How a Time Management Course Improved Every Aspect of My Life

I am an attorney in private practice, which means I work on the “billable hour.” Every moment of my work day, I track what I am doing, and for whom I am doing it. I sell my professional expertise and labor in increments of a tenth of an hour. 

I have practiced law like this for most of my career, so you would think I would be a time management expert…and you would be wrong. I used to be particularly bad with how I budgeted my time–I would take on projects I had no time to complete, commit my family to activities we had no time to prepare for or recover from. Most embarrassing of all, we had no shared family calendar. My husband and I were just flying by the seats of our pants when it came to our personal obligations. 

A couple of years ago, I started seeing those cool “family dashboards” pop up on influencer mom accounts on Instagram. You may have seen these, too–it’s basically a computer monitor, mounted to the wall, that displays the family’s calendars. To some, this calendar arrangement may look like the daily ballroom agenda at a hotel conference center. To me, the dashboard calendar was aspirational, and it reminded me of my deep need to have a more organized personal calendar.

Enter: Kelly Nolan. I found Kelly on Instagram. As her bio states, she is an “attorney-turned-time management strategist.” She created a time management solution called the Bright Method, and runs courses throughout the year to train people on how to harness their calendars and live better lives. 

I took Kelly’s course in the winter/spring of 2022. Although I have yet to install  the mounted monitor calendar of my dreams, her course helped me make an accessible calendar for myself and my family which I view from my humble phone and desktop computer. Here are my biggest takeaways:

  1. Time is the tightest budget in our lives. There are a lot of well-meaning memes floating around the internet with platitudes about how our time is precious, our lives are fleeting, etc., but I don’t think our society really embraces the finitude of our time, energy, and, ultimately, our lives. Time is the only thing we can’t make more of. The closest we can get to buying ourselves more time is by finding help to free us from our many daily tasks. Because I realized time is my tightest budget doing the Bright method course, I started outsourcing nearly everything I could afford to. Some of my lifesavers include: ordering meals instead of cooking (shoutout to Naomi’s Kitchen in North Liberty), biweekly housekeeping, dog walking and small task help around the house on especially full work days, and grocery delivery. 

I understand that not everyone can afford to hire things done. My own parents (who started a family very young, while still building careers) had to find ways to do everything themselves, with very little help. However, even on a budget, I urge you to think of what you could afford to outsource. We live in a university town and there are plenty of sweet college kids who would be happy to walk your dogs, help with an organizing project, help you pack for a move, or watch your kids. Trust me, I’ve employed several of them! It has always been worth the money for me to have that weekend afternoon or quiet post-bedtime hour to read, as a result of my outsourced help. 

2. The more I put on the calendar, the less I hold in my mind, and the less stressed I feel. One of the first tasks in the Bright Method is to build a normal daily calendar which includes everything you do in a day. There was a big gray space for sleep, a small window for taking daily medication or feeding pets: when I say everything, I mean that literally. Initially, I felt silly adding so many things to the calendar. Eventually, I realized how freeing it could be, especially if I added notes and details. Here are some examples:

  • On my daily commute entries, I add notes for special errands I need to remember to run on the way, like “Liz commute–drop off dog at groomer,” “Liz commute–get cottage cheese at Aldi.”
  • For several months, my daily commute entries also included reminders not to forget my breast pump and all the parts. Of course, there was also a reminder not to leave my milk at work at the end of the day!
  • For my book club, I add in who is hosting and what book we are reading, and a reminder for two weeks ahead of time so I know I will see it. 
  • For high stress/high emotion activities, like a recent family funeral, I added a note not to forget to bring my copy of the reading I was supposed to do, and my water bottle. 
  • For hosting events, I add RSVPs to the notes area of the calendar entry. This is also great for food allergies of your guests. 

3.  With clear calendars for everyone in the family, my marriage became more equitable. Part of the Bright Method involves creating calendars for everyone in the household, and designating who is the person doing parenting or household tasks by putting that entry in their calendar. Seeing those tasks on the calendar has helped my husband and I be more equitable in our division of tasks. As an example, last fall, I took my kids to their first COVID vaccine appointment. I realized that, at least for our youngest, we would need to go back to the pediatrician’s office three more times in the coming months, for the additional vaccines and a well-child visit. I asked my husband to take one of those additional appointments on, as well as the next well-child visit. That way, we had an even amount of workday interruption (and child screaming) between us for the four total appointments. 

Having shared calendars also made me realize that I do more fun stuff away from our household than my husband (I know, I am lucky). I pushed him to take more time for himself and, since we had a clear calendar of our normal week, I could even suggest times that would be light for me to handle the kids solo while he met up with friends or worked on a solo project. 

4. Budgeting time for an event is about more than just the event itself—it is also about the planning, preparatory tasks, cleanup and rest time afterwards. The Bright Method has a great lesson in one of the weeks about how to plan for an event. Start with the event: for example, a wedding. Most people would think ahead to blocking off the weekend of the wedding. However, anyone who has been a guest at a wedding before would know that there are many small tasks that come along with attending the event, and all of those tasks take time. So, what the Bright Method teaches is to budget time for all of those tasks, from the few minutes to RSVP and book a room in the hotel block, to the event itself.

During my time in the course, we were invited to a wedding. We had not seen this couple in some time; though we adore them, they had moved away and the wedding would be in another state. Here is what our time budget looked like to attend:

  • Time to RSVP and block off time for wedding festivities: 15 minutes
  • Ordering gift: 30 minutes
  • Figuring out what formalwear we had that might work, or ordering new: 2-3 hours
  • Arranging child and dog care: 2-3 hours
  • Hotel booking: 30 minutes
  • Packing our bags: 2 hours
  • Preparing the house for childcare provider: 2-3 hours
  • Spray tan/nail appointment: 3 hours (including time to book, appointment, travel to and from)
  • Round trip travel time: 9 hours
  • Wedding festivities: 6-8 hours
  • Recovery time the next day for nap, relaxing: 3-4 hours (The Bright Method is big on planning ahead for your anticipated energy levels, and parents-of-young-kids-after-wedding energy is about as low as it goes)
  • Returning rented formalwear, dry cleaning of stuff we owned: 1 hour
  • Tidying up house, unpacking when we got home: 2-3 hours

If you’re still with me, that’s over thirty hours of commitment to attend one wedding, and most of those tasks would have to happen on otherwise normal days, when the demands of normal life are fast and furious. When we looked at it all written out, we decided we couldn’t go. We knew we could not, at that moment, come up with the time to do all of those tasks. We sent a gift and our love and RSVP’d no. We were sad to miss out on our friends’ special day, but the stress/overwhelm/exhaustion/resentment of going when we knew we couldn’t pull it off in that moment of our lives would have been worse. 

If you are considering taking a time management course, do it! Time management is the work of our lives. The Bright Method course gave me so much clarity about how I want to use my fleeting and precious time on earth. In case it’s not evident from my examples above, taking the course also helped me fortify my boundaries. I actually KNOW what I have time for and what I don’t, and it feels great! My calendar is still a work in progress, but so am I. Having a more organized plan for my daily life has given me so much more grace for myself and others. 


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