Life has been manic lately to say the least. Getting to grips with being a mum of a young baby, continuing to run my freelance marketing strategy consultancy, blogging, and planning our round the world travels (not so much the nice part of where we're going, more the crazy level of admin that renting out your house as a holiday home for a year entails) has resulted in an existence led by a colossal spread sheet.
Time is one of the excuses that so many people give for not pursuing the things in life that really mean something to them. I haven't had time to research that course. I'm too busy with my current job to think about what I might do instead. I just haven't had time to make that hobby into a business. The reality is we make time for the things that are important to us, and there are always things we can swap out to make that important stuff happen, if we choose to.
Lots of people (particularly other new mums) have asked me how I've managed to fit everything in lately (ideally with a solution that doesn't result in having even less sleep than the 4 month regression and teething have already allowed for). I am by no means a super mum, or an authority on time management, but I have managed to find techniques that work for me, and somehow I'm not a stressed out wreck, so hopefully I'm doing something right - so here goes, I hope you find some of it useful.
(1) If it's not written down, it doesn't get done
I've always been a fan of a to do list. But lately, this has become a real science, lifting tips from some of the uber efficient people I meet via @mastersofmany. I have one catch all spread sheet that lists out absolutely everything that needs to be done, broken out into clear categories (Pre Travel, During Travel, House Admin, Work, Blogging etc..) and then I break this down into weeks, and then transfer a daily to do list onto my phone to crack through.
The key here is to not put too many things on your daily list. Aim for 3, or 5 if they're small. Make it manageable, otherwise the mental effect of never actually achieving your to do list messes up any efficiency you might have otherwise gained.
(2) Start the day with the difficult stuff
One of my interviewees on Masters of Many gave me this tip - you're at your most creative and energetic at the start of the day, and yet so many people waste it on ploughing through their emails. The psychological benefit of ticking something off the list that you were ultimately trying to avoid is also a brilliant way to start the day. Save those pesky emails for your afternoon slump.
Likewise, make the everyday mundane things in life as efficient as possible and don't waste brainpower on them. Simple things like having a list on your phone that you add items to when they've run out makes your household shopping easier; automating repeat orders on Amazon; putting payments on direct debit. All really simple things, but life admin is the master of time suckage, so anything you can do to make it easier is worth the upfront time you spend on it.
(3) Forget the idea that multi-tasking is a good thing
It takes about 15 minutes to refocus on a task when you move away and then return to it, so every time you stop what you're doing to answer an email, look for something online that you've just remembered, or going to make that cup of tea, you're wasting time just getting your head back in the game. Break up your day into chunks of time to get your items on your to do list done, and stick to it. Don't jump around, close down your emails and turn off that phone. Working a distance away from the fridge / kettle also makes that distraction a little less tempting!
(4) Find time to exercise or get outside
Even when I've got a manic deadline, I always find time at the start of the day to do something exercise related, even if it's just a 15 minute walk outside with Otis (my son). It gets your head into a good space, and enables you to really focus on the day ahead. Whenever I've avoided exercise in the name of regaining that 15 minutes for work time, I'm lethargic and inefficient, it's just not worth it.
(5) TV time is dead time (replace TV with social media / gaming here for the same point...)
As a mum, my evening time is when I can be sure that I can get work done. Whilst the temptation to slump in front of the TV is overwhelming, particularly given our current sleepless nights, I find that if I give myself a single task to complete, I can normally plough through it in the evening, and then relax afterwards.
The key is not to do the sofa slump first, as it's almost impossible to recover from! Obviously if you don't have kids, I'd advocate using your evenings to have time to yourself not working, in which case ditch the social media habit during the day if you can. So many people I know say that they have no time for what they want to do, but spend all day on Facebook / Instagram. As 'Why Don't You' (80's reference for those who are younger readers!) used to say.. do something more interesting instead.
That's it. It's not rocket science, but it does entail being organised, focused, and realising that making things happen for you takes you actually doing something, not just waiting for it to happen! Wishing you all an amazing 2017 doing just that...