take back your time

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happy Monday, y’all! after a couple stupidly over-scheduled weeks at work, i’m definitely hoping for a little less intensity and a little more productivity this week. i was not at all pleased when Apple recently announced one more way to make sure you’re constantly connected and now literally physically attached. no thank you. i mean, please.  get all these people out of my calendar and turn off the constant notifications! was pretty much all i could think. (though i will say the one pictured here is really pretty.)

even before the announcement of shiny new toys, i’d been thinking a lot about how i manage my own time at work and at home, and what i can do to keep sane, even when it seems impossible. i write this knowing that i generally think about 80% of what i read in “time management” articles is completely unrealistic and unrelated to my life and therefore, complete and utter BS. that said, here are a few things i’ve found that help me cope with the chaos.

prioritize yourself
i’ve started putting all my personal stuff on my work calendar — doctor’s appointments, school activities, lunches with friends, the gym, anything i need to do for me or my family that’s important. now i might not always make public what those things are, but the time is blocked. and unless something comes up that just can’t get scheduled any other time, i say no to meetings that overlap those times. why? because i’m tired of re-arranging my schedule 60 times because of other peoples’ scheduling problems. it devalues my time. same thing with blocking time to actually do work. running from meeting to meeting all day, then getting pulled into impromptu conversations and dealing with the inevitable advertising emergencies keeps my job interesting, but it rarely leaves me with any actual time or the mental space i need to focus and actually get my job done.

i can’t say it’s always perfect, but standing firm on taking the time i need helps me be a lot more productive and feel a lot less frazzled, even when my calendar looks like a Jenga stack. and everyone involved is better off for that. same thing at home. it takes more work there, but when i’m feeling overwhelmed, i have learned to stand back, refocus and make my family work around my schedule and what i need to get done, rather than running around like a maniac trying to cater to everyone else’s whims. basically, do your thing and let others fall in line as much as humanly possible, rather than the other way around.

get organized
okay, this one sucks. but it’s just a fact of life for me and i’ve been doing it for so long that it just pretty much comes naturally. i know that if i can stay in control of what i can control, the unexpected things that always happen may throw my day off course a little, but don’t turn the whole thing into a complete disaster. usually. that means doing things like keeping the house picked up or my inbox relatively cleaned out, filling up the gas tank every other weekend and making lots of schedules and to do lists. it means taking 5 minutes to do something i’ve been putting off for a week or taking an open 30 minutes to go for a run just to get it out of the way. by staying on top of the things that have to get done, i can make time for the fun (or, okay even not fun) things that come up because i can see where those things fit into my day and they don’t have to take the place of one of the necessities.

stay flexible
yeah, this seems totally opposite from what i just said, but just wait for it. nothing ever happens the way you think it will, right? best laid plans and all. being organized doesn’t mean you have to be a total rigid control freak about your schedule. when i’m organized, i have a clear picture of what my day or week looks like and can better pivot when things don’t go as planned. last minute shift in plans on who’s picking up Miss Girl? no problem. she can come to the gym with me and we’ll pick up dinner on the way home, instead of me coming straight home, throwing dinner in the oven and going out for a run. unavoidable client call? can we wrap our status into the 10 minutes after that instead of keeping 30 minutes later blocked? fantastic. it’s about seeing the opportunities to do things differently and then seizing them. and as long as you reach your destination, how you do it doesn’t really matter.

blow stuff off
i’m serious. it’s taken me a long time (and it’s still a work in progress) to realize that everything doesn’t have to be perfect all the time. sometimes the mental and emotional relief of just taking a break is worth 10 times more than 10 items checked off a to-do list. truth. this weekend, while Spy and Miss Girl were away, i thought i was going to get 1,000 things done. in reality, i spent the better part of Saturday napping and watching TV — 2 things i never usually do. groceries didn’t get bought. nails didn’t get done. laundry didn’t get folded. my closet didn’t get changed over for fall . . . surprisingly, the world didn’t end, no one has starved yet and probably, no one will leave the house naked this morning. but for me, taking that time to just do nothing was absolutely worth every undone chore. i’m mentally more prepared for the week and can actually now face taking on some of those tasks over the next few evenings. it’s all about thinking what will make you feel better and giving yourself permission to stop caring so much about the things that aren’t critical to actually functioning.

and with that, here’s to a productive and peaceful week!

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