The Chinese Menu Time Management Technique

Chinese Menu Time Management fortune cookieAre you familiar with the Happy Family Chinese-American restaurant meal? Choose one item from menu Column A, one from Column B… and with six you get egg roll…?

Well, that’s how I manage my time. Allow me to explain…

Schedule some fun in your day, lest you get too busy and forget. It won't happen by itself. Click To Tweet

The first thing I do in a Time Management consultation is to help my client clarify their priorities. These usually fall into 3-6 broad categories. Mine are Home, Work, Self, and Others. Yours can be whatever makes sense to you. My job is to remind you of things that you swore were important to you, but aren’t reflected on your Ideal Schedule or on your Master To-Do List. Conversely, I will also make you aware of activities you are spending lots of time on that, as it turns out, now that you are thinking about it, aren’t all that important to you.

The Chinese Menu

Your Chinese Menu choices result from 1) selecting your priority categories, 2) describing what the categories mean or look like to you, 3) establishing goals and specifying activities that support those goals. Such as:

  • Home: Maintain an attractive, comfortable home for myself and my guests. (includes house work, yard work, paying bills, repairs, decluttering, organizing, errands, chores, etc.)
  • Work: Do some good in the world, make money, and have fun doing it. (includes client care, admin, marketing, creating new Clutter Flow Charts, blogging, networking, etc.)
  • Self: Maintain a healthy mind, body, and spirit. (includes medical appointments, exercise, hobbies, recreation, learning, etc.)
  • Others: Stay in touch and do what I say I’m going to do. (includes family, friends, colleagues, volunteering, etc.)

So, on any given day, in addition to scheduled activities (which I take care not to cram in too tightly), I like to choose at least one thing from each category, for a sense of balance, and to make a bit of progress in each area of my life. It could be a one-time task, a recurring chore, or something that moves me one step closer to completing a larger project.

Sample Daily To-Do List:

  • Home: Shop for groceries
  • Work: Write blog post
  • Self: Go for bike ride
  • Others: Send birthday card

If I have more time between client appointments, and other scheduled activities, I pick more tasks from my Master To-Do List. But I start with the things that I would MOST like to accomplish that day.

Do you think this method would result in a Happy Family? Or, at least, a happy you?

What are your priorities? Are you spending time on each of them each day, or at least each week?

What activities can you let go of (or decrease) in order to make room for your priorities? Please share with us in the comments below!

P.S. Don’t forget your egg roll and fortune cookies (rewards). As my fortune reminded me, “Plan to have some fun!” To me this means: Schedule some fun in your day, lest you get too busy and forget. It’s important, and it won’t happen by itself.

Copyright 2013 by Hazel Thornton, Organized For Life. Republished 2016.
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  1. Janet Barclay on September 25, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    I love this! I generally have no trouble fitting Work in every day (or at least 5-6 days per week) and Self (walking my dog – I consider this a pleasure, and it’s good for my health) but I probably don’t do something for my Home or Others every day… something to shoot for!

    • Hazel Thornton on September 25, 2013 at 8:32 pm

      Thanks Janet! (Don’t you wish we could just “like” comments sometimes?) 😉

      • Janet Barclay on September 26, 2013 at 4:59 am

        Yes, sometimes I do! But other times I think the “like” button is overused.

  2. Autumn Leopold on September 12, 2015 at 8:49 am

    Great post Hazel and what a great way to manage time! I’m gonna have to try this! Time management for myself is my weakness. I also think this would be a great way to start teaching my seven year old son about time management. Thanks!

  3. Seana Turner on September 12, 2015 at 8:56 am

    I tend to put my priorities in “buckets”- or I guess Chinese menu items – as well. I actually get a little energy burst when I switch buckets, which is one way I keep motivated throughout the day. Balance is what sustains over the long haul, so excellent post!

  4. Miriam Ortiz y Pino on September 12, 2015 at 9:08 am

    Nice one Hazel, Happy Family indeed! Pick and choose for balance is a wonderful way to look at the process.

  5. Sarah Soboleski on September 12, 2015 at 7:10 pm

    What a timely post with the back to school season in full swing and most folks getting back into work routines. We can all use a reminder to make sure we are focused on our priorities and having fun. With the transition of my son starting preschool for the first time I’ve really been putting myself last! Time to revisit that section of my ‘menu!’

  6. Sharon Lowenheim on June 1, 2016 at 10:59 am

    I love this approach!

    • Hazel Thornton on June 13, 2016 at 7:53 am

      I’m glad you like it, Sharon! 🙂

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