If you’re my friend or loved one or someone I’ve met for coffee in real life, you already know that time management isn’t, and has never been, my strong suit. I don’t mean to get distracted, I don’t try to be late and it’s not that I can’t read a clock. I’m just constantly doing too many things at the same time, so nothing’s getting done right — which is probably why I texted sweet nothings about dinner to my friend Maria the other day when they were intended for my beloved, or why it takes me forever and a day to hit “post” on my blog, because I can’t find the right window when there are 75 tabs open in my browser— all of which are prompts for processes I am halfway through. See, I’m doing 75 things again!
This all has a lot to do with my adult ADHD and consequential One Last Thing syndrome, but that’s a different blog for a different day. What I want to write about here is something that has helped me SO MUCH with my struggle with chronic tardiness and general sense of overwhelm. But first, the struggle —
I’m a big fan of saying “I’ll be there in 15 minutes!” when I mean 20 or 25. That’s actually a generous estimate. Most people in my life are really nice about this major flaw in my personality, but I recently heard the saying, “when you’re late you show the person you are meeting that their time is not as important as yours is.” To which I thought, OF COURSE my time is the most important to me! It’s called MY TIME! Then a couple of my friends have been really honest in the past and told me it makes them feel like shiest when I’m late, and I’ve made myself feel awful about it to the point of being sick. My friend Rebecca is the kindest person EVER, but even she has said she actually accounts for this discrepancy whenever she makes plans with me— so alright I get it, punctuality is definitely something I’m striving for in my life!
In 2016 I set a big goal to be a lot more honest with myself about My Time. Calling it My Time actually was the beginning of the recovery experience — if it’s really mine I get to decide what to do with it, right?
I have spent a lifetime mismanaging my time, and decided I want to do something about it. Habits would need to be broken for change to take place, but I am ready to improve. So I got to work, starting small and doing a few things I could to get better, and it’s made a world of difference!
Four steps to more effective time management, all tried and tested by yours truly:
1. Learn to be aware of how you are actually spending your time. This requires an honest look at what you do, when you do it and for how long — and I realized it really hurts to look that closely at my habits, they are nasty! But ultimately, whether we know it or not, we assign a value to the things we choose to do, and if you’re anything like me you’re spending your time values in all the wrong places.
My friend Sarah who is the producer of Gaardhouse did the math for me one day, saying “If you think of time like a currency, none of us have very much. We’re each given maybe 30,000 days in our lives, and that’s it.” Her words woke me up like a cold ice bucket at summer camp, and made me recall one of my all-time favorite Bible verses:
Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Oh that we would NUMBER our days, realizing our time on earth is temporary and passes so fast, we need to use each day to live the life we were intended to live! How I spend my days ultimately is how I will spend my LIFE, it all adds up; just being aware of this has helped me call my actions into question on the regular and more effectively manage my time.
2. Use your phone, smarter. It might be a smartphone, but I’m prone to using mine like a real dummy. Social media updates, tags and tweets are a HUGE distraction for me (and all creatives,as far as I’m concerned). Switch off notifications and watch your productivity soar! I frequently delete time sucking apps like Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter unless I’m planning to post something, because just knowing they’re there can be so distracting to my process. And don’t sweat, you can always reinstall to log right back in and everything will be as you left it!
To me the greatest thing about having a phone is the ability to carry little timers around in your pocket wherever you go that are set for really important things and will vibrate/ring/chime like crazy until you address them by snoozing or clearing. I now set lots of annoying alarms for things normal people can remember to do without help, such as getting my kid off to school on time or getting dressed in the morning, or remembering to write emails for GirlCreative. I’m told there are other apps that work in a similar fashion, but nothing gets me hustling like the sound of my least favorite song, By The Seaside!
Timers for BREAKFAST.
3. Do ONE thing at a time. It sounds so simple, but doing one thing at a time means you can zero in on the task at hand and actually get it DONE quicker. In a world where we can multitask at basically anything, we’re losing quality (and also our minds) at pretty much everything. We try juggling a lot and I drop my balls more than anyone when it comes to that nonsense!
So how do you know what one thing you’re supposed to be doing at all times? Well, never, and I will probably always wonder if I’m spending my time wisely. But now whenever I feel my best, I can make lists with the help of one Wunder-ful little app!
Wunderlist is amazing.
You can make lists for virtually anything — groceries, chores, work stuff, you name it — and set alarms & due dates for your tasks. You can add subtasks and notes and invite other people to join your lists, plus it syncs with your iPad or any other device and updates across the board as you do, so all my lists are cohesive and I don’t do double work! I’m a huge fan.
I have a billion lists going at once, all with their own alarms set within the tasks to make sure I remember what the heck I’m supposed to be doing.
I share my lists with Christian and I’m getting all my friends to join so we can collaborate on everything more efficiently, together. You guys, this isn’t even a sponsored post — I just really love this app.
Even Lola LOVES it. And when Wunderlist heard she uses it to stay organized, they sent her a t-shirt and some swag — OKAY I guess maybe that means this post is kind of sponsored, heyyo!
This way I can bug her about things like homework in a virtual way that actually seems fun — WIN.
And the sound it makes when you check off a task?!
4. Accept with grace that you won’t ever be able to do it all. When I start to feel down on myself about my shortcomings, I remember that age-old saying, “You can do anything you choose to do, but if you choose to do everything, that’s all on you.” Which is a great reminder if you’re inclined to be a well-intentioned people-pleaser like some, or an opportunity-chasing YES person such as myself — we can’t do it all. And we’re not supposed to!
“Jesus didn’t do everything he could do or what other people wanted him to do — He only did the will of the Father.”
We are designed to seek direction from the one who made us, the one who loves us, the one who accepts us. I know personally I get super overwhelmed when I try to do things on my own. Seek God when it comes to everything, time management included — and watch what happens in your life!
“By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.”
John 5:30 NIV
To living life creatively, abundantly, productively.