Time Management: An Underrated Skill for Relaunching in Recovery

It's hard to find serenity, or even a moment to breathe, when you're always at max capacity. Learn how to organize your time, and you'll get more out of sobriety

April 13, 2023
Old wooden wall clocks

People often find as they move through recovery that they become more attuned to the little things, and often they’ll describe small pleasures they’d been numb to: a particularly crispy croissant, a smart joke that takes a second to get, some cute tic or affectation of a spouse or kid.

But it’s also easy to feel extra-sensitive to minor worries, aggravations, stressors, demands and responsibilities, on the job, at home and in your recovery work. Bigger challenges, especially in early sobriety, can feel downright overwhelming.

We’ve written about handling stress and about the security a routine can bring, but it’s also immensely helpful to learn how to organize your time. It’s how major obligations become manageable ones, and how a hair-on-fire crisis can be safely downgraded to an ordinary to-do list task.

Time management can improve your stress management skills overall. That’s a big deal in recovery: People who feel stressed, anxious, out of their depth and panicked might use substances to cope. You’re not using substances anymore, and you don’t want to start. Let’s try time management, then.

Believe it or not, there are many ways to overcome life’s tasks and challenges with ease and self-assuredness — or at least, some measure of these. It is possible to find the right options and balance for you.

Learning to manage your time more effectively can help you determine the best way to go about your day. Using your time more efficiently will make it easier to manage some of the excess stress that may occur. And managing stress will ease your road to recovery.

Establishing a realistic and productive schedule unique to you can help you feel more empowered and present as you set the tone for each day from a place of confidence and intention.

So, How Does Time Management Work?

Time management means effectively managing your time and responsibilities. Simple, as a concept! According to the Journal of the American College of Radiology, “realistic time management and organization plans can improve productivity and the quality of life.” For people in recovery, for CEOS, for radiologists, for everyone. “However, these skills can be difficult to develop and maintain.” For everyone.

Using timers, planners, lists and apps, along with setting goals, can be helpful in developing healthy time management skills. But time management is actually most effective when it supports your natural daily routine.

The idea, again, is to switch your patterns up so that you don’t constantly feel forced to meet endless deadlines and achieve unrealistic goals. The deadlines and goals may not change, but time management is supposed to make them feel more achievable.

Finding the right approach for your own time management can help you with stress, yes, but it can improve virtually all areas of your life in recovery.

What Are the Benefits of Solid Time Management?

Glad you asked. There are many benefits that come with effective time management!

Some of the mental health benefits that come with learning how to manage your time better include:

  • Decreasing stress
  • Improving productivity
  • Learning how to work smarter and not harder
  • Having more time to do what you enjoy
  • Giving yourself a fair chance to thrive in all aspects of life

Effective time management skills make it easier to complete tasks while decreasing the amount of stress that may come with challenges and responsibilities.

How Can I Get Some of These Time Management Skills?

There are many techniques that can help you improve on this front, and there are also a few things to keep in mind to help you make the most of your time each day.

Consider a few key factors to support your time management skills:

  • Know your work ethic and plan accordingly
  • Plan out your day effectively
  • Create a priority list and stick to it
  • Organize your space
  • Break overwhelming projects and tasks into smaller steps
  • Make time for reflection, rest, movement and anything else that nourishes you
  • Leave room to accommodate potential interruptions

In order for time management to inspire and maintain positive change in your life, it is important for your time management strategies to align with you. Rather than forcing yourself to do things according to someone else’s standards, it’s best to tailor your time management skills to your unique needs and responsibilities.

Aside from intentionally designating time for the tasks and responsibilities you have each day, it is also vital to incorporate time to honor yourself — whatever fulfillment looks like to you. If you do, you are more likely to experience a better quality of life, putting your best foot forward each day. If you don’t, you risk running on empty. That’s always demoralizing, but it can nudge some in recovery toward relapse (or “recurrence” of use, as some addiction professionals prefer to call it).

Also note that despite your greatest time management efforts, there are always distractions, interruptions and curveballs in life. Factoring in and preparing for potential setbacks to your schedule will make it easier to manage the stress that can come with unexpected changes.

How Else Can Better Time Management Level Up My Recovery?

Time management is a form of self-empowerment, if you think about it; it puts you in the driver’s seat. Learning how to prioritize yourself and your responsibilities in an intentional and efficient way makes it easier for you to focus on thriving. Practicing effective time management techniques is an integral part of a well-rounded recovery plan.

Having an effective routine allows you to use your time more wisely so that you make the most of each day. Recovery itself takes time and commitment, not just in the grand scheme, but every day: You may have counselingmeetings, aftercare, repair work to do on your life, and social stuff. This is all meant to be helpful, some of it even fun — but it still takes up time. By planning each day accordingly and for your highest benefit, you make it clear that you are actively choosing your healing each day.

Showing up for yourself, doing what needs to be done and honoring your needs all provide you with a sense of balance and stability. Time management makes it easier to handle stress, triggers and anything else thrown your way without breaking your stride.

More Relaunch

Depressed man sitting at wooden table

Subs & Drugs & Rock & Roll, Part 3: 'I'm a Loser (And I'm Not What I Appear To Be)'

Don Fertman reaches bottom as the jelly donut hits the wall. The latest installment of the longtime Subway exec's memoir.

Don Fertman

Subs & Drugs & Rock & Roll, Part 2: A Day in the Life

Don Fertman woke up one morning 40 years ago and poured himself a drink, as usual. But the future Subway exec didn't know this day would be far from ordinary.

Don Fertman

Subs & Drugs & Rock & Roll, Part 1: With a Little Help From My Friends

Don Fertman, longtime Subway exec, writes about a pivotal moment in his 40 years of sobriety: what happened after he went public about his recovery on "Undercover Boss."

Laptop near a Christmas tree

Here's How To Make the Office Holiday Party Recovery-Friendly

Four ways to make your holiday party more inviting to employees who are in recovery, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

Man and woman at break room table with coffee

How Can I Be a Sober Ally in the Workplace?

You're not in addiction recovery, but you want to show up for people who are. Great! Here's what that looks like at the office.

Woman and man with coffee standing by the water cooler at work

Is Alcohol Big in Your Work Culture? Here's How To Sidestep — Or Talk About It

The "Mad Men" era may be over, but some workplaces can still be particularly challenging in recovery. Some pointers on putting your sobriety first.

Two women talking in a garden

Your Guide To Hanging Out and Making Friends in College — Sober

Doing college sans drugs and alcohol doesn't have to be a struggle. Some tips on making bonds that'll last and having a blast.

Men and women in a recovery-friendly workplace

The Benefits of a Recovery-Friendly Workplace

Also called a "recovery-ready workplace," it's a winning proposition for high-quality employers and employees alike.

New Report