The reason that I decided to write this article is the fact that the non-hip hippies have been struggling with time management a great deal lately. My partner and me actually had to sit down a few days ago and calculate the times of the day and write down what we are doing in each time slot and what we could be doing instead. We made a pretty neat plan on how we could change our time-spending habits, which we are slowly trying to implement. Yesterday I also read a relevant chapter from a book, that mentioned how you need to prioritize your needs and let some things go, in order not to feel continuously time-deprived. What follows is a list of steps and tips and tricks that you can use that could help you manage your time in a better way and hopefully improve your quality of life. We are all different, so keep the ideas that look good to you and work from there. And of course, if you have any more ideas or different time-management strategies of your own, do mention them in the comments section.
Define when you are the most efficient during the day
My partner has a 40-hours per week researcher position. This is tricky, as sometimes he has good ideas 9 to 5 but other times those hours are unproductive and the great idea comes at 23:00. And you can not afford to let good ideas fly away. This means that some days of the month he will work during the night and wake up late. For me this is very hard, as I am much more productive during the day and do not perform well during the night. Being a writer, working with a fresh, well-rested mind and a mug of coffee or fruit juice means that I can write about 600 to 800 words per hour, while after 13:00 my rate falls dramatically. So for me it is clearly better to make an effort and get up early. My partner also has to collaborate with others or attend meetings at the university where he works, so being there in the morning is also good -if not required- most days of the week. So we decided to force ourselves to go to sleep early and get up early. As I said, there are midnight ideas for him and writing deadlines for me that will force us to work late some times, but we try to make sure that this is not the norm.
Calculate your free time
First you need to calculate your working hours and the hours you sleep. How many hours do you work per day? How many hours do you sleep? How much time do you need for grocery shopping and cooking? For me personally cooking is a hobby, so I do not calculate it as “work” time. How much time do you need to clean up/do laundry/wash the dishes etc? Add those hours up and if you need a good night’s sleep, like I do, you will see that you are left with 5-6 hours of free time per day. And that is if you do not have kids. Rumors say that if you have a newborn you have zero free time and if you have a young child you get about 3 hours of free time, usually after he or she is asleep.
What to do with your free time
Once you know exactly how much free time you have on average each weekday, it is time to decide what to do with it. The main reason I decided to draft this time management plan for us was because I realized that I spent almost all my free time online. To be honest, if I was not cooking or having a shower, I would be online reading or writing or scrolling down looking at cook animal pictures. As I have already mentioned here, I hate being online so much. So I decided that from my approximately 6 hours of daily free time, one should go to cooking, one should go to yoga and relaxation, two should go to reading A BOOK and the rest should be split between checking my mails and going for a walk or bonding with my partner. This looks to me like a much healthier alternative. I felt really bad when I realized that we have in the house so many books that I have not read and being the book lover that I am, this is a clear sign that something was going wrong.
So find what is really important to you and give it a time slot in your daily schedule. Cut out internet hours. Cut out TV hours. Cut toxic people out of your life. Add in play time with your kids. Add a dinner with friends. Add this phone call with a beloved person that you never have time for. Add time to just look at the ceiling and empty your mind. Add running. Add reading. Add knitting. Add whatever it is that relaxes you. Eight hours of work can really drain you and you will be a better friend, partner, parent and even employee, if you get enough time to rest physically and emotionally.
Why is efficiency important
I can only talk about my self. Working as a freelance writer, I am my own boss. This means that no one will judge me if I spend 10′ per hour on facebook during my working hours. I can even spend an hour on pinterest and no one will ever know. But a deadline is a deadline and if I have been slacking during the day, I need to work after the 9 to 5 day working day has finished. This can be bad in two different ways: either my partner comes home and because I have no free time to talk and relax with him, he will spend time on his lap top, or he will also stay at the office till late and then we will go back to sleep right after work. This means that we have no time to relax and our sleep is not as deep as it should be. I personally have very vivid dreams and the worries of the day will often turn into nightmares. This is why some relaxation time before sleep is crucial to improve the quality of my rest.
Committing to work as efficiently as you can 9 to 5 (or 14:00 to 22:00 or whatever other schedule works for you) means that you can really relax during your free time. It means that when your children tell you what happened at school that day, you won’t be thinking of a half-finished project. It is important to leave work at the office -even if it is within our own house- in order to have a mentality that allows us to nurture our relationships with people and become the people we want to be. Think of it this way, if you constantly worry about your work during your free time or about your family during working hours, when are you going to have time to dream about your future?
Long term time management
I will keep this one really short, as it is more about setting goals. But I wanted to include it because it has to do with the dreams that I mentioned in the previous paragraph. Of course dreaming is great, but it should not be just hoping. It should be combined with planning. For example, if you plan to live on Maui when you are in your 40s, you need to find a job now that pays enough for you to save money to do the move, while also letting you enough free time to enjoy with your friends, partner and/or kids. It also means that you need to dedicate a weekly or monthly time slot, to plan the steps of moving there and to check that your plan is going according to schedule. In other words, realizing your dreams takes time as well, so do not waste the one that you have by looking at cute kittens the whole day (well, at least not every day!)