I really need to add “Full-Time Juggler” to my LinkedIn page.
My life sometimes seems like a balancing act. As soon as I get something accomplished, I notice another project is on the cusp of being overdue. Many of my peers share the same woes, so how can we maximize the time that we’re provided?
Here are some things that have really killed my precious time and the counter-tools that aid my time management:
1. The Internet
The internet is a magical place. You can access so much information with just a click of a keypad (or a mouse, if you still use those). I sometimes use my laptop in class to look at one blog on the unrest in North Korea, which leads to article on the French economy, and before I know it I’m reading all about Kylie Jenner’s lip gloss. The extensive time spent wandering through the information on the internet is fun, but it can be a HUGE time killer.
Solution: The Focus Bar App
For my MacBook people, I introduce the “Focus Bar” App. This free application is like the nagging mother. When users open up the Focus Bar app, they can enter in a project that they are currently working on. The project reminder will then float in the top right corner until the user indicates that they have completed the project. Every time the user opens a new application or program on their computer, the assignment reminder pops up and reminds the user what they are SUPPOSED to be focusing on. It has stopped me from looking at a good pop culture blog or two. It’s also awesome if you need help remembering what you’re supposed to be doing at the moment.
2. Social Media
I am 1,305.7 miles away from many of the people I love and care about. Social media is my way of feeling connected and included in their day-to-day activities. However, after hours of strolling through countless baby pictures, “man crush Monday” posts, and long-winded social rants, I find that I have nothing to show for my time. It’s so easy to get lost in social media. I’m looking at my sister and her sorority sisters’ activities, and before you know it I’m stalking my ex-boyfriend’s cousin’s dog’s page. It’s a dangerous addiction.
Solution : Self-Control App
This, my friends, has been one of my many technological saving graces and is also available for free. Now, don’t let the skull icon scare you! When you’re ready to focus on a project, you add all websites that distract you to a customized list (youtube.com, facebook.com, twitter.com, instagram.com, pinterest.com, etc.) and you designate how long you want those sites blocked from your computer. Once you agree to block those sites for the designated amount of time, there’s no turning back. You won’t be able to access these sites until the time has run out. It’s amazing!
3. Becoming Overwhelmed
When you allow yourself to sit back and think of all the things that you have to accomplish, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. This is a time killer. Sitting, panicking, and worrying about how major or minor projects will get accomplished is a waste of time. Intimidating yourself is a waste of time. This all produces negative energy.
Solution: To Do Lists
Everyday when I wake up, and every night before I go to bed I make a to-do list that prioritizes my goals for that day or the day to follow. I use pencil & paper, the “notes” app on my phone, and sometimes (unfortunately) my hand. I include every single, minuscule thing that is important for me to accomplish in that day; whether it’s emailing my mom, switching out toothbrushes, or submitting a brief. I also make sure that in the to-do list I’m fair to myself. “Courtnie, is it fair to expect ALL OF THIS of yourself in the next 15 hours? Is it possible?” After I complete the list, I pray for strength, and cross it out as I accomplish each task. At the end of the day I look at the list and transfer anything I did not accomplish to the next day. This gives me such a peace and combats becoming overwhelmed.
4. Saying “Yes”
If you’re anything like me, you have a hard time saying “no” to challenging projects and people. Contrary to your kindergarten teacher’s lesson, it is just as important to consider yourself, as it is to be considerate of others. In college I was always taking on tasks, without even thinking of how drained they would leave me. This often left me with little time or energy to focus on myself or my studies. It wasn’t until post-graduation that I learned to say “NO!”
Solution: Be Selfish With Your Time
“Hmm, let me check my schedule.” It may sound super snooty when you hear it, but it’s important to consult with your schedule. I like to tell myself that I am my own personal assistant right now and I take my job seriously! I keep a physical, old school agenda and a desk calendar to map out important events, and day-to-day projects. I also use my iPhone Calendar and Gmail Calendar to schedule my standing appointments (such as law classes or my part time job). If someone asks, “Courtnie, can you…?” or “Courtnie, wanna…?” I can proceed to check my agenda, iCalendar, Gmail Calendar, or desk calendar in my home office. If I have something booked, I prioritize and act accordingly. Don’t be afraid to say no. If the preceding phrase is too bourgeoisie for your taste, just say “let me look at my schedule and get back to you” [and then ACTUALLY get back to them].