How does time management affect my health?

If you don't manage your time wisely, it could take a toll on your health and energy.
If you don't manage your time wisely, it could take a toll on your health and energy.
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Imagine that you are juggling an impossible number of fragile plates at breakneck speed. The phone rings, then the baby starts crying. All of a sudden you smell something burning in the kitchen. The demands of modern life often force people to tackle multiple projects throughout the day, whether it's driving the kids all over town, holding meetings until late in the evening, finishing projects for work, or running errands.

What many people don't realize is that the way you manage -- or don't manage -- your time has an effect on your life. Your work performance, your self-esteem, your relationships and even your health may fall victim to the side effects of poor time management.

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Time management is a system or process you use to organize the tasks and projects in your life. Though the methods are different for each person, proper time management includes certain things, such as ways of planning for the short term and long term, in addition to rhythms for accomplishing regular tasks. Many people use planners or calendars to plan their goals and tasks in advance, while others use a mobile device or a computer program to keep them organized. Whatever your chosen system, tailor it to your needs, because effective time management skills can positively affect your overall quality of life.

Managing your time well can lead to feelings of effectiveness and accomplishment, but you have to be consistent. Developing a method for managing your time and adjusting it regularly to meet your changing needs allows you to accomplish more at work and at home. Scheduling time for play, relaxation and sleep may also contribute to improved health. Poorly managed time, on the other hand, can lead to feelings of frustration and stress [source: Mayo Clinic: Stress Symptoms].

To understand how stress can disrupt your time management system and your productivity, keep reading.

Time Management and Stress

How you manage your time can either cause or alleviate stress. Interestingly, stress can be interpreted as positive or negative, depending on its intensity and frequency. Productive or positive stress, known as eustress, is a controlled amount of stress that produces a steady state of alertness that can help you focus, but without all the negative side effects of distress [source: WebMD].

Too much negative stress can overwhelm you -- and in extreme cases, temporarily immobilize you -- making it feel impossible to accomplish your goals. Stress causes the body to secrete adrenaline and cortisol, the stress hormone responsible for the "fight or flight" response. Just the right amount of adrenaline might help you to become more productive. However, high levels of stress for prolonged periods may have dangerous physical effects including high blood pressure, anxiety and heart disease. Chronic stress causes the body to slow digestion, raise heart rates and increase insulin levels in the blood [sources: Mayo Clinic: Stress, Mayo Clinic: Stress symptoms].

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One way to improve your time management, perform optimally and feel less stress is to sleep more. Read on to discover why.

Time Management and Sleep

For many adults, sleep is often the first thing to be sacrificed during a busy or stressful time. While many students and professionals do this regularly, going without sleep so that you can accomplish more often backfires. You may complete all of your tasks, but your overall performance will likely be decreased.

Proper time management, however, may prevent this. Busy working parents and adults must strike a balance between family obligations, work obligations, play, downtime and sleep. It may be difficult, but getting enough rest each night should help you to be more productive and make the most of your time during the day.

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Making regular sleep a priority might even improve your ability to manage your time. Research indicates that sleep is necessary for learning. Periods of sleep allow the brain to consolidate newly learned information, not only making sense of the day's events, but also making room in the mind for more information to be gathered in the future. Sleep is necessary for the brain to perform optimally. Without adequate sleep, you are more prone to stress, making it more difficult to focus on important goals and tasks [source: University of Georgia Health Center].

Your ability to manage time can directly affect your health. Develop a plan to manage your time and stick to it. Your body and mind will feel better because of it.

To learn more about time management and how it relates to health, check out the links on the next page.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

Sources

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  • CNN. "Sleep deprivation as bad as alcohol impairment, study suggests." Sept. 20, 2000. (Accessed 1/14/10).http://archives.cnn.com/2000/HEALTH/09/20/sleep.deprivation/
  • College of Saint Benedict/St. John's University. "Stress and Time Management" (Accessed 1/14/10).http://www.csbsju.edu/healthadvocate/stressandtimemgmt.htm
  • Cuesta College. "Eustress: Positive or Curative Stress" (Accessed 1/14/10).http://academic.cuesta.edu/wholehealth/level2/lecpages/str04.htm
  • Healthtree. "The Health Effects of Stress and Increased Cortisol." (Accessed 1/14/10).http://www.healthtree.com/articles/stress-and-health/index.php
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  • Mayo Clinic. "Stress management: Understand your sources of stress." (Accessed 1/22/10)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stress-management/SR00031
  • Mayo Clinic. "Stress symptoms: Effects on your body, feelings and behavior." Feb. 20, 2009. (Accessed 1/22/10)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stress-symptoms/SR00008_D
  • Mayo Clinic. "Yoga: Improve your stress management and relaxation skills." (Accessed 1/14/10).http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/yoga/CM00004
  • MindTools. "Introducing Stress Management." (Accessed 1/14/10).http://www.mindtools.com/stress/UnderstandStress/StressManagement.htm
  • MindTools. "Stress and Your Performance." (Accessed 1/14/10).http://www.mindtools.com/stress/UnderstandStress/StressPerformance.htm
  • University of Georgia Health Center. "Managing Stress: Sleep."http://www.uhs.uga.edu/stress/sleep.html
  • WebMD. "How to Manage Stress." (Accessed 1/22/10)http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/all-stressed-out