It's About Time
As a new year begins, fresh hope abounds. With a new year comes new opportunities. With a new year comes new deadlines. With a new year comes projects taking up your time.
I really brought that optimism to a screeching halt, huh?
One of the comments I hear most from creatives is, "I would love to do (fill in project), but I just don't have the time." I have to be honest, I've said it quite a few times as well. As this new year begins, I think it is important to look at how we spend our time, and how we might be able to better manage our workload.
Make Time Your Friend
Often, I think we see time as the enemy. Deadlines looming, projects falling apart at the last minute..."I need more time!" It's always time that gets us, or a lack-thereof. But what if we were to manage our days in such a way that time becomes our friend?
One of the ways I have found to best manage my time is to plan every single day. I wake up, pour a cup of coffee, sit down, and itemize my day. I write out my schedule, I make notes of people I need to contact and I make a to-do list. My to-do list starts with the most important things and ends with things I hope to get done. The idea is that what is at the bottom of the list today will be at the top of the list tomorrow.
Once I began to write out my entire day before it began, I found it easier to focus on a plan of action. By the time I get to work, I know exactly what to do first. If something gets thrown at me during the day, I simply add it to the list. By making notes of people I need to contact, I stay on top of emails and phone calls.
I have been doing this for two years now, and it has drastically affected how I focus my time. It has allowed me to see how time can be my friend. I don't need to compete with time, I simply need to work with it. By planning my day, I can get what I need done finished, and stay focused on the tasks at hand.
Work Less, Break More
I know, this sounds like the opposite way to manage time, but hear me out. If we spend short, more focused times working, it will greatly enhance how quickly we can accomplish things. I can be the king of putting things off and then working my tail off for five straight hours to finish a project.
In efforts to alleviate that stress, I have found it helpful to work in 90-120 minute blocks, and then take a 20-30 minute break. By doing so, I can maintain focus for a segmented period of time, which allows me to get projects finished quicker. By focusing for that specific amount of time, I know exactly what needs to be finished and when. Then, I take longer breaks, allowing my brain to relax and refresh.
By working in shorter, focused bursts, I find that my time is generally used more effectively.
Protect Your Personal Time
I know we hear this often, but I cannot express to you how much I believe in protecting your personal time. Sure, there are always instances where we have to work late, or work at home; but I believe we need to make every effort to make those occasions the exception instead of the norm.
I have made it a goal of mine, and a part of my daily schedule, to leave my work at work, and not bring it home. On the weekends, it takes all I have to even check my work email. I try to think of what I have to do or what deadlines are looming as little as possible. I read, spend time with my wife, go outdoors...basically anything I can't normally do at work! By protecting my personal time, I have found that I return to work more refreshed and ready to accomplish my day.
Obviously, there are millions of ways to help you to manage your time better. There are apps, journals, planners, accountability partners, incentives and more. The key, however, is to find what works for you. Find a system you can live by that allows you to make the most of your time.
In 2015, I have committed myself to live project to project, instead of deadline to deadline. It's time I spend less energy worrying about my lack of time, and focus on how to maximize the time I am given each day.