Time Management

by Laicie

Hyperbole and a Half

So, right now I should be:

1)   Cleaning my house.
2)   Writing a reaction to today’s Washington Post story on Iran.
3)   Responding to emails.
4)   Reading emails.
5)   Finding and booking vendors I have left to book.
6)   Showering.

Not to mention the long list of much bigger tasks on my to-do list: writing a book, learning a language… that guitar under the bed?

The list is long, but it has always been long and that’s okay.  I have a lot of goals for myself, and that’s a good thing.  Unfortunately, it also means I’m busy about one hundred and two percent of the time — pre-wedding planning.

To be honest, I’m not quite sure I realized the amount of time wedding planning would manage to suck out of the day to day.  So, for the first time (probably ever – I actually used to think I was pretty good at this) I find myself examining lists of time (and stress) management techniques… looking for a little help.

I imagine this topic is universal to a lot of brides… but it’s funny.  When I Google “time management and weddings,” all I seem to find is a grouping of checklists and possible schedules… and let me tell you, the last thing I need is another checklist.

I am fully aware of the long list of things that I still need to make a decision on.

No.  What I need are those real, time-tested, techniques that every college and university seems to have its own personalized copy of for incoming students… except, different…

What I need – I’m pretty sure – is this.  But… I’m a klutz, so I’m certain I would accidentally kill my hostage.  Not okay.

Instead, I’ve been considering a couple of nifty new Mac apps… and this little list from the Mayo Clinic.

Here are a few highlights that I found particularly useful.

Plan each day. Planning your day can help you accomplish more and feel more in control of your life. Write a to-do list, putting the most important tasks at the top. Keep a schedule of your daily activities to minimize conflicts and last-minute rushes.

I already plan my day, but I know I could be doing it better.  Scheduling chunks of time for certain activities, and working only on those activities during said time, has been shown to increase productivity.  Plus, breaking things down into manageable chunks makes them seem a lot more… manageable.

At this point, just one dedicated hour (even half) would give me more than enough time to do a little vendor research and send an inquiry or two… maybe research invitation wording… revise the guest list… whatever I need.  Then I can let it rest and concentrate on something else for an hour, instead of coming back to it every fifteen minutes and never fully concentrating on any one thing.

Delegate. Take a look at your to-do list and consider what you can pass on to someone else.

Fellow control freaks will understand how hard this one is.  I’m working on it… and at work I’m actually getting much better.  We are lucky to have two to three unbelievably smart and savvy interns working in our office at any given time and, up until this point, I have rarely managed to utilize them.

For some, delegating might also mean hiring a wedding planner.  This isn’t the route I’ve chosen.  Partially because of the aforementioned control freak issue, and partially because I really just want the satisfaction of knowing I did this myself.

That’s not to say I can’t delegate some tasks to, say, my mom… my best friend… my future husband!  They are all unbelievably capable and willing to help.  I try to make use of them whenever I can, but I could always be better.

Practice the 10-minute rule. Work on a dreaded task for 10 minutes each day. Once you get started, you may find you can finish it.

Sometimes all it takes for me is to begin.  If I’m writing something, it’s that first sentence that is the hardest.  Once it’s down on paper, I’m on a roll.

Limit distractions. Block out time on your calendar for big projects. During that time, close your door and turn off your phone, pager and e-mail.

Facebook.  Pinterest.  I’m looking at you.

Take a break when needed. Too much stress can derail your attempts at getting organized. When you need a break, take one. Take a walk. Do some quick stretches at your workstation. Take a day of vacation to rest and re-energize.

Sometimes there is nothing like a quick walk to jumpstart productivity.  For me, there is nothing like a run.  There is something about the clarity that comes with removing yourself completely.  Getting away to a place where your mind can relax and wander.  Whatever it is that does that for you… try it the next time you’re stressed.  I’m willing to bet it will help.

Get plenty of sleep, have a healthy diet and exercise regularly. A healthy lifestyle can improve your focus and concentration, which will help improve your efficiency so that you can complete your work in less time.

If you’re anything like me, those three things are probably #1, #2, and #3 on the list of “essential activities that go straight down the drain when life gets crazy.”

The biggest, most important thing to remember through all of this is that sometimes, losing a little time in order to make a list, eat right, or take a break, can buy you loads of productivity.

An hour of serious productivity is worth more than five hours of scattered, stressed, sleep-deprived writing/tweeting/answering emails while talking on the phone.

… and, for those of you out there who also blog (and maybe decided to start because of an upcoming wedding… bonus stress!) hopefully you’ll find this added piece of advice from Joy the Baker as wonderful as I did:

Let’s talk about real life.  You have a day job because you totally have to pay your bills and buy cute shoes.  By the time you get home at night it’s a) dark, b) you’re starving, c) you totally just want to order Thai food, d) you’re out of butter, and e) you have The Walking Dead on your DVR and you want to scare yourself with zombies.  I totally understand this.  When are you supposed to create content and work on your blog… right?

I have the answer: it’s not easy. You’re doing a hard thing.  I know because I spent a lot of time doing the very same hard thing.  Know what I would do… because I was totally nuts-o?  I would wake up early in the morning and make and photograph an easy recipe.  I’d then come home late at night and blog about it.  On the weekend I would go nuts trying to create content that I would blog about during the week.  My friend all thought I was bonkers… and I was.  Most of my friends shrugged their shoulders.  Some of my friends made fun of me.  A few friends fell away because I wasn’t making the time for them.  I was following the (incredibly dorky) thing that I loved the most… that’s it.  I made sacrifices and I created time and… now I just sleep less.

Okay, well… I just told you to sleep.  Maybe ignore that part.  But just know that whatever you are doing, whatever you are making the time for… you should love it.  It isn’t easy to work everything in, but if you love what you are doing it will be worth it in the end.