated form of the protein that can be found in powder, liquid, or supplement form.

          Soy is valuable for improving memory and mental flexibility, so pour soy milk over your cereal and enjoy the benefits.

          7. Dark chocolate

          When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Try to aim for at least 70% cocoa. This yummy desert is rich in flavanol antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain and shield brain cells from aging.

          Take a look at this article if you want to know more benefits of dark chocolate:

          15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

          8. Foods Rich in Vitamins: B vitamins, Folic Acid, Iron

          Some great foods to obtain brain-boosting B vitamins, folic acid and iron are kale, chard, spinach and other dark leafy greens.

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          B6, B12 and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases are found in patients with cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s, and high risk of stroke.

          Studies showed when a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid, there was significant reduction in brain shrinkage compared to a similar placebo group.[3]

          Other sources of B vitamins are liver, eggs, soybeans, lentils and green beans. Iron also helps accelerate brain function by carrying oxygen. If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can slow down and people can experience difficulty concentrating, diminished intellect, and a shorter attention span.

          To get more iron in your diet, eat lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps in iron absorption, so don’t forget the fruits!

          9. Foods Rich in Zinc

          Zinc has constantly demonstrated its importance as a powerful nutrient in memory building and thinking. This mineral regulates communications between neurons and the hippocampus.

          Zinc is deposited within nerve cells, with the highest concentrations found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for higher learning function and memory.

          Some great sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, liver, nuts, and peas.

          10. Gingko biloba

          This herb has been utilized for centuries in eastern culture and is best known for its memory boosting brawn.

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          It can increase blood flow in the brain by dilating vessels, increasing oxygen supply and removing free radicals.

          However, don’t expect results overnight: this may take a few weeks to build up in your system before you see improvements.

          11. Green and black tea

          Studies have shown that both green and black tea prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—a key chemical involved in memory and lacking in Alzheimer’s patients.

          Both teas appear to have the same affect on Alzheimer’s disease as many drugs utilized to combat the illness, but green tea wins out as its affects last a full week versus black tea which only lasts the day.

          Find out more about green tea here:

          11 Health Benefits of Green Tea (+ How to Drink It for Maximum Benefits)

          12. Sage and Rosemary

          Both of these powerful herbs have been shown to increase memory and mental clarity, and alleviate mental fatigue in studies.

          Try to enjoy these savory herbs in your favorite dishes.

          When it comes to mental magnitude, eating smart can really make you smarter. Try to implement more of these readily available nutrients and see just how brainy you can be!

          Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

          Reference

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