A reader was feeling challenged by her boom-or-bust schedule. She’s self employed, and so “always working.” She cycles between having overly-packed days filled with social activities and then periods of total isolation and burn-out. Sound familiar? It certainly does to me! She asked: “This may not be a feng shui question, but how do you manage your time?”
To start, I will say that I do not know a single person who has 100% managed their time 100% of the time. So, the idea here is to not be perfect, but, rather, to be consistent and not need to “burn out” every so often in order to stay healthy and balanced.
Time management is a personal thing. I am going to toss you a bunch of ideas and whatever stands out, try to consistently implement. Even just one idea!
Work-space distractions: if you work at home, you are greatly influenced by what is prominent in your environment. So, if your desk is in a living space that includes a sofa and TV, you might want to toss a tapestry over that TV during “work hours.” Same for any other major distractions like working beside your kitchen and/or going to work in your favorite coffee shop full of local friends. These things seem obvious, but, yet, they appear to be the biggest ongoing wastes of time for people who have trouble with time.
Priorities: If you don’t know what is a priority, or if you refuse to confront the priorities (even if they are challenging) then you will get nothing real accomplished. I have been the chick who runs around “so busy” but with absolutely nothing to show for my hours and hours of “work.” If you really don’t know how to get something done, do what you did in this case: ask people who might know. And keep asking until you get the answer you need. When you get rid of complicated, high-priority stuff early in the day or the week, you will have such better days!
Use fun tools to organize your time! I happen to love the Pomodoro Technique of getting stuff done (and making it fun!)when my list is long. Its right HERE for you to explore and they even have free iPhone apps to go along with the method!
Brain Dump: Every morning, especially after you write in a journal or stretch or workout or all of the above, dump what is in your head onto a page and organize it into actions. HERE is how I do my own “Monster To-Do List.”
Have things for yourself every day or week that you just don’t move– not for anyone unless its an emergency. I don’t start my day or end my day without my own non-negotiable time that’s just for me. Before I gave myself this time, I would wake up and roll straight into a day unprepared, and I would go to bed way too late and with too much on my mind.
Also, just because you are self-employed, that doesn’t mean you don’t need official work hours. Even if you work 10 hours a day, really work for those 10 hours and the rest is free time. If you need to work more than ten hours in a day of real concentrated work, you may want to rethink what you are doing, get some assistance or revamp your activities so that you are only working on priorities.
And try not to trick yourself into believing that you can multitask! One thing at a time. You do not get more done by trying to talk on the phone and send emails. You don’t watch TV and write at the same time, though you think you do. instead, you are doing two things poorly and without attention. Do what you are doing while you are doing it and you’ll be so much more effective and much happier, too!
When I first started to work less and live more, I was terrified that my world would fall apart and I would lose all I had gained from my efforts. Instead, everything grew much much faster that I could have ever imagined. By being scattered and overwhelmed and unfocused, I think I was unconsciously wishing that things would not grow because I couldn’t take on another activity or project, and in a sense, holding myself back. You may find its not only a relief to have more of a sense of control over your time, it may also help you get to the next level faster than you thought possible! xoxo Dana