There’s something to be said about the feeling you get when crossing something off your to-do list. You’re accomplishing one task you’ve set out to complete, which you should feel proud about. But sometimes, there’s simply too much to do, and staying on top of your list feels overwhelming. What do you prioritize? How can you eat, sleep, work out, and run every necessary errand in 24 hours?

First, take a deep breath. Remember that time management is a marathon, not a sprint. With enough practice and incorporation of these tips, you’ll create an equally productive and manageable environment. From there, you’ll be able to accomplish whatever comes your way.

1. Create a Detailed Calendar

When you’re balancing a social life, a career, and personal obligations, it’s no wonder your calendar fills up quickly. Factor in your kid’s activities and personal care, like working out, and the hours in your day are already allocated. Luckily, there are calendar tools you can put to work for you. They can help you stay on top of things and better manage your time.

Get started by finding the right calendar platform for your lifestyle. Specific formats or options to create group calendars may make you prefer one. So, try the most popular ones — like Calendar, Microsoft Calendar, and Google Calendar — and see what fits. Test the features and time-saving integrations, and start making your time management calendar.

Remember, your calendar is only as good as it is updated, though. Carving out dedicated time to revise your calendar is one of the best approaches to ensure accuracy. From there, you can color code and prioritize until it’s working. Sync it with your loved ones so everyone’s on the same page for a more balanced schedule. Before you know it, you’ll feel like life is a bit more organized and manageable.

2. Know Your Priorities

It’s hard to know what to focus on when your to-do list is a mile long. So, it’s critical to identify what your top priorities are to help guide the time you dedicate to each task. That all starts with thinking through what is most important to you and your daily life.

Whatever you deem the most critical priorities should be written out so you can easily reference them. That way, if you’re struggling to manage your time, you already have a guide in place. Work is likely a priority since it allows you to earn money that funds your life. Staying active and cooking may top your list since they directly impact your health. Strengthening your relationships with friends and family is important because it motivates you.

Remember that your priorities don’t have to be the same every day. They probably will vary depending on factors like how you feel and the time of year. Give yourself the leniency to make last-minute decisions to switch things up if specific priorities change. After that, you can confidently know that your day is aligned with the things you know to be most important.

3. Use Time Blocking

Some days, you’re bound and determined to get everything done. Before you know it, though, the day has gotten away from you. It felt like no time, but your list is full of unchecked tasks. Sound familiar? Time blocking can help make that feeling one of the past.

The strategy of time blocking is dedicating certain time slots to specific tasks. For example, you can block 30 minutes in the morning to start your day. That might include brushing your teeth, doing skin care, and making and eating breakfast. Then, you may block an hour for a workout and another 30 minutes for a shower.

Follow this same pattern for the remainder of your day, remembering to include relaxation time, too. That way, you can focus on the predetermined tasks at hand and complete them before moving on to the next block. If you don’t finish something, you can readjust to fit it in elsewhere. Or even move a less important block to another day to accommodate.

[Related: Take Control of Your Time: The POSEC Method to Enhanced Productivity]

4. Set Reminder Alarms

When your days are packed, and your brain is running a mile a minute, it’s only natural to forget things. Even though you wrote it down and said it out loud, booking or paying that appointment went undone. Fight against the inevitable frustration of forgetfulness by setting alarms.

Say you need to book an appointment for your annual physical by a specific date. While writing down your task in a calendar or to-do list is helpful, an alarm will naturally draw your attention. Simply use your phone and choose a time that works for you — like 9:00 a.m. Then, write a brief description of what the alarm is for. That way, when the time comes and your phone rings, you know exactly what task you need to complete.

Follow this approach for paying bills, canceling subscriptions, and any other time-specific task. You’ll give yourself a better chance of getting it done and have the increased memorability of typing it out on your phone. Plus, you’ll have built-in time dedicated to completing those necessary tasks. That can guide your schedule and help everything run smoothly. After a while, those forgotten tasks will be a thing of the past.

5. Cater to Your Motivation Levels

Some days, you’re a well-oiled machine. You knock out your entire to-do list and then some effortlessly, ending the day feeling accomplished. Others make completing even one thing feel like an uphill battle. Both are valid (and normal) experiences as you navigate a busy life.

On your best days, soak up the feeling of ease you experience. Tack on a few more to-do’s if you can to get ahead. Add an organization project or a few more pages of reading to your schedule. Make the most of being “on” and appreciate the wins.

More importantly, give yourself grace on the days that prove more difficult. Take breaks from productivity to rest your mind and relax. Move your priorities around to ensure your mental and physical well-being are factored into how you tackle the day. Striking the balance of capitalizing on the highly productive days and being flexible on the harder ones is hard. However, learning to accept and even embrace the ebbs and flows of productivity can ensure your newfound habits last.

Take it One Day at a Time

Time management is a skill that’s hard to master. You can get into a groove and feel like your life is in order and then something changes. You move, switch jobs, or have new responsibilities fall on your plate. That’s life. But learning how to navigate these changes and create good habits is what it’s all about.

Once you do that, you’ll feel empowered by your ability to adapt. Will you remove late nights or feelings of stress from the unchecked to-do list tasks entirely? Probably not. But you will be better prepared to take on whatever life throws at you. And that is something you can certainly be proud of.

[Related: The Pickle Jar Trick: How to Fit Everything Important in Your Day]

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Artem Balashevsk; Pexels