Saturday, August 29, 2009

Managing your time

Have you ever been overwhelmed by your schedules, running from appointment to appointment, multitasking, and still seeing a multitude of unfinished tasks ahead of you? What am I talking about, we’ve all been there. Some of us probably are still there, and we wish for a less busy place where time and deadlines cease to exist. “From SKB with Love,” part of the “Holiday Brides Anthology” describes such a place. It describes a Caribbean island culture where everything is laid back and the lead character is perpetually late. Many people may think this is just an exaggeration of a stereotype, but coming from St. Kitts, I would say for some of us it isn’t. Yes there are many cases, even in the islands (Liane can attest to that), where people overbook themselves, multitask, and are sticklers for time, but the prevailing culture is a little more relaxed. Even among some Caribbean migrants living in the US there is still that debonair attitude that nothing starts until they arrive.

For a long time that was my attitude. Migrating to the US gave me a little more perspective on keeping time, but still getting to events on time was a challenge. Any gains I made on time management quickly dissipated when I landed a job with flexible hours. There is no clock-in time, the work is self driven, and most deadlines are self-imposed.

Then my kid started elementary school and suddenly my laid back world was turned upside down. Now my schedule was restricted by drop off windows, and pick up times, shuttling her back and forth to various extracurricular activities. Then there are the half days and the school closures, and the holidays you didn’t know existed. Just when I thought I had a handle on it, my book gets accepted by Dorchester Publishing and suddenly there are rewrites, edits, deadlines, promos, and of course Novel Spaces blog. I was suddenly drowning in a sea of appointments and deadlines and schedules. Every part of me was screaming HELP I NEED SOME TIME MANAGEMENT TIPS.

Well, here are some tips I’ve learned on time management. It is by no means exhaustive, and I welcome your input because I am still learning and adjusting.

1. Get organized
I never realized how important a planner could be. Indeed I always kept one on my desk, but I’m not at my desk 24/7. My suggestion: get a portable planner. I use my cell phone. I keep all schedules, appointments and locations (yes I’ve been known to show up at the right time at the wrong place) and have it alarm 30 minutes before each appointment. My former method of mentally filing away appointments failed miserably. My brain could only hold so much.

2. Plan ahead
Some of us have a habit of making or changing plans at the last minute and doing things impromptu. That doesn’t work when others are depending on you. That’s why I am so happy that Novel Spaces blog has the scheduling feature. I usually write my blogs at least a week ahead of time and schedule it. Anything that can be done before the deadline is due, do it.

3. Set goals
… and write them down. That goal in your head is easily usurped by the urgency of the immediate. Set long term goals and short term goals, and create a plan of action to achieving each goal. However be flexible. Things rarely occur as we plan it.

4. Have a plan B
… and plan C, D, etc. Since we can’t dictate things beyond our control, we can at least have a back up plan.

5. Prioritize
There are only 24hrs in a day. You can’t do it all. Examine what’s most important or urgent and do them first. I read "The Road Less Traveled" many years ago. One of the things that stood out in my mind was their recommendation for accomplishing tasks. Do the task you enjoy the least first, then use those you enjoy the most as a reward for completing your least enjoyable task. Most of all, don’t schedule more than you can handle.

6. Delegate responsibility
I know. By the time you’re finished explaining what you need done, you may as well had done it yourself. Reality check: you can’t do it all. Tasks that could be delegated should be delegated. Your delegates may not do it the very same way that you will, but as long as it is done well, it’s OK.

7. Relax
Find some time in your day to relax and recharge your batteries. Reflect on what you have accomplished. Even if you haven’t achieved as much as you intended, don’t obsess about it. You aren’t super human. You will get to it some other time. Meditate. Pray. Do what ever you need to get some quiet “Me time” each day. You need it for your sanity.

I know I haven’t addressed it all. Remember, what works for me, may not work for you. So tell me, how do you manage your time?


Liane Spicer said...

Jewel, I can certainly attest to the fact that for some of us in the islands life resembles the hustle and bustle of urban existence everywhere, despite the fact that the prevailing culture tends to be laid back. ('Island time' is a real - and very annoying - phenomenon. I'm sometimes guilty of it, but it's still annoying.)

I'd never get anything done without my lists, calendars and reminders.

Stefanie Worth said...

Hi, Jewel -- Timely words.

People frequently remark on how organized I am, but time is so elusive to me. I constantly wish I had an extra hour or two in my day.

I tell myself that maybe when the kids are older it will be easier, or if I had this or if I had that. In the interim, I've just learned to be a little more selfish with me: really examining why I'm making certain commitments and finally learning to just say no.

It's not perfect but it's better. At least I'm not wishing for a whole extra day anymore.

Jewel Amethyst said...

To be honest Liane, "Island time" only began to irk me after migrating to the US and then returning for vacation. Within a week or 2 though I do appreciate unhurried pace again.

I feel you Stephanie and I still wish for an extra day. Sometimes it's hard to take my own advice and I fall back into the frantic disorganized frenzy rushing around like a chicken without head.

Charles Gramlich said...

I wish I could do a better job of delegating.

Phyllis Bourne said...

Number 5 on your list has been the most helpful to me organization-wise. I used to try to clear my slate, then focus on writing. Now I write first, then worry about my to-do list.

I even carry a red rock in my pocket everyday that says, "PRIORITIES" to remind me other stuff can wait.