Of all the questions I get asked, this one is one of those that crop up again and again – and thats a time and task management conundrum.
Whats the best approach to tackle things I have to and want to do? Should it be one at a time through to completion, or a little of everything, say one hour for each at a time? I do too much for others which takes up lots of time, and hobbies I want to spend more time doing – nothing has a deadline but I just want to feel like I’m progressing – What can you suggest?
(This came from an email from C.K – thank you!)
My answer is as follows – hope it helps you too:-
What I would suggest is that firstly you need to stop the tide of things coming your way that take you away from what you really want/have to be doing (your priorities and needs). It doesn’t matter how you do them if you’ve fundamentally got too much on your plate to begin with – you are always going to be fighting a losing battle.
You seem to be someone who is happy and willing to help others, and this is really great, but if that is not how you really want to be spending your time, you are them taking away from your own life goals and happiness, and something really needs to change.
Saying NO is OK to do.
This can be hard, but needs to be done, as you have to be a little selfish in terms of your own happiness in order to make others happy too.
You are no good to anyone if you get rundown because you start to resent not having time to do what you want to do as well .
How do you spend your time?
What I would do is write down your weekly schedule as it stands, and see exactly what you have to do with your time. Seeing it in writing can often help to solidify where the issues are.
Write hour slots of time down the left of the page, and across the top of the page write the days of the week.
Work out your Immovables
Next, block out the time slots where you have to do things that are scheduled i.e. work, sleep, classes, eating, shopping etc….
Remember to include any travel and preparation time as well if this is ever applicable (as this can take longer than you think and many people don’t think about this when trying to fit stuff into their day, and over commit).
These tasks are the IMMOVABLES.
Work out your Moveables
Next, go through your tasks that need to be done each week, but at no specific time, such as cleaning, gym, voluntary work etc…. and work out roughly the amount of time that you do each one each week – list them on a separate peice of paper – as you won’t know exactly when you do them as yet, and won’t be able to add them to your schedule at this stage.
This list will help you to possibly trim some things.
For each item, ask yourself if it REALLY needs to be done at all – i.e. can your daily shopping be condensed to a weekly online shop? Do you hoover everyday – is every other day really fine? Also – could you delegate anything i.e. get a cleaner to free up more time -or get help from family members.
Fill your schedule
Once you know what you really have to fit into the schedule you can start to think about where exactly it should go.
I always do this while visualising the week as I go through each day – if you realistically don’t feel energised enough on a monday after work to clean the house – theres really no point in adding it in that slot as you are less likely to get it done then.
Work with how and when you feel best for each task.
In terms of how much to do for tasks around the house, and whether to do them in one go and get them done 100% of do in piecemeal, this is a really personal choice and there isn’t a right or wrong answer.
I prefer to do a little of everything everyday – washing and cleaning wise – spreading the load and ensuring the house is pretty much guest ready at all times rather than leaving it and doing it all in one go each week (but I do also spend a full day every so often to really do a deep clean of the house in one go as it feels good to do this at times). I do this because I work from home and can therefore add in a few jobs throughout the day without really noticing – but if I worked in an office then this would be very different.
It means that for me, nothing gets overwhelming and nothing builds up – I feel like I am progressing every day.
If you have overload at the moment in terms of backlog around the house, then I would still tackle a bit everyday and progress everything, as this will make you feel like you really are progressing and not leaving anything out.
Basically – you need the same amount of time to do something whether its split into smaller tasks or not – so you will get there in the end.
What are you left with?
You should now be left with a rough idea of the time you have each week (and when) thats free – if any.
This is your sacred time, and you should use it to ensure that you are happy – in doing whatever you want to be doing – i.e. hobbies, self development etc….. (these are the things that aren’t movable or immovable – as they are nice to haves rather than necessities in your life).
If you have a mix of a few things around in your schedule to fit these things, then DO IT – they are just as important as your scheduled tasks – and will energise you and make you more productive than ever.
This is the time to take control back, and look at your priorities – seeing things written down can help you see where you are wasting time much more clearly.
I would look at splitting up each of your tasks that you want to do – i.e. a hobby or a skill – and break them down into smaller chunks – that way you are completing each step but not having to spend all your time in one go on that specific task.
For example – if you want to learn a musical instrument, daily practise is required – so schedule in 15 mins a day which is manageable – but soon builds up over time.
Of course, its all very well making a plan, but you do have to stick with it for a while, and see what works and what doesn’t. I suggest a month as then you can get a really good idea of how things are going in this time and you can adjust after this time if necessary.
Word of warning…
It is crucial not to let old habits creep back in though as they will impede any plans you have to spend time on the things that matter to you.
If you have said NO to someone who is taking up more time than you can afford to give, be firm and stick to your guns when you are with them. Remind yourself of why you need that time back, for you and your needs.
It takes a mindset change, so stick to what you have planned in your schedule – block out time for hobbies in just the same way as work or an appointment, and treat them as such.
Stick your new schedule to your diary and then you really can check against it when anyone asks you to do something – you will feel much more empowered and in charge of your life again.
Do you have any issues with getting organised? I’d love to help – either leave a comment below or send an email.