Let’s face it. Time management gurus just don’t get it.
I’ve read about every time management, productivity, and organization book out there. I’ve tried methods from all the experts, I’ve tried planners and apps and tools, and nothing seems to work. Moreover, nothing seems to help the weariness I feel at the end of the day when I know things didn’t go as well as I wanted them to, and I could have done better. By the end of the day, I’m exhausted, and to have only completed half the things I wanted to? That’s pretty defeating. On top of that, how many of those things were actually important to me vs. being just things I “had” to do?
There are a lot of things that your average time management guru doesn’t get about geeks or writers (or game designers, etc). First of all, we’re geeks. Geeks are passionate people. Our interests consume our lives. And we often have many of them. Our day jobs are the least of our lives in many cases. They are what we have to survive, to pay the bills, to put food on the table…and to pay of the things that are really important to us. There are those of us who are lucky enough to have day jobs in the fields we are passionate about, but let’s face it, those are rare cases. And even when our jobs are in fields we care about, it can be draining to do those things when you have to rather than when you want to. After work, we need the time with our geekdoms to refresh ourselves, to fill our buckets. But geeks and writers being normal people as well, we have families and chores and shopping…
Another thing time management folks might not get is that writers and many geeks are freelancers. We don’t always have regular hours. Our days don’t often look alike, depending on what projects we’re working on, or if we are scrambling to pay bills, or if suddenly we find ourselves (heavens forbid) with an empty slate.
That being said, time can be managed in ways that allow us to pursue our geeky interests, spend time with our families, get the day job done, and end the day feeling like we accomplished the things that are important to us instead of wondering why our souls feel so empty. And yes, you might even be able to get some sleep.
Now, there are a million ways of managing your time, and no one method will work for everyone. My way is a conglomerate of many, many different methods. I’m a big fan of taking what works for me and leaving the rest behind. You should never feel pressured to use an entire system if only one piece actually works for you. So even if your takeaway from this entire series is one thing, then I’ll consider this a success, because every little piece adds up to make a whole thing that works for you.
So, what’s the first step? Well, before you can manage your time, you’ll want to know what exactly you’ll be filling your time with. This way, you can shape your day around the things you want, instead of having a day with empty slots to fill with “have-tos.” It’s a subtle difference, but really, it is a difference. I want you to think about what you want to fill your day with. And yes, some of these things will be things like, “my day job.” Like it or not, your day job gives you money that allows you to do awesome things. “Paying bills” and “household chores” need to be done to give you a nice place to do the things you are passionate about. When you list the things that will fill your day, look at it in that way. How do these things help you fill your bucket?
Here is my list:
You’ll notice that things like my day job and my hobbies have sub-entries. Basically, anything that could possibly have it’s own slot, I separated out just to be specific. If I just wrote “hobbies,” that is pretty generic. Sure, some people only have “woodworking” as their hobby, but being the Renaissance Geek that I am, I need to separate them out. I enjoy all those things, and they are all important to me. Hobbies often get pushed aside as “extras.” NO! Why would you do that? Why would you take the things that you enjoy doing most and put them as a last priority? No. List them all out. It’s time to take ownership over your time, what you love, and who you are.
My publicity work is also divided into subcategories, because each of those need to be done every day or week. They all need individual attention.
Now, once you have everything listed out, look at some areas that might overlap. You’ll notice that on my list, under hobbies I have “movies/shows” and “games” with family written next to them. These things overlap quite often. I’ll watch movies with my family, and we play games almost every day. So right there, I’m killing two birds with one stone. If I did some sort of fitness activity that my son also did, I could include family in that. Or if I blogged about my hobbies, that could overlap. Fitness and self care overlap. Don’t agonize over it too much. Don’t get bogged down into details or force things to fit together. If two things just naturally go together, match them so that when you go to make your schedule, you’ll have a better idea of how to split up your time.
So, what is on your list? Throughout the week, jot down the things you think of that are important to you, but that you just haven’t been able to squeeze the time in for. What are things you enjoy that you’ve almost forgotten about? If you could do anything with your life, what would it be? What makes you you? Make a list and save it—next we’ll be working on blocking out your time!
About Melanie R. Meadors:
A writer of speculative fiction and lover of geeky things, Melanie R. Meadors lives in a one hundred-year-old house in central Massachusetts full of quirks and surprises. She's been known to befriend wandering garden gnomes, do battle with metal-eating squirrels, and has been called a superhero on more than one occasion.
Her short fiction has been published in Circle Magazine, The Wheel, and Prick of the Spindle, and was a finalist in the 2014 Jim Baen Memorial Science Fiction Contest. She is a freelance publicist, publicity coordinator for Ragnarok Publications, and the Marketing and Publicity Specialist at Mechanical Muse. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.