How to manage your time when you have no time?
It is by no means easy to manage a thing that doesn't exist, is it? So, instead of trying to do the impossible, I'd like you to determine how much time you REALLY have.
To do that, I recommend to you a simple but excellent Quiz prepared by one of our fellow members (Thank you, Eddy!) Please, do open the link, read the whole post and follow Eddy's instructions. Only then read on.
Well? What's your score? Do you still claim you have no time? If you do, read my article, we'll try to do the impossible, anyway.
If, however, you have admitted that you're only looking for excuses, then... read my article. I think I have some tips for you, too.
OK, let's get started.
What I mean by 'no time'
In his excellent (I cannot stress it enough!) post, Eddy hinted at the existence of 'some real stuff that can really impact your time'.
What is that 'real stuff'? Let me give you an example.
Let's say you are a stay-at-home mom (or dad). You have just started building your website and you'd like to develop it as soon as possible. You are realistic and you know you won't get rich overnight, but you also know that you have to put content into your website regularly. So, you decide to dedicate 5 hours a day (every day) to working on your online business.
So far so good, but... you have other things to do: driving children to school, picking them up, preparing meals, etc. What's more, you still work as freelancer. You've got deadlines to meet and you just cannot quit job, because that's one of the two main sources of your income (the other is your husband's/wife's job).
Also, you have a disabled son. Yes, he goes to school, but you still need to drive him to additional therapy at least twice a week in your hometown and at least once a month outside your hometown. I don't even mention the 'small' things, like: doing chores, shopping or talking to your husband/wife (at least once in a while:-).
To cut the long story short, it turns out that you have to revise your plan even before you started realizing it. Having done some precise calculations, you decide you can work on your online business only 3-4 hours a day (Sundays excluded). Also, you know that you cannot start working on it earlier than at 9 p.m every night.
During the first week everything seems to work just fine. You are very excited about your new adventure. You have your website set up. You have written the initial pages. You make progress every day. It doesn't even matter that you sleep 5 hours a day. You hadn't slept much longer before so it's not a big deal.
At the end of the second week one of your daughters gets sick. At night she wakes up every two hours so you hardly sleep at all. Nevertheless, you try to work in the evening but about ten o'clock you realize you have written two sentences during one hour. OK, so this night you have to got bed earlier. It won't hurt your website, will it? After all it's only one day...
Another three days have passed. Next day is the date of planned visit to hospital with your son. Fortunately, you had known you were going to spend three months there, so you take with you all you need to work on your website.
Do I need to say that due to some complications you had to spend in hospital six months? That you slept even less than at home? That you met the deadlines of your "main" job only by a miracle? That your web connection was terrible? That you wrote one and half posts during these six months? That when you finally came back home, other problems with time appeared?
That (and much more) is what I mean by 'some real stuff that can impact your time'. Mothers of six, fathers who cannot quit their job overnight, people who take care of a sick family member - all of them and many others know exactly what I'm talking about. I'm pretty sure all of them could tell a similar story.
What to do?
Does it mean there's nothing you can do? Of course not! First of all, you need to be patient and consistent. Also, I have some tips for you, which you might find helpful.
1. Don't get frustrated! Don't compare yourself to others!
If things don't turn out the way you had expected, it is very easy to think lowly of yourself. Especially when you read all the success posts here, at WA, and you are constantly told that all you have to do to achieve your goals is to work hard.
But you know that you do work hard! It is about then that you start asking yourself the following questions: What's wrong with me? Maybe I'm not good/smart enough to do it? Maybe online business is not for me?
The first thing you have to do in this situation is to stop comparing yourself to others. Others have their own problems, their own lives. YOU can learn from them, but the knowledge YOU gain through these lessons has to be applied to YOUR life!
YOU have your own pace and only YOU fully realize the scope of limitations and problems YOU have to deal with! Just because someone else has achieved in one week what you struggle to achieve in one year does not mean you're worse or incapable of doing it!
Still, you do need to make steady progress otheriwse you get nowhere. In other words, you have to mange your time, even though you have no time. How to do it?
2. Plan the smart (hard?) way. Be realistic!
Everybody knows that planning is crucial for effective time management. But how can you plan anything when you know that unexpected things can happen literally every minute?
Let me digress a bit, before I give answer to that question.
You see, I have a young and a very successful friend. Some time ago we happened to have a little chat about time management. I remember that at that time I started to have serious problems with meeting the deadlines of my translations.
When my friend heard about it, he offered me help. I had always thought of myself as a rather disorganized person, so I gladly accepted his offer.
I must admit he went very professional about it. He asked us (me and my wife) what priorities we had; what were our short-term and long-term goals; what our daily schedule was, etc.
So we told him that taking care of our disabled son takes X hours of our day; that once a week my wife would take painful injections which made her unable to do antyhing at least for one day; that a nurse would visit us for two hours a week so that we could go out for a walk together; that I would usually work at nights for 2-3 hours ...
[That's how I would work back then :)]
When we started to list the different things that could suddenly and unexpectedly interrupt our 'daily schedule', he stopped scribbling his notes. He scratched his head in silence and finally stated helplessly:
"I can't help you to manage your time. There are just too many variables (i.e. unexpected things that can happen any time) I would have to take into account."
It was probably at that time that I realised I had o do it my own way. And I have to be realistic.
3. Create a plan and check the reality!
The problem with the wise books my friend had read was that they were full of good pieces of advice, but they weren't realistic in that they didn't take into account many aspects of reality. Reality is usually much more complicated than good pieces of advice.
Planning is good - no doubt about it! However, if there are too many variables in your life and you simply cannot include them all into your plan, you've got to find a way to minimize the chance they eventually stop you from taking action.
One way to do it is to make a plan and then to revise it as frequently as possible (preferably every day, at least at the beginning). Below I am going to give you an example of how to do it. Remember: this is not a fixed formula. You can and should modify it according to your needs.
Note: I am not going to talk about setting your goals (be it short-term or long-term ones). Neither will I talk about general strategies of effective planning. There are multiple sources on the Web and outside of it which explain it in a thorough and exquisite way.
My intention is to give you a method to help you determine how much time you REALLY have and how to reduce the bad effect of the unexpected and unpredictable events in your life.
Ok, let's get to the point:
- Start with setting a plan for ONE day. Include as many details as possible in it.
- In the evening of that day, make a quick check of your plan. (Don't spend on it more than 10 minutes). Answer the following questions: How many of the things you had planned you actually did? Did it take you as much time as you had expected? Why not? What you failed to do? Why? Were there any unexpected events that prevented you from doing what you had planned? HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO DEAL WITH ALL THE UNEXPECTED THINGS?
- Record the answers and the actual NUMBERS (you may even contain them in a table).
- Repeat the whole process for the next day. Then for the day after that day, and so on.
- Set a plan for one WEEK and do exactly the same reality checks. Set a plan for a month and for a year.
Yes, it is a mundane activity, but if you have problems with time management and large amount of unpredictable variables, you have to be very rigid about your planning.
Besides, if you are able to use that method for quite a while, strange things are likely to happen.
First of all, you will start seeing patterns in your behaviour, some of which you wouldn't even suspect to exist!
For example, I discovered that - for a reason I couldn't explain - on Wednesdays I was much less effective in doing what I had planned than on any other day of the week.
More importantly, after six months I was able to estimate the AVERAGE amount of time I spent on dealing with unexpected events every month. For clarity's sake let's say that they 'stole' from my time 100 hours a month (on average). One month it could be 150 hours, next month it was only 50.
As a result, I realized that even if one month I 'lose' significant amount of time, in a month or two I will be able to 'recover' that loss. I don't have to hurry things up. I don't have to sleep two hours a day just to make up for lost time as quickly as possible. All I have to do is to do my job patiently and consistently. Sooner or later 'my time will come'.
I became more relaxed and more self-conscious. That attitude boosted my effectiveness dramatically. You know, as I have already hinted, spontaneousness has always been my way. It still is, but now I can at least see the benefits of getting things organized.
What's more, I realized that there was still plenty room for improvement. I actually discovered that I still use excuses not to do what I had planned!
4. Seek help, be accountable!
Even the best plan is completely worthless, if you are not able to put it into action.
Many of us have a hard time realizing our ideas. We don't do it because we are afraid of failure, because we don't want to hear other people's judgment, because we have self-doubts and for thousand other reasons.
If you - like most of us - have this problem and can't cope with it on your own, you need help. And that's perfectly fine! Everyone needs help sometimes.
There are literally hundreds of thousands of ways which we can help each other in. The one I am going to recommend to you is to find someone who can hold you accountable for what you did and - more importantly - for what you failed to do.
It can be a friend of yours, a family member or.. a member of the WA community. Ask him/her to do one thing - namely to ask you a simple question every day/week/month. The question in question is: "Did you do what you had planned to do?" If the answer is "No", there can be a follow-up question: "Why?" (although it is not necessary).
Of course, you can give the question a more specific form, e.g. "Have you written the piece of content you had planned to write?" or "Have you published the post you had planned to publish?"
It is not about harassing anyone. The point is that being accountable to someone else (not only to yourself) gives you extra motivation to execute your plan. And if the other person also needs a gentle push, you can do the same for her/him.
5. Take a brake, if needed. Don't overdo it!
Sometimes there's only so much you can do! There are situations in which you just cannot continue doing whatever it is you're doing. (For example, you can't sleep two hours a day and pretend everything is going to be just fine)
Everyone needs to take a break sometimes. Or even to start it all over again.
That is exactly what I did some time ago. You can read about it here. Fast forward a year and I am still here. Stronger and smarter (I hope ;-)
Current state of affairs (instead of summary)
I still struggle with time (management). We all do, don't we? But I do have my share of success as well.
My brand new website's health is pretty good. Two weeks ago i got my first 'click'. Someone actually saw my webiste in Google and visited it! 'Another someone' has just shared one of my posts on Google+ (and he's not even a WA member).
Nothing to write home about, you say? Well, I say it's awesome!
Don't compare yourself to me, though! Make a plan! Keep it real! Seek for help! Go your own way! Hit the brake and take a break, if needed! Then start again!
Blessings and best of luck!