Since making the decision to say yes to all new challenges life throws at me, I have found myself using my calendar quite a lot in order to fit in all the things I am doing. People around me often ask me how I have time to do it all. I usually answer that there's always time. Because there is. It's not about how much time you have, it's about how you plan it an what you make into your priorities.
We all have the same amount of time: you've maybe heard the quote "You have the same amount of hours in a day as Beyoncé". Well, that's true. After stating that, it's completely up to you to decide what you want to do with that time. Do you want to use them to build a business, learn about things you are passionate about or to work towards becoming a successful performer, or do you want to use them in a job you hate, or on comfort activities. What I call comfort activities are things that makes you feel good and comfortable in the moment, but in the end don't bring anything new to you that you could use in the future. For me, that's for example Netflix, YouTube and social media. But for you, it may be something else, maybe video games, sleeping in or parties. Don't get me wrong, they are great things, and depending on your goals, what is a comfort activity to someone could be something someone else can learn from. Watching Netflix can be relaxing and entertaining, which are both important things in life, but an overdose may mean cutting on other things that you could enjoy too and that can make you progress. Then again, someone might be passionate about movie production or acting, in which case they might watch Netflix series or movies also to learn about their passion.
Sleeping is also an important subject. Everybody needs rest, and we should respect our bodies enough to also honour its needs. Sleeping in after a long day from time to time and resting according to your body's needs are not wrong in any way, but that's not what it's about. It's about being aware of the choices you make. Because the choices you make today are your habits tomorrow. So build habits that you feel are right for what you want in life as well as your body.
Hah, here we are, facing the big questions of life: what do I want in life? Crazy how a blogpost about time management and planning turns into an existentialist reflection. But that's what it is, in the end, isn't it? How you use your time is how you use your life, and even small, everyday choices can mean a lot, no matter how hard it may be to see that at times. What you do now build your tomorrow, so make it count. Do you want to become a professional performer? Prioritise practicing. Start a successful business? Study, work, learn. Get into politics? Do it right now. There's so many things you can do right away instead of keeping them for tomorrow, or at least to make tomorrow come faster. Don't let comfort activities get in the way of your dreams.
But comfort activities are not the only problem. I so often hear people complaining about not having time to do this or that because they are too busy with work and school. To this I think I can say that for most people, that's not the truth but simply a mindset. Yes, some people work crazy hours, 12 hours a day and once they get off drop dead in their beds. In those cases, they are or people that are passionate about what they do and enjoy it, and in that case, maybe they don't even want to make time for other things. If it's not the case, that person should maybe consider if what they do really is what they want to (quite literally) live for. But if you are an average person in working life or studying, chances are that you would have time to do all (or some, let's stay realistic ok) the things they say they'd like to do if you had time. Really. It's about your mindset, your habits and your priorities. Once you come home, do you go straight to bed? Probably not. How do you spend that time? What about the time in the morning? Many people are the most productive in the morning, but instead of using that time, opt for an extra hour of sleep even if they'd get a full night's sleep even by waking up earlier. What about during the day? Do you have some gaps that you could maybe make a better use of than you do at the moment? If you lay out everything you do by writing it all down, I am sure you could find some gaps to use for those things you don't have time.
As an exercise, writing down everything you do (really, everything: when you wake up, when you sower, brush your teeth, eat...everything) during a week can help you visualise what you do. It doesn't mean that you would have to always write down how much time you shower, but making an example of a typical week can make it easier to see the patterns in what you do, what you could change, in what you use a lot of time and what you could cut some time from. A new, maybe a bit busier schedule may seem hard at first because you're not used to it, but once it becomes a habit and your mindset changes, it won't seem any harder than what you did before.
It's about making choices, as simple as that. Do you want to stay in bed for half a day because you're not a morning person, or do you want to move your schedule up a few hours by waking up earlier and fit in a lecture, an association meeting, a catch up with a friend and a gym session? As simple as that. Decide what you want to do, move other things out of the way to some other time or take them out completely if you don't feel they are needed.
Still, I have a few tips on how to make all that simpler:
-Using a calendar to write down your schedule and things to remember is an absolute must to be able to plan out your days. If only a few lectures are all you have to remember in a week, it might be possible with a mental note, but once you do more of this and that, believe me, you'll need to lay it out.
-Remember that everybody is different, and some people like to be active more than others. If you're not the kind of person that enjoys running around from one place to another all day every day, that's completely okay and you don't have to try to change yourself to only find yourself in a burnout. No. Simply consider what you do and if there would be some things that you could do differently and that would not overload you. Get out of your box and try to think if you are already doing as much as you can or if it would be possible to give yourself a little push to do a bit more.
-Don't always aim for perfection and take some risks: sometimes you might not be able to do perfectly at something because you were busy doing something else that's important to you. That's not the end of the world. Pick the things you want to focus on at 100% and do well in them, accept an average result (or sometimes maybe simply a whatsoever result) from the rest, and you're on the right track. It's possible to do a lot of things and still manage them all, but not to be perfect at everything.
-Have a little faith in yourself and listen to some empowering music. You rock and you can do this. Sometimes that's all you need to get doing.
-Don't be too hard on yourself. Not every day is a good day, and sometimes life can feel overwhelming, but somehow there always is a tomorrow anyway. It's okay to somehow just make it to that tomorrow without achieving anything else specifically, because every tomorrow is a new opportunity to start again.
-Don't overload your schedule too much. Even if I've spent this whole article basically telling you to push yourself to believe that you still have time to do a little bit more even if you feel you're already filled your calendar, don't overdo it either. In the end, we're only human and it's important to know our limits too. If we take too much, we won't be able to enjoy those things we do that we love because we're too busy stressing about completing everything. At times, things can be stressful and busy, which is completely normal, but living under constant stress is not a desirable state. It's important to enjoy what we do.
-Remember to rest: sometimes, even if you'd do things that you love or that you are motivated by, it's important to take a break. An hour between two meetings to relax, a day off to chill, a week or maybe even more of holidays from time to time. Listen to yourself and do as much as it feels good to. Also remember to not cut on the sleep or the food you need for your body to recover. When I mentioned cutting on sleep earlier, I only meant considering whether you really need a 10-hour sleep every night, or if maybe the average 8 hour sleep could be enough at least most days.
I'd like to finish this wit a disclaimer. I am not here to tell you how to lead your life and judge you about the decisions you make. I simply want to share my vision on time management, because I've felt that many people around me struggle with it, and I believe I could have something to help. Also, this is the vision of a single student who doesn't have children. Naturally, I can only speak for myself and my situation, and what works for me might need some adjustment for you (or might not work altogether).