I get the question a lot: “How do you do everything you’re doing now?” For those who don’t know: I’m working on my Master’s degree in Social Change + Advocacy, helping lead the ethical fashion brand I started, trying to get an internship in a D.C. office this summer, and growing an online platform. All that said, I wanted to share my time management tips to help you do it all. Do I have a lot on my plate? Yes. But am I doing it all? Absolutely. Some Instagram friends submitted questions about time management, and I’m answering the most-frequently-asked ones below.
Q: How do you find the motivation to get it all done?
I have two motivations.
- I’m a 3 on the enneagram + I find my worth in being successful and by achieving goals most people don’t. (I’m not saying it’s healthy, but I do + I’m working on it.) I feel like I’m doing life right when I’m doing “it all.” In order to feel like I’m learning, maturing, and progressing in life, I always need another achievement to work towards.
- I have always struggled with anxiety (since I was a little girl). In my 20’s I’ve taught myself to not get stressed out when there’s a lot to do. However, that’s also become my biggest motivator. I remember how terribly that anxiety feels, and that keeps me from pushing a task to the next day or letting my to-do list stack up. That feeling terrifies me, so I use it to stay on top of things by making plans to avoid getting in that situation.
Q: How do you balance work and personal life? How do you schedule time for yourself and not feel guilty about not doing work?
This is definitely hard, especially if you’re an entrepreneur or work from home.
Because I pour myself into my work, I am very protective of my personal time. I’ve earned it. There will always be more work to do, but the relationships in your life or your own personal sanity are not always guaranteed. Also, I’m very aware of when things are effective or not. Therefore, when I know I need rest to keep me healthy, I’m aware that I’m not truly resting if I’m also checking my email app. I’m just wasting my time and accomplishing nothing if I’m half-resting-half-working. I might as well just be working! I say, “see you later,” to work and then give all my attention to plans with friends, Netflix binging, dates, or hobbies. And you know what? If you need it, I give you permission to do the same, boss!
Q: I get so overwhelmed and don’t know where to start! Then I have trouble keeping track.
Yes, girl! I’ve faced this so many times, and now I know how to tackle it. The first thing I do is make a list of everything I need to do. Then, I kind of put my brain on auto-pilot and start chipping away at the list. Auto-pilot is important because I have to mentally block out lies like, You’re already behind, so it’s going to suck; and you might as well not even try. Or You can’t possibly do all of this, so why try any of it? When I’ve ignored those voices, I then start with the items on the list that are the least time consuming (because then I’ll see the list shorten quickly and my stress will evaporate with it).
Q: Best tools? Apps, planners, etc.?
I’m an old-fashioned girl and use a combination of physical and digital planners. Here’s the deal:
I use my pre-installed Calendar app on my iPhone for all my meetings. This is important because it’s compatible with whatever digital calendar anyone else uses, and it will shoot me reminders 1 hour or 15 minutes before that meeting. THIS HAS SAVED ME MULTIPLE TIMES. I’m especially intentional at work about saying, “shoot me a calendar invite,” so that I never miss it. If the meeting isn’t in my calendar, it’s not real.
I love using physical planners for my to-do lists and my over-arching calendar (which includes work (again), grad school stuff, social activities, etc.). There’s something about crossing off a task in black ink when I’m done is so satisfying to me. (I will actually write something down that I accomplished and then immediately cross it off if I didn’t have it on my to-do list before.)
I love using my Horacio Printing planner for so many reasons! The way it breaks up the week and each day for me to visually see what I have to do is very helpful. My favorite part about the planner though is that every purchase gives back to A21, one of my favorite anti-human trafficking organizations!
Also, for those of you as nerdy about office supplies as I am, these are my favorite pens. I use nothing else! The ink is bold but never runs or leaks through the page.
Q: Do you have any ritual/rhythms/routines?
I always take 15 minutes (most of the time even less) on Sunday to plan out the week. It’s important to not make a to-do list every morning, because you’ll feel like you need to get everything you can think of done that day, immediately. When you realize you actually have 7 days, you can spread things out ahead of time and create more reasonable lists for each day. I open my planner to look at the week as a whole. Then, I block out time for work/meetings, time I’m in class, time I need to do homework in relation to due dates, time I’ll write blog posts, and which evenings I’ll rest or be social with friends.
Other routines: (I’m not a very ritualistic person, but these are things I’ve added to my schedule that have helped me a lot! I’d love to hear any routines that have helped you in the comments below!)
- I use Sunday evening to pick up my room and kitchen to start the week off in a clean space as that effects my mental state a lot.
- I’ve realized it’s easier for me to start my mornings and get into work after I’ve drank coffee or tea. It’s just the act of doing the same thing each morning that gets me in the headspace to jump into work. Whether it’s my English Breakfast Tea with a biscotti or walking across the street to Starbucks, I know now to go straight to that so that starting work is the next natural step.
- Because I work from home, when it’s time to transition into rest time and stop working, I turn on music and candles and dance it out for 3 minutes.
Q: How do you react when you end up wasting time, being unproductive, or procrastinating?
I’m a pro at handling this because my natural reaction when I’m really stressed is to escape by procrastinating. However, I’ve created a hack! Whenever I’m having a hard time staying focused, I google “20 minute timer” and a countdown starts. I figure, “I can handle 20 minutes of anything.” And then by the time the timer goes off, I’m in a groove and just keep working! If I’m not dialed in yet, then I just hit the time again and give it another 20 minutes. It gets me through all the papers I don’t want to write or rooms I don’t want to clean! (I’ve even got a timer running right now because I was having trouble staying focused to write this post!)
I do what to point out that, while I’m doing everything I want to do, I don’t do it perfectly. I don’t believe anyone pursuing multiple goals lives in a perfect “balance.” Balance is my least favorite word because so many associate it with perfection. I’m out of balance. Some weeks I heavily focus on school. Other weeks, I heavily focus on my online platform. The key is to keep an over-arching view of everything. Be aware of when you intentionally allow the scales to tip out of balance. That way, you’re still in control and can move back in the other direction as needed.
You got this, girl! Rooting for you and all the big dreams you’re pursuing! Hope these time management tips help you do it all!