Learning to become friends with the clock instead of enemies, constantly racing against time or running out of it!
Relaxation. Ever heard of it? Maybe it is just the area that I live in, but I don’t really know many people who truly relax on a regular basis. If you’re like me, staying busy and keeping structure in my day is the only way to ensure that I am effective. When I do have “free time”, I usually feel a sense of guilt or stress if I am not doing something; chipping away at my long-term to-do items that I could not possibly ever get done during a normal week. As a result, I do not rest and I certainly do not relax.
Busy is my jam. I love being busy; I get antsy when I am not busy. However, when I have a lot of unstructured free time, I find myself extremely inefficient and unproductive instead of the opposite. This is something that I have really been working on in the past few years and have found a few ways to make my “free time” productive AND relaxing. Yes, you can accomplish both.
Productive Free Time
Free time. Do you have any? I found that I either had large chunks of free time (difficult for me to get motivated in these longer stretches) or little bursts of 20 minute pockets where I felt nothing could be accomplished. However, when I took a step back and started evaluating my schedule more closely, I realized how much time I was wasting per day just being unproductive or worrying about my mound of responsibilities.
I broke up my responsibilities into weekly and long-term. The weekly tasks such as work for my business, cleaning the house, getting to the gym, staying in touch with friends etc…was best accomplished by setting small goals. If I knew that I had a 20 minute window, I would identify what I could reasonably accomplish in those 20 minutes. While, I might not be able to clean my house from top to bottom in 20 minutes, I could fold a load of laundry and straighten up the living room.
Working in smaller chunks of time and accomplishing things bit by bit is not only more effective but it also increases motivation. When you are just flailing around doing a hundred things at once, starting many tasks but never completing one, it is hard to feel very accomplished or successful. The negative feelings feed the cycle of being unmotivated and unproductive. Instead, completing small tasks bit by bit, accomplishing goals and checking things off your list, is a wonderful way to keep on top of the many things piling up on your plate (short and long-term). **writing notes to friends; sample calendar***
Relaxing Free Time
Now, this is a concept. One thing that I have found is that the more I accomplish during my productive free time, the more realistic it is for me to have relaxing free time. It is also important to note that if you are not building regular relaxation and self-care into your routine, then in the long run you will not be able to sustain the pace you are keeping and you will begin to start dropping balls here and there or eventually crash altogether. For some this might happen quickly, others will find that the stress takes a longer slower toll ultimately getting them to a place filled with low energy, health issues, and an inability to keep up.
A Challenge for You:
I will share a full blog post in the coming months to talk in more detail about scheduling tools and tracking your time. At the end of the day, my belief is that everyone needs to find what works for them. When I am meeting with clients, I never try to push one type of organization or planning structure on them because ultimately it will not be successful if it doesn’t fit their individual needs. For me, I use Google Calendar (on my computer and on my iPhone) to track my appointments and I use an app called 30/30 to track and prioritize my daily to-do list. I also bring a physical planner with me that has printouts of my weekly schedule and allows me to take notes on the go. For some, this set-up would be too much or more than is needed, others might find it very helpful like I do. Whatever place you’re in right now, whether you have a great system or no system at all, I challenge you to evaluate your current set-up and seeing where you might do better to track and manage your time.
In the same way that someone trying to stick to a healthy eating plan preps their meals and schedules gym time at the beginning of the week, a successful manager of their time plans ahead. Take some time at the beginning of the week to think through what you need to accomplish and what is on your calendar. The most of a game plan you are, ironically, the more spontaneous you can be. If you have a good handle on your responsibilities and how you are using your time, you will free up some space to be flexible when those inevitable curve balls (flat tire, distressed friend) come at you midweek. Also, you can have more freedom to go accept an unexpected invitation to do something fun (what a concept) during the week. Even with that game plan before the week, you might still have things added on your plate as the week goes on. To manage this, I recommend spending 15 minutes each morning to assess your day. This is one of my favorite parts of my day, I sit with my tea, relax, take a deep breath, and come up with my must-do list and things I would like to do. I determine what is realistic and prioritize how much time I might need for certain tasks. This simple, and short, activity will set you up for a much more efficient day of accomplishing the thing before you.