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Taking control of your time is different for every individual. There is an important question to ask yourself, “What do I want?”

What defines success for you? A bigger paycheck? A bigger house? A more prestigious job?

Identifying those goals is the first step. Whether financial, career or personal, making positive changes in your life first involves taking stock of how you are doing things now.

Do I enjoy waking up to the same routine every day? If it’s working for you, great! But incorporating just one simple change each day can pay off with quick results. Turn off the cute YouTube videos and the toxic political diatribe on your phone and take the dog for a healthy walk. Or buckle down and gather the study materials you need for that additional professional certification you’ve just talked about for too long. 

Are the things that are important to me showing up in my daily life? You are the one in charge. If your job routine has become nothing but a chore, and you are watching the clock for quitting time or getting anxious for the weekend by Wednesday morning, it’s time to start strategizing some changes in your professional life. 

Am I taking care of my health? Have I put the priorities of my spouse, kids, and parents ahead of my own needs? Am I ignoring a warning sign of a health problem of my own, while I’d raise a red flag about the same condition to a patient or a family member? Take the advice of the flight attendant in those safety instructions: “Secure your own air mask before assisting others!”

Do I have the freedom to experience my favorite personal interest financially?  Whether you are interested in a road trip to visit your favorite National Parks, need to update your scuba diving certification, or would like to participate as a volunteer on a global medical mission, make a commitment to yourself. Grab a calendar. Start to make things happen. 

Do I really want everything I am spending money on? You’ve probably heard about Goodwill Centers around the country being flooded with donations after thousands of people adopted the “less stuff, more life experiences” strategy made popular by Japanese author Marie Kondo. Join your neighbors to clean up your local park. Help a refugee family resettle. Join a book club. 

Do I have enough saved for an emergency or an opportunity? A recent study found that 78% of U.S. workers are living paycheck to paycheck, with three out of four saying they are in debt. Start an emergency fund now, however modest, to take the sting out of an unexpected car repair or medical expense. Alternatively, it could be a welcome stash available for an investment, like an educational option that may open up new doors for you or a family member. 

Am I financially dependent on anyone today or in the future? Whether it comes from parents or a bank, debt can be a drain both financially and emotionally. If money problems are overwhelming you and interfering with your work and personal life, seek out a reputable financial planner. Plotting out everything from college tuition to nursing home costs can be made easier and dramatically cheaper by creating a long-term plan.

Am I investing in myself? There’s an adage, you have to spend money to make money. But always in the right circumstances. Taking care of yourself, whether it is an immediate health care concern, a long-overdue holiday, or a five-year plan for a job promotion, needs attention. Nurturing a dream takes time, and commitment. But what could be more important?

There are plenty of resources online to help you with some time management tips and skills. But remember, keep it simple. One new habit scribbled on a Post-It Note that is faithfully followed is worth more than a spiral notebook full of suggestions that are ignored!

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