When we first started Suitless Pursuits, the only other major thing in my life was my 9-5 job, so I dedicated a lot my free time to it. But last September, I also became a part-time graduate student. Needless to say, I was stressed and exhausted most of the time – I didn’t really account for the time I would be losing and dedicating to school and I was caught off guard.
So now that I’ve been a work-school-juggler for five months now, I know how to manage my time better, and I am much, much happier.
While I’m not a pro (are there any professional time managers anyway?), these are some ways I try to manage my time effectively and efficiently.
Create a schedule, and stick to it
If you work a 9-5 job, chances are, the majority of your day is controlled by your Outlook calendar. But I don’t necessarily see this as a bad thing. You probably have a personal calendar to jot down your personal appointments too, right? I mean, let’s face it - it’s cliche, but we’re all so busy these days. How could you possibly go about your day without a schedule? So what I do, in addition to my work schedule, is to schedule times I’m going to work on my side projects, assignments or other things. Even for this post, I had a “10-12pm write SP post” in my calendar. I also do this with my workouts, so that they’re in my agenda and I can’t back out. It’s like a work appointment. If I know that I’m going out for drinks with friends right after work, I’ll move my workout time to
before work my lunch hour and stick to it (who am I kidding, I am so not a morning person). Whatever you put in your calendar, you can move it around as necessary, but don’t remove it.
Use a to-do list, and use it well
I have a confession to make: I’m a serial to-do-list-er. I have to-do lists everywhere, because that’s how I remember what to do and what’s a priority. But recently, I decided to have just one that's synced on all of my devices. I started using todoist with specific deadlines, and now I have the app on my phone, tablet, laptop, work computer and as a gmail plug-in. That way, I won’t accidentally forget my to-do-list on my sofa at home or my office. It’ll always be with me (for better or for worse).
Get out of your comfort zone
Ever since I got my cat, I haven’t been able to focus very well at home. She constantly wants to be petted, wants to sit on your lap, wants to lick your hand...you get the idea. It’s cute, but it’s also extremely distracting. So I’ve basically been forced to get out of the house to get work done, but this has worked to my advantage. I go to cafes and libraries (and sometimes even the bleachers at a nearby pool, because it’s so warm and the sounds of water make for a great background noise), and this helps with my inspiration, too. I get more done in the allocated time, and don’t procrastinate (as much). Being in a new environment each time gives me a fresh perspective, and I see people around me who are also working. It’s motivating! (Can't get away? Try Coffitivity or Rainy Cafe - they play ambient cafe sounds!)
Use the Pomodoro technique
Our developer, Conrad, actually introduced me to the Pomodoro method couple of years ago. Essentially, you focus for 25 minutes on a task, then take a 3-5 minute break. Once you do four of these (four pomodori), you get to take a longer break. (There’s more info here and here) It’s part deadline-driven, and part rewards-driven. It’s worked really well for me; just make sure you don’t watch “just one episode of Friends” on Netflix during your longer break, because you’ll just keep watching. Something similar but much darker, is Write or Die. Please comment below if you’ve ever used it, and if it’s worked for you.
And last but not least…
Remember what you’re doing it for
If you’re working on your side project, you’re probably doing it because it excites you, or better yet, because you want to. And with any project or task, there are tasks that are mundane and you just. Don’t. Want. To. Do. But just remember to look at the bigger picture. I know, it’s easier said than done, but these little things will eventually add up to the big thing, and that’s what you have to remember. I remind myself with little things like a “YOU GOT THIS” wallpaper on my computer, and post-it notes around my desktop.
So, even if your friend approaches you about a project with the promise of future payments (that you still haven't seen after a year) and you're scratching your head at 11:40pm thinking, "man, I'm so pressed for time," remember that there's always time to do something you're passionate about. You just have to make it.