i.e. How to Find Time For Creative Presents?
I run workshops at a university, give private lessons, translate and write a bilingual blog. Apart from that I’m a full-time house manager taking care of a little child. How do I find time to do it all AND make creative presents? It is true that my dear husband helps me a lot, but I have also come up with a number of ways to sleep 8 hours a day, manage all of my tasks and keep my senses. Check out my time management tips, and see if they will work for you, too!
1. Begin time management with making to-do-lists
I owe this idea to my mother, who always makes to-do lists before Easter, Christmas and other big family feasts that she has to organise. On one side of the paper, she writes down all tasks that have to be done on a given day, and on the other – all food products to be bought, so that they will be fresh when needed. If family members are to help, their names are written next to the specific tasks. Such lists have three main advantages. Firstly, they help you to remember things. Secondly, no matter how good your memory is, it is always safer to write things down and be aware of how much is left to be done. Thirdly, it gives immense satisfaction to cross out all the completed tasks.
2. Divide complex tasks into operational ones
I will give you a simple example. Let’s say Saturday is your usual day for cleaning. Instead of writing ‘clean the house’, split it into: ‘vacuum cleaning’, ‘dusting shelves’, ‘washing bathroom floor’, etc. This way, you are not overwhelmed by one huge task that may take ages to complete, and you have more items to cross out and be proud of.
When I make presents that are bound to take me more than one day, I never write ‘make a present’. Firstly, I don’t want any items to remain on my list at the end of the day. Secondly, if I only have several short periods in which I can do something (e.g. when my baby is sleeping), I could never begin anything big. However, if a complex project is split into smaller parts, I can usually squeeze them in-between my other duties.
3. Place tasks as early as possible on your list to ensure good time management
Once you know what needs to be done, you will need to order it somehow. For example, if you make a list for the whole week, you should divide it into days. My advice is that you do not distribute your tasks equally (e.g. 28 items on the list / 7 days of the week = 4 tasks a day). Why? Because you never know what additional things will come up during the week, and you don’t want to run out of time by the end of it because you procrastinated things that could have been done earlier. Instead, try putting all the things that don’t have to be done on a specific day as early as possible. I know it doesn’t seem fair to have 16 items listed under ‘Monday’, eight under ‘Tuesday’ and only one or none on other days, but it’s just the beginning. Such a division of duties lets you shift tasks to a later day if something more important disturbs you (which wouldn’t be possible if you have planned them for the last day before the deadline).
I have never drawn Stephen Covey’s Urgent & Important Prioritisation Matrix, but I find his concept very useful when deciding which tasks I should do first when I don’t have time to do all of them. The general rule is: first you do things that are important and urgent, second – those that are urgent but not necessarily important, third – important but not urgent tasks, and fourth – unimportant and not urgent jobs. This will greatly improve your time management since you will never be guilty of missing something important because you dedicated all of your time to something trivial instead.
5. Estimate and overestimate
At that point, you should have your list written down and ordered in terms of priority, with a myriad of items to do on your first day. This is the time when you need to be realistic, or even slightly pessimistic. A day has only 24 hours, and you can hardly do anything about it (although I do know a couple of tricks that I am going to share with you in the next post). During that time you probably also have to eat, sleep and work. How much time is left for other tasks? Eight hours? Six? Four? Be realistic, and don’t assume that you will work past midnight if you know you are bound to be tired and will fall asleep much earlier.
Once you have estimated your productive time, look back at your list and try to estimate how much time you need to complete each task. This time be pessimistic. E.g. preparing a quick creative gift for your loved one may take 30 minutes if you have already done it before; it usually takes an hour, but may take up to 1.5 hour if you lack inspiration. In that case, don’t attempt to write 30 minutes next to that item, but rather opt for 60-90min. The same goes for all tasks in which something may go wrong. This way you will ensure doing them before the set deadline.
All the tasks that won’t fit in you daily plan should be ruled off: these are no longer your duties for a given day. However, if you finish your duties earlier (which is another aim of overestimating their duration), you may do some of these other things and derive satisfaction from doing more than you’ve planned and having less to do on the next day.
I wonder which of these tips were the most helpful for you or which you already use. If you have your own tips to share, please do so in the comments below. Before you read the next post, try following these five rules for a week, and let me know if they worked!
- I used to write my to-do lists in a notebook that I carried with me everywhere. Now that I stay mostly at home, I use Sticky Notes. Their advantage is that tasks may be easily shifted from one day to another, to the front or to the back of the list. Unfortunately, I have to delete completed tasks instead of crossing them out, and at the end of the day I am left with nothing instead of a long list of things done to be proud of. But you may easily find applications that allow for crossing items instead of deleting them.