Life is a lot. Most of us are trying to juggling multiple roles, jobs and passions on a daily basis. Between working a full time job, running this blog and youtube channel, freelancing and not being a social hermit, I’ve learned a lot about time management. The most important lesson: time management doesn’t exist.
We cannot manage time, we can only manage ourselves and our workflows. Time doesn’t change, it isn’t flexible and can’t be manipulated to fit our needs. We can’t put an hour on hold or stretch it out when we need a few more moments to get things done. Five minutes will always come and go the same way. Only we can adjust to fit the whatever time we’ve been given.
Once I finally accepted this little fact about time, taking control of my work and schedule because ten times easier. It forced me to look closely at my own habits and routines and then build truly effective workflows from there. Because I do a lot, and the only way I manage to get things done is by being a good self manager.
Becoming a better self manager requires getting real, honest and clear on who you are and how you work best. Here’s how you do that:
Start tracking your time for a week
Fellow bullet journalists, you can probably fit this easily into your current spreads. Start creating a log of your days, broken down by the hour. It may seem extreme, but the best way to really understand how you spend your time is to track it. Don’t try to adjust your habits to make it look better on paper, this should be an accurate representation of how you spend your time.
Once you’ve spent about a week tracking, look for things like: downtime where you could work on other projects, wasted time that you can reallocate and use better, and how much time you current spend on work and projects. Once you have the full scope of the matter, you can start creating better workflows.
Figure out your focus routine
We may not be fully conscious of them, but we all have unique routines and rituals for “getting in the zone.” For me, it usually involves cleaning off my workspace, making a list of things to be done and turning on a playlist for some background noise. Working in complete silence is super difficult for me. If I’m working at home, I’ll even light a candle. Doing these small things help signal to my brain that it’s time to get focused and work. Just like how getting up, washing your face and getting dressed signals it’s time to start the day. Knowing how to switch into work mode is essential.
Turn your tasks into habits
So much of the work we have to do is repetitive. Each week, I know I need to do a few key things like grocery shopping, setting up my bullet journal, taking photos for the blog or outlining content. It’s easy for me to get these things done without feeling pressed for time or rushed because they are habits now! I’m always set up to do these things because they’re a part of my standard routines.
I use a habit tracker in my bullet journal to keep an eye on how well I’m doing at turning essential tasks into habits. It’s nice to see it laid out on paper.
Prioritize Your Tasks
Of course there will be some days where you just have a ton of work to do and need to work through it. When my to do list is long and filled with lots of tasks I don’t necessarily enjoy, like sending out invoices or creating my monthly budget, I do those things first to get them over with. I keep working down my list in order of importance of that task. Doing this also insures that if I don’t finish everything on my list, the big things are taken care of and I can stress a bit less.
Take productive breaks
When done well, breaks are a key part of getting work done. The trick is to make them as productive as possible so that they aid your work instead of hinder it.It’s easy to use a break as an excuse to distract yourself and get totally off track. Instead of breaking between tasks to watch an episode of a show or check social media, take a few seconds to stretch, get water or rest your eyes for a bit. It’s easy to use a break as an excuse to distract yourself and get totally off track.