I have never put this in writing before, but I hate it when people ask me "Well, how do you do it?" I understand it is meant as a complimentary colloquialism (best alliteration I've ever done lol), but I perceive it as a reminder that I am not normal. When I am asked that, my knee-jerk response in my head is, "I don't know! Why don't you do it?!"However, I usually respond with something along the lines of, "I like staying busy and it comes with extreme effort and learned experiences." Then proceed to list all of my techniques only realizing half way into it that they were looking for a response like "Oh...thanks, it's no big deal." But, that's me...sincerely odd.
I have frequently pondered why this simple question bothers me, and the best I can come with it is because it makes me go face to face with my own fear that perhaps I do too much, and I am not focusing on the right things in life. Sadly, I can't tell you what that verdict is on that, it is an on-going case. I can tell you that I try to evaluate all the things in my life and determine if they are helpful and if they bring me joy. It is not always a clear cut answer, and it's not always easy to be honest with my self-evaluation. Also, sometimes you have to go through hell, but the end product is really worth it. The best I can do is continue to be mindful and make adjustments.
So, now that I explained to you the weird monologue that goes on in my head every time someone asks me a simple question, I can tell you about my 'How do you do it' techniques. That is definitely the weirdest opener for a listicle about time management, but here we go:
To-Do list get stuff done
I love lists! Did you know I have lists for my lists? I sure do. With all the advice I'm going to give, please remember to find a solution that works for you. I learned over time how to trick myself into working, but everyone is different and you need to evaluate how you respond to your own efforts. I separate my lists into three main categories: 1. Birds eye view plans that take years 2. Things I want to accomplish this week. 3. Things I need to do today. I put my yearly plans on a private digital task list that I review and make edits to occasionally. I put my weekly plans on a public tasks list for myself and my whole team to see, and I review this at the start of my work week and check it at the end. (I use Asana project manager but there are so many other similar programs like Slack and Basecamp) Finally, I put my daily tasks on a physical piece of paper at my desk. This last list is crucial to my productivity. All of those big goals seem so huge and far away, but if I break them down into tiny tasks and chip away every day, they will get done.
Pro Tip #1: The first thing on my to do list is 'make to do list', and after my list is complete, I check that off and it gets me in the mood to get working.
Calendars are your best friend
Calendars are so cool. Time is unstoppable, and it will keep passing you by and taking every day and every minute from you unless you make an effort to use it the way you want to use it. I block out time for everything and time for nothing. Work days, meetings, fun stuff, boring stuff, relaxing time, and more. It all goes in there. It not only keeps me on track, but helps me asses how it's all working and gives me guidance on my limits. If you really want to get something done, then block out the time to do it. It's that simple. There's also evidence that shows the simple act of having something positive to look forward to can cure symptoms of depression. Use your calendar to plan the life you want to have. Pro Tip #2: Google calendar is free and awesome. No excuses.
Mentors give you energy
So I know my first two techniques were so revolutionary and ground-breaking, but guess what? Those aren't always enough; I need help and seek guidance from other's constantly. When things get challenging or my normal techniques aren't working on my brain, that just means I need to step up my game. A mentor can be a book, a friend, an article, a youtube video...it doesn't matter where that inspiration comes from, as long as you are looking for it and you use it. This tiny Japanese lady inspired me to clean my closets.
Compassion and Balance
I think this one is really key. You will not be successful 100% of the time. Instead of getting mad at yourself and using all the famous lines- "I don't have time" "I'm just too busy" "it's someone else's fault I'm late"- just take a moment to asses why it failed and get back on the plan with some knowledge about how to make it better for next time. Show yourself compassion when you make a mistake and keep at it. I think the most important thing in all of this is planning for balance. Block out time for you. Whatever that means to you as an individual. I like petting cats and doing puzzles...I leave my Monday's for Nina time and sometimes that means puzzles and cats, or a three hour nap, or drinks with friends. But, that time is my time and I will fill it with what I need to recharge.
So basically, the tools are there but life is just waiting for you to decide the what and the when. Here's a video of me and my cat doing a puzzle.