As a person who likes to keep busy and ALWAYS have something to do, I have had to develop a system which allows me to prioritize my time. One of “imaginary lives” for this week is as a life coach, so the following post will be an exercise in behaving as if I exist inside of this imaginary life.
By the way, the “imaginary lives” exercises involves choosing 5 professions that you are not engaged in, but that you find interesting. Spend some time imagining or writing about what your life would be like in each of these professions, and then integrate some part of your imaginings into your life. It’s sort of a neat experiment that has the potential to increase the level of fulfillment that you experience in your real life.
A few posts ago, I spoke about all of the things that are going on in my life right now. There’s a lot.
I’m not going to lie and say that I NEVER cave under the pressure or feel overwhelmed. Sometimes I crack, but the majority of the time I feel sane and on top of things. I’m by no means an expert on this time management stuff, but I have compiled some good bits of advice over my life so far that are definitely worth sharing.
There are a few things that I do that helps me to get everything done.
1. I use a weekly planner (for the template click here – It’s at the bottom of the post)
This is what my planner looks like for this week. On the left hand side I write all the areas of my life I need to focus on that week, and I fill in what I would like to accomplish in each category. I then divide those tasks onto different days (on the right hand side). I started creating weekly plans instead of daily plans, because I found that when I made a to-do list for only one day I tended to attempt to write down everything and anything that I ever wanted to accomplish EVER! I’d then of course get overwhelmed, and end up getting nothing accomplished. By planning my life according to weeks instead of days, I can live my life with more peace of mind. I don’t have to do everything now! When I’m finished my tasks for the day I can relax, even with the knowledge that I have an article due on Saturday – that work is scheduled for tomorrow.
The best part. After I finish something I highlight it. My goal, by the end of the week, is to see this entire planner bright highlighter yellow.
On the bottom of the planner I also have a space to record daily habits. I plan my exercise regime, meals, vocal work, and guided meditations for the week.
I just LOVE crossing things off, so anything that I can add to my plan that gives me an opportunity to colour when accomplished… I do.
OH! And (I almost forgot this) at the top of my planner I write my mission statement. This way I remember that I am doing all this for a reason. I read it as frequently as I pull my planner out (which is a lot), and that can only be a good thing.
Here are some close up pictures:
2. I schedule my breaks and limit my use of “time wasting” sites like “Facebook” and “Twitter”
It’s actually sort of crazy how much time it’s possible to spend time on these sites. If you’re guilty facebook procrastinator, start trying to limit your usage. Limit your visits to “scheduled” breaks. Say to yourself: “I’m going to write for an 1 1/2 hours, and after that I can go on facebook for 10 minutes.” It may be difficult at first, and you may experience some symptoms of withdrawal, but in the end it will be worth it. You’ll also free up A LOT of time.
4. I Avoid stress.
Stress is the biggest time killer! When I was in high school and university I was very prone to anxiety attacks. When I became overwhelmed my chest would tighten and I would start to hyperventilate (not really, but that’s what it felt like). I would go into a panic at how little time I had to do what I needed to do, and this panic would eat away at my time until there was nothing left. There are some natural ways to fight anxiety. Meditation is one. I haven’t mastered this yet (I get really antzy when I’m alone with my thoughts), but I hear it’s great. What works great for me is exercise. It helps me to feel level-headed, grounded, and also powerful/strong. As I’ve gotten more and more fit, and my confidence in myself has grown, my anxiety has significantly decreased. Finding a hobby or skill that you can hone and become excellent at might work the same way for you.
5. I Stay Positive
This goes along with the above tip, but I’d be willing to bet that most people can’t remember 3/4 of the things they worried and stressed about one year ago. I can’t, and when I can… it’s usually something silly. Smile, don’t complain about how much you have to do, and just do the work. Your smile and attitude will make you more efficient, and your work will also likely be better quality.
6. I try not to make the mistake of equating time spent on a project or assignment with quality.
This is something that I used to do all the time, and it’s been a bit of a challenge to get out of it. I would get an essay for university, and I would spend hours and hours and hours at the library “working”on it, not because I needed to (most of that time was spent on facebook avoiding the work), but because I thought that I was only worth a good grade if I spent a significant amount of time working on it. This thinking is flawed, and if you think like I did (and still do… I haven’t kicked the habit completely), start making steps to banish this belief. It’s not true. Allow for those things on your list to take as little or as much time as they need to be completed successfully. You may even experience some level of freedom in this.
7. Focus your attention on Quadrants I and II ( “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey).
I’m saving the best for last. Covey says that you can divide everything that you do into 4 different categories:
1.Quadrant I: Urgent and Important (Crises, pressing problems, and deadline driven projects)
2.Quadrant II: Important but not Urgent (Prevention, PC activities, relationship building, recognizing new opportunities) – this includes things like exercise, writing your book, meeting with a friend for coffee.
3.Quadrant III: Urgent but not Important (interruptions: some calls, some mail some meetings).
4.Quadrant IV: Not urgent and not important (time-wasters)
The trick is to try and spend as little time in Quadrants III and IV as possible. If you don’t know where you spend the majority of your time, try logging your day hour by hour for an entire week. What you find out may surprise you.
I hope these tips were helpful!