5 Time Management Tips For Living In NYC

A woman shelters under an umbrella durin

New Yorkers are inherently busier than people in other parts of the country.  Okay maybe there’s no proven studies to show this, per say, but I think most locals would agree, yes?;-)  At least that it feels like we’re constantly on the go–most of us don’t have cars to jump in to run to a meeting (and even if we did the traffic would be just plain terrible), so I feel like we have to give ourselves a minimum of 30 minutes to get basically anywhere in the city–even if it’s just 2 subway stops–because you never know when those underground medical emergencies or train traffic ahead of us announcements may pop up.

In order to maximize the 24 hours a day we have at any given time, I’ve developed a few strategies over the years, which are shared below.

Write my To-Do List the night before.

I’m an early riser, and like to finish my biggest tasks early in the day.  Instead of spending the first 30 minutes of the morning figuring out what those biggest tasks are, I make sure to jot down all my to-do’s in my agenda book the night before.  That way I can knock out my Skype language lesson at 6:30, write a freelance article at 8:30, and be out the door with Augusten on the way to story time by 11.

Just say no to multi-tasking.

This was a hard lesson for me.  I come from a strong background of multi-taskers (hi Mom! hi Stepmom! hi Mother-In-Law!), but in NYC especially, found that this simply led to me having 8 unfinished projects going at any one time.  Now I focus on the task at hand–whether that’s responding to email, starting (and finishing) a blog post, feeding the little guy, or putting away laundry.  I’m much happier having 3 completed tasks done well than 8 uncompleted tasks looming over my head.

Use a timer for annoying tasks.

We all have those tasks we need to to, but dread doing.  For me, it’s putting away clothes left out (ya know, the ones that are still clean but have been thrown over the desk chair and need to now be refolded or hung back up?) and doing tasks that require me to be on the phone.  Maybe your annoying task is dishes, or cleaning the bathroom, or clearing out your Inbox, or ironing.  It’s easy to postpone these things to the very last minute, but then the dread builds up, so I find it’s better to knock them out ASAP.  I set my little cube timer (gah, this is the best thing ever!) for 15 minutes, and then bang out the annoying task (usually while listening to music.)  These things always take a lot less time than you think they will, promise.

Be a stickler for routine.

I’ve always been one for ritual and routine, but have found this even more important with the little guy, who also thrives having a consistent schedule.  I map out our week so that I know exactly what day essential activities such as food shopping is done on, what day the bulk of the week’s cooking will happen on, and when laundry and cleaning will occur–but also our days on a more macro level–i.e. since it’s pretty consistent that Augusten naps from 9 to 10:30, I can plan accordingly and use that time for computer related tasks.

Always have my bag packed and ready to go.

These days this refers more to diaper bag than work bag, but regardless, I’ve found one of the things that slows me down the most when getting out of the door is running around trying to figure out which back pocket I left my credit card in, where my red lipstick is, which purse my Metrocard was last in…ahh!  It can easily drive one mad!  I’ve gotten in the habit of packing the bag/purse the night before with everything that has scattered throughout the day and hanging it near the door.  Seriously, SUCH a time saver!

Would love to know…any tips or tricks you swear by for time management?  Let’s chat below!


  • Maria Falvey says:

    Great tips Jess, not difficult to remember but easy to forget. I have many of the same habits you do (ready the night b4…even down to clothing). I’d rather spend a little extra time walking downtown, coffee in hand b4 walking into the negative chaos at work so being ready to go on time is essential.

    • Used York City says:

      Thanks Maria! And agree, having a bit of leisure time in the morning is a great way to set the tone for the day!

  • Sarah says:

    This post comes at great time for us back-to-schoolers. I like the timer idea. What do you do if it goes off and you’re not done though — leave it til another time or reset the timer?

    • Used York City says:

      Ahh great question! If it’s a task with a quick and clear end point (like washing dishes) I will just finish it. But if it’s something that can easily go on (organizing drawers/closets, for example) I will stop, congratulate myself, and save the rest for another timer on another day;-)

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