How to Call a “Timeout” During Your Day


time-out-logoHave you ever been in the middle of such a chaotic day that you wanted to call a “timeout”?

Sometimes, life gets so complicated; we have plates spinning, irons in the fire, and our day is a runaway train we are trying desperately to catch up with. Many times I will find myself in the middle of a hectic, busy, crazy day and I feel like I have no time to even consider organization, goals, or routines. It’s especially on these days that we must take a moment to regain control.

Your mental health and productivity is at stake here. We are completely ineffective if we are running around, putting out fires, and getting majorly stressed. Taking a little time to call “timeout” and gain control can make all the difference in the world.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Get out of dodge. This will take an hour, and yes…you must make the time.  Find a place of solitude immediately.  If you must, go ahead and schedule the break on your calendar. If you are convinced you cannot find the time, get up earlier or leave work a bit early. Are you sure you can’t afford to make the time?  You sure as heck cannot afford to burn out…
  2. Write it down. If you have a systematic to-do list already, good for you.  If not, now is the time to make one.  Gather all your papers into one inbox (including post-it notes, phone messages, etc.) and process them, listing the tasks you need to do on your list or lists a la GTD.  Writing everything down is a huge first step.
  3. Map out your week.  You need some sort of regular schedule in order to get things under control. Schedule your regular tasks in blocks of time: email, calls, meetings, processing your inbox, planning time, writing, etc. Make some time first thing in the morning to map all of this out, hour by hour, on paper. This little bit of time you take to plan can make all the difference!
  4. One thing at a time. Are you a multi-tasker?  I know that I am.  Juggling a million things at a time will slowly make you crazy. Most likely you are not even being productive, so focus on one thing at a time.
  5. Limit email, voicemail, and texting. This is a huge step in order to claim your life back. Let others know when they can call you, or how often they can expect to receive responses to your emails. Check your email at a set time(s); no more than 4 times a day.  Let calls go to voicemail. You will lose your entire day if you are married to email. Be clear and upfront with others about your availability and the times when you cannot be disturbed. People will respect your time…trust me.
  6. Take time to reflect. Set aside a time at the end of the day to review what you’ve done, check off your to-do lists, update the lists with new items, put stuff back where it belongs, clear off your desk, and plan for tomorrow.
  7. Create routines. Routines are the best way to feel in control of your life. A morning routine and an evening routine are important to have at home.  Creating the habit will leave you feeling a lot less stressed.

Some carnivals I was featured in this past week:

Carn. of Financial Camaraderie at Thirty Six Months
Carnival of Financial Planning at The Savvy Scot
Yakezie Carnival at Financially Digital
Carnival of MoneyPros at Nickel by Nickel


  1. I absolutely know the feeling! I usually have so many irons in the fire that at times, everything comes to an abrupt halt (mentally) and I have to take a time out. Go out to the workshop and do something on my latest project (yeah, my projects are endless). You have some good advice here! Thanks!
    Jose recently posted…The Wise Dollar Three Month BirthdayMy Profile

  2. Hello Tony! There is a couple – mid 50s – who come into the coffee shop only on Saturdays. They have some sort of planners and are extremely busy and engaged the whole time they’re there. Today the husband came in and said hello. When CJ mentioned that they are so busy with their notes and binders, he said, “Ah! We have three children, so we take two hours every Saturday to come over here and bang things out, talk, get things set (pointed to his paper calendar). It’s the best thing that ever happened to our marriage.” Then he looked at his wife and added, “Oh, besides the three kids.” She is in great shape and has muscular arms that I envy! They are getting it done and it is all because, just like you mention, they are writing it down, mapping it out, doing on thing at a time, taking time to reflect, and creating routines.
    Tammy R recently posted…Look Good, Feel Good, and Spend LittleMy Profile

    • Tammy R – I like this idea – I’ve been thinking of drawing up a rough plan of the week and noting as I go along all the unexpected ‘speed bumps’ I encounter plus all the things that crop up every week and every week I say to myself “I really must be better organised for this next week” but never do. I’m sure my life could flow a bit smoother if I tracked and planned my time better. Anything is worth a go, right?

      I have two friends who do something similar – one is a solo mum to two busy daughters and she figures out in advance what food she needs to prepare for the week ahead from a week planner ie party invitations, sporting events, meals where she has to leave them with her babysitter, guests etc, so she can get everything on one trip to the supermarket and so she doesn’t end up buying packaged food or takeaways too often.

      I have another friend who meets with her ex-husband every Sunday morning for morning tea and they sort out the weeks situation for school, extra-curricular activities, appointments, money, visitation, custody share, extended family requirements, stuff for their children. Very civilised. And once they plan out the week, they can plan their own lives around (both have new partners).
      When I suggested my thinking about mapping my week and trying to set up better routines to another friend, she felt that was over the top, but I like your story of the couple in the coffee shop as my hubby often doesn’t have a clue of all the comings and goings and it would be nice.

      • Wow, Moni! I love the story of your friend meeting her ex-husband in order to ensure their children are getting all they need. Now that is inspiring!

        My husband CJ and I have thrived on routines/habits – in exercise, face-to-face time, and making sure we have lots of fun every day. While they might work for other couples, we don’t “believe in” date nights and have restructured our lives to spend as much time together as possible.

        I let too many years of my life slip away by not planning my time, so I can tell you that I think it’s a great idea to get your hubby on board. I can tell you it has made our marriage so much better. We can’t believe we didn’t commit to that in our first 10 years. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
        Tammy R recently posted…Look Good, Feel Good, and Spend LittleMy Profile

    • I love when I meet older folk who are in great shape. It is very inspiring to me! Thanks, Tammy, and have a great weekend!

  3. Wildly grand post, Tony. How nice to have this perfect reminder to stop and take stock. Our routines seem to have pulled all the other tips together. Our routine used to be work, TV, eat, sleep (or at least try). That sucked real bad.

    Now the routines allow for all the things we need to make life worth living. And time-outs are all part of it.

    Sometimes, because good routines are in place, we can see a bad day forming out in the gulf and we can put the kibosh on it before it forms.
    cj recently posted…Look Good, Feel Good, and Spend LittleMy Profile

  4. I have really enjoyed this post, I love routines but I also like to be spontaneous too and have realised recently that I don’t schedule enough free time for myself and also I need to declare a “stop and relax” time each day.

    I agree that we can let computer time impede a lot. Good idea to restrict it to 4 times a day.

    • Thanks, Moni. The computer can be a big hassle, for sure. But I have learned that carving out 1 hour a week (at least) to catch up is huge.

  5. Great post, Tony. I love the time management and organization tips!
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted…Lessons from Cyprus, or When the American Dollar CrashesMy Profile

  6. Helpful post Tony; you probably know how much I loathe GTD from some of my posts, but quickly skimming past all the ‘to-do list’ and ‘inbox’ stuff, I thought you presented a really strong core message: – headless chicken syndrome gets you nowhere.

    I wrote on a similar them a few months back about how I just drop everything if I start to feel pressured or stressed, and just walk away…Like you suggest here, I take time out. Stress is not conducive to reason, and many a short cut around problems can be found if only we take ‘time out’ to regain our perspective.

    On a funny note, I’m a keen advocate of cutting oneself off from distraction – my phone is often left on flight mode for hours at a time; but for my stance I often find myself accused of being ‘reclusive’. But I think the simple truth is that you simply can’t please all people all the time – time is just too precious.
    Gareth Mitchell recently posted…Have a Nice Day!My Profile

    • I know how you loathe GTD, Gareth. I need to come up with a simplified version of it. If I simply stopped at “dumping my brain on paper”, I would win.

  7. Yes! There are times when I feel like calling a time out and going on a much needed overdue vacation! My clients usually bug the crap out of me. I work too much. I’m online EVERY SINGLE DAY OF MY LIFE.
    Carrie recently posted…Shine Bright Like a Diamond!My Profile

  8. Interesting reading, Tony.
    Everyone is confronted with such or similar problems.
    There is a great tips on your list.
    sandi recently posted…Buzz Aldrin’s 1969 guide to landing on the moonMy Profile

  9. At some point everyone would benefit from a “time out’ I live in San Diego and one of my favorite things to do is to walk along the beach, it’s a perfect place to take a time out. Looking forward to connecting and reading more of your posts:)
    Dan Black recently posted…How to Motivate Team Members (My Guest Post)My Profile

  10. Limit the To-Dos to only a few or you will never get them done!
    John@MoneyPrinciple recently posted…Happy Birthday to Us: The Money Principle is Two TodayMy Profile

  11. I need to stop doing so many things at once and buckle down on just one or two.
    Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank recently posted…How to Consolidate DebtMy Profile

  12. Turning off the email and voicemail, and then going for a walk does the trick for me. Sometimes you just need to get out of the pressure cooker for a minute. Writing a list also helps (as long as it doesn’t become too much of a monster!)
    My Money Design recently posted…Learn How to Manage Money Better – Like a Large Company CFOMy Profile

    • MMD, walks always help! I like 10 minutes for every 20-30 I work. I know that sounds like a lot, but it leaves my work very productive.

  13. I’ve been trying to squeeze in more meditation time too. It’s so easy to burn yourself out and then you are no good to anyone. I tend to move quickly from one thing to the next, so it’s not always easy to make myself take a break. But every time I do – I am better for it. Making lists and then prioritizing the items on the list are key to my sanity. Plus, the fact I really don’t want to give anything up. I’ve learned to be organized and efficient – and most importantly – accept help! :)
    Shannon @ The Heavy Purse recently posted…3 Money Myths Parents Need to Stop BelievingMy Profile

    • Yes, Shannon. Delegating and accepting help is huge. I will start the meditation habit next month, I think. I am looking forward!

  14. #5 is huge. I find I have much more productive time if I’m not running off to check emails every few minutes.
    Marie at Family Money Values recently posted…Women Need Economic PowerMy Profile

  15. I am a multitasking queen and have to remind myself to complete one job before moving on to another. A time out is certainly useful in those situations.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted…We Flipped a House!-Part 1, Buying the HouseMy Profile


  1. […] in order to increase our motivation, we need to take a break. We may be overloaded and basically need a vacation from it all. I view this as a chance to relax, […]

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