It was not that long ago that I was working long ass days. Load in’s and load out’s, travel days, running on very little food or sleep, dealing with surly locals and not the best accommodations. I would come back to my AirBnB and faceplant into my “bed”, sometimes without changing clothes. I. Was. Pooped. I’m sure you can relate. Even if you aren’t living on the road, the struggle is real. So, how can we stay productive while we have such demanding schedules?
I wish I could take credit for “Stage Manage your life”, but that comes from one of our own, (Thespian) Julie Morgenstern in her book “Time To Parent”. Julie spent years in the Theater world before ultimately leaving to pursue her career as a Professional Organizer. You can imagine that I consider her to be a kindred spirit, as this was also my exact path. This is how she summarizes the idea: “the more you do in advance, the easier it is to execute in the future…to expect all possible “what if scenarios” for the next few days.” Things to consider: What could derail you from keeping plans? Make a plan to reroute. Assume nothing will happen as planned and work toward keeping it on track. You know, like a Stage Manager. Actors, back in ten minutes, please…
Thank You, Ten.
Now that you’re refreshed after your Equity break, you’ve had time to consider all probable issues that could arise in your schedule. Now what? Cue my unsolicited advice, GO …(Stage Management pun! Gotcha!) I use my iCalendar to plot out my day/week like a to do list, hour by hour, down to daily chores and errands. If this doesn’t sound like a thing a sane person does, you would be correct! But hang in there. I have a very short memory span, so I need to micromanage myself to make sure I don’t forget to do things. Here’s how I plan out a day....
The image above is an example of a version of Time Blocking. I have set aside specific times of day to accomplish things. Now ask me how often these things get done at the time I’ve scheduled them. Answer: Almost never, aside from the things in blue. For me, it isn’t important that the tasks happen during the allotted time unless it's a non-negotiable (like a job). Remember, it’s like a to do list. It’s a matter of setting aside time to say “this should be done today” but if I don’t do it, I simply move it to another time or day. If it’s really time sensitive, I set a reminder to pop up.
Now, if I were TRULY going to do a Time Blocking schedule, I would dedicate the scheduled time to only those things no matter what. This system does work for millions of people! But for my schedule, it feels too impractical. I know that at some point I’m going to need to run an errand, schedule a last-minute organizing job, make an unexpected detour to get ice cream, binge watch Law & Order for 5 hours straight, whatever! Shit happens and I don’t want to feel guilty about it. And I don't thanks to this way of scheduling. The important thing is to recognize that I did not accomplish some things and I should reschedule those tasks for another time or day.
But I’m a Rebel Without A Cause!
What if you hate being told what to do, even if it’s yourself telling you to do it? What if you are aware that you self-sabotage when it comes to time management but can't stop?! Girl, I feel you on so many levels. Try this: take 5 minutes (or whatever time you want, I know you won't listen to me anyway) to create a monthly or weekly list of things you’d like to or need to accomplish. Don’t assign any dates or times except noting the last possible date to do it. Give yourself the option to pick and choose what you’d like to do and when you do it. If you are really not looking forward to a task, set up a really special treat for yourself after you complete it. I learned this trick from my friends with children. For example: Giving them a choice about which sweater they’d like to wear, became less of a battle than trying to convince them to wear a sweater at all. Parents, man. You guys are incredible mind ninjas.
Delegation, Delegation, Delegation
Speaking of Parents, what about time management for a Family calendar? Julie M.’s got our backs on this one, too. Delegation! Let’s take chores for instance: Write out everyone’s assigned chores. If one person’s list is longer than everyone else’s (which always happens), ask your family who has the time to take on more responsibility? If it’s just a matter of teaching someone how to do something, then make the time to teach. You may be surprised how quickly the young one's will volunteer to help. Imagine the time that could be gained back into all of your schedules with this kind of communication. Make sure you keep a running dialogue with your family to see if anyone is feeling overwhelmed. Julie’s book, “Time To Parent”, also has great advice about having conversations with your family if you feel overwhelmed. She gives specific examples about having non-judgmental conversation that can get to the core of the issue.
Actor's Places, Please.
I will have to do another time management post in the future about "The Lazy Man's Mentality", Gretchen Rubin's One-Minute Rule and other time management tips that help me daily. There is so much to cover!
How do you know what actually works?! Sorry to say, but you are the only person who can decided what thing keeps you productive. Is it setting a timer to focus on accomplishing a task you don’t want to do? Maybe it’s plotting out an entire year of fun activities every month so you always have something to look forward to as a reward. Or maybe, if you’re like me, it’s cutting yourself some slack about not accomplishing everything on your to do list. If you notice in my calendar image, I have to schedule a time to update a calendar. No shame. Try some things and see what works for you.
Cue awesome Time Management skills....Go.