How many times have you repeated the words, “I don’t have time today” lately? Last week, I uttered them at least fifty times. I packed my schedule so tightly that I felt overwhelmed just looking at it, and what do you think happened? I crashed.
I kept telling myself that “tomorrow will be the day,” and I’d finally wake up earlier to get things done. I didn’t think about how I’d been stripping myself of the evening hours when I should’ve been sleeping to finish my to-do lists or how I’d feel creatively blocked because I’d try to pump out an immense amount of words to cross another task off.
I constantly felt like I didn’t have any time. This is because I had absolutely no work/life balance, and I knew that needed to change. I missed the feeling of clarity and the mindset that made it that much more enjoyable to write every day.
So, that’s how I began taking back my time, and here’s exactly how I did it.
Where Does Your Time Go?
Do you feel like your days are constantly slipping away from you? I know exactly what that feels like. One minute it’s Monday, and you’re ready to get work done, and the next, it’s Sunday, and you’re wondering how the week suddenly disappeared.
The one thing that has helped me the most is to be conscious of where my time is going during the day. If I know I have a pretty daunting task I need to tackle, I set a timer and get started. The more time you spend worrying about the task itself, the worse it’s going to feel when you actually begin.
If you feel like you’ve already woken up late, you’re starting much later than you anticipated, and you don’t know how to proceed, just start. You’ll feel a lot better after you’ve managed to cross one thing off your list. It will help you take back your time to get the work done so you can wind down at the end of the day.
It’s Time to Prioritize
How are you currently planning your days/weeks/months? I try to schedule big or recurring tasks ahead of time in my monthly calendar (I use Google Calendar) and my daily/weekly spread (in Notion). I used to plan day-by-day, which usually left me shifting things over to the next day without getting much of it done.
I learned to prioritize my tasks by dividing them up throughout the week, focusing on the ones that were most important towards the beginning. I like a busier Monday because that usually leaves me in the mindset of getting a lot done throughout the week, but this might not necessarily work for you.
Here are three things to keep in mind when prioritizing your tasks:
1. How long does the task take you?
This isn’t “how quickly can I get this task done,” it’s “how long do I need to complete this task efficiently.” By understanding how long your tasks take, you’ll know where your time is going and how long you actually need to get them all done.
2. When does it need to be done?
If you have an urgent task or something comes up, don’t let it fall down the list because you may want to do something else first. Tackle the big tasks at the start of your day, so you can take it slow as the day progresses.
3. How long should my work hours be?
If you’re trying to structure your time in a creative career, it can be tricky to allot time to work, especially when it can be easy to move things around. Setting strict work hours will help you maintain a daily schedule that will allow you time to rest and relax, which is necessary for creative growth.
Stop Crowding Your Daily Task List
I know it can be tempting to pack your workday full of all the things you could get done, but don’t do this. Spend more time focusing on the important tasks, and prioritize the work that is essential to you. Don’t keep pushing off the start of your next project, and give yourself the time you need to make consistent progress.
There’s no need to try to get everything done at once. Start small, create a consistent work schedule that helps you achieve your bigger goals, and don’t underestimate the need for rest. You need to recharge to avoid burnout.
Don’t spend every day exhausting yourself, but instead learning how to maximize your time. This will benefit you much more in the long run. Give yourself room to breathe, to think, and to create.
The Wrap Up
• Take Note of How You Spend Your Time: Where is your time going? Be conscious of how long you spend taking a break, working on your next task, or tending to your other responsibilities. This will help you to plan more efficiently and feel more accomplished by the end of the day.
• Prioritize and Create a Schedule That Motivates You: How long do your tasks take? Don’t try to fit everything into a single-hour time block. Give yourself wiggle room by tackling the big tasks first. This will leave you with much more room to work personal projects or get some much-needed rest.
• Don’t Overwhelm Yourself and Rest to Avoid Burnout: Burnout and creative exhaustion is never the goal. Don’t push yourself past your limits even if you feel like you can. Know when it’s time to switch off for the day and allow yourself to recharge.
I hope these tips help you maximize your time so you can maintain consistent, healthy daily habits.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post! Let’s stay in touch.
Anisa Nasir is a freelance writer and aspiring novelist. She lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband and family. She’s the writer behind As She Writes.