Friday, June 6, 2014

Time Management from a Dummy

So there I was, lying in bed, scrolling through my Facebook News Feed last night, when all of a sudden, up rolled the most joyous, treasured, magical post ever.

The Witcher III: The Wild Hunt…new trailer….and pre-order is now open.

**This is the part where Jen goes ballistic.

For those who haven’t read my Video Games for Hott Chicks post, please allow me to explain....

To say I’m enthusiastic about playing The Witcher is like saying Mother Teresa was just another nun. The Witcher is an incredible, fully-immersive, all-encompassing experience. You don’t just play the game. For those minutes or hours you’re at the computer, you’re actually living the game. It’s like reading a really, really good book….except you are living and breathing with the characters in a completely realistic environment from the safety of your own pajama pants.

I am not just a little excited about the release of this game. Watching the trailer brings me to a sense of overwhelming glory and light. It's like having an out-of-body experience. 

Now some might scoff at my intensity. “Who has time for that?”

Well, not me. Lemmie give you a little taste of a normal day in the life of Jen. Ready? Here we go.

0430: Wake up
0530: Get in the car
0630: Start day job
1500: Leave day job
1600: Arrive home
1630: Start 40-minute exercise
1710: Eat dinner, talk to family, work on homework, make smoothies
1745: Go on a walk with family
1815: Get small one in tub
1845: Put small one in bed
1846: Start writing job
2000: Put big one in bed
2001: Go back to writing job
2200: Get tired
2201: Eat/drink something to try and stay up
2300: Fall asleep

…..and then repeat.

Now I want to pause here for a sec and give some credit where credit is due. I’m sure many of you have similar schedules, only without the husband at home to help with the cleaning and cooking. My heart goes out to you – I had to live without that kind of help for years while Aaron was deployed. Each and every one of you is an angel from heaven and I cannot say enough how much I respect your strength. 

That being said, I’m not happy with my current schedule, help or no help. My soul craves my children. I think about them all day, every day. I want nothing more than to be by their side. I promise I am not deranged. I was blessed to stay home with my first, so I know exactly what I'm missing. I want it back. I am also huge on sleeping a little more than 5-6 hours a night. I kinda feel like I gotta have 8 hours to be a real person. I’ve been a fake person for a while now. In a few months, I hope to drastically change this terrible schedule so I may get back to being a real person.

But until then…gaming? Who’s got time for gaming?

Like I said….not me. Guess I could write less, but that would mean moving away from the dream of sustaining my family on my writing. Guess I could try and spend less time with the fam, but that time is what keeps me afloat when I’m working all day. Guess I could stop sleeping……..HAHAHAH what a funny joke!

Bottom line, there is no “good” time to do stuff for myself. If I want to game, or read, or relax at all, I need to forcibly make it happen. In my current, hopelessly-flawed situation, that means I need to either get faster at executing the tasks I have or choose to take on less tasks. This is not as easy as it sounds…but yet, I do find the time to open some wine, curl up with a blanket, and meet Geralt in Witcherland.

Wanna know how I do it?

Get fast.
I can work very, very fast when I want to. Seriously. If I really want to, I can close myself off with a set of earbuds, Pandora, and my computer. The kids are in bed, I completely turn off my phone, and I plug into my work. End of story. I’ve found the more passionate I am about something, the faster I can execute any related tasks. Take gardening, for example. When I’m not feeling it, weeding takes hours upon hours to complete. When I’ve got my garden hat on and am feeling my groove, the shit gets done in like 30 minutes. It’s easy to crank out because I’m passionate about it. My mind flies and doesn’t get caught up on “UHHH I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS.”

One might venture to hypothesize….if you can’t do it with passion, with energy…then perhaps you shouldn’t be doing it at all. This doesn’t work for laundry…but more on laundry later.

Make a kinda-schedule.
My small one now answers almost every question with, “um, kinda!” It’s her phrase of the month. I like “kinda.” The word itself isn't too rigid, yet also provides a little structure….a bit of positivity and commitment. Observe:

You like meatballs? Um, kinda!

You want to go for a walk? Um, kinda!

Tired? Um, kinda!

I like the flexible, open-ended, semi-commitment. It allows me to come to my own conclusions.

Ok great, I don’t like meatballs either.

Yes! We are so going for a walk!

Yea I’m tired, too…let’s go to bed.

See what I mean? Flexible. I try to apply the “um, kinda!” principle to my schedule. Too rigid, and I'm bound to break the schedule, fly off-track, and consider myself a failure. Too flexible, and I won’t get anything done. Have an unexpected day off? Knock out a couple items early. Feel like total garbage? Skip your run and go to bed early. Friends wanting to hang out? Work 30 minutes more each day of the week so you can take a night off and go out. Set guidelines for yourself, but practice flexibility. Life will always get in the way; you can plan on it!

Think of time as an investment.
You don’t want to devote yourself to something that will not give back to your life. Hear me clearly…this is not Jen being selfish – more like Jen giving you a gentle nudge to consider your own needs and goals before committing to someone else’s.

So you were asked to plan a charity event…will you miss dinner with your family? Be forced to skip your exercise time? Need to take holiday time off from work? How do these losses compare to the satisfaction you feel doing charity work? It’s a delicate challenge, balancing happiness….a depleted happiness account means a depleted soul. Try really, really hard to only dedicate time to things that will give you (at the very least) an even return on your investment.

Learn to say no.
Every single time management post you will ever read will tell you this. You’ve gotta say no. Yes, it would be lovely to have 4,000 hours each day so you can see everyone, work for everyone, and be the perfect everything to everyone…but that ain’t real life.

If planning a wedding shower takes a significant portion of your happiness away, find another way to give back to the bride. If your potential client only wants someone who will work during bath and story time, politely decline. If an opportunity comes along for you to write something that barely resembles your original vision, turn it down.  

This is your life – you only get oneIf you start to feel guilty, think of good ‘ol Gaskins…

Time yourself.
I literally need to set an alarm so I don’t work longer on a client’s work than I should. I set my phone for 60 minutes and then when it goes off, I get up, drink water, reevaluate where I'm at in my work, and if I need another hour, I start the timer over again. I don’t check my Facebook. I don’t answer texts. I don’t check on my family. I don’t look at my bed or the couch or anything that could potentially suck me down into “no more for now” land. I just get up, take care of the necessities, and then start on the next section. One hour at a time. Timed. No exceptions, unless the house is on fire or the kids are sick or I am sick....or Shark Tank is on.

Rotate your working days.
I will write nonstop for three houron Monday so I can write for only one hour on Tuesday. I will take the entire night on Friday to hammer through content and client work so I don’t need to worry about it on Saturday and Sunday. Remember that “kinda” schedule we talked about? Rotating work is a huge part of that – you want to distribute your work so it doesn’t take up every waking second of your life. I hate writing on Wednesdays, for example (Modern Family), so I will purposely put in extra time on Tuesdays and Thursdays to make up for it.

You can do the same thing with the more mundane task of your life. Let’s revisit that laundry topic from earlier - I know I’m much more likely to fold clothes with *pep* (read - speed) when the breeze is coming in the windows just right and my small one is helping me match socks. So let’s say it’s raining on your normally-scheduled laundry day… terrible would it be to skip it? Wait for the sun to come back out? Dedicate the day to rainy-day activities instead? Does skipping the laundry mean you're procrastinating? Maybe. Does skipping the laundry that day mean you're making your happiness a priority? Absolutely. Like we explored earlier, the more you enjoy it, the faster it will get done. This is your life we’re talking about here. Be realistic, not everything is sunshine and rainbows. you still gotta fold laundry for cryin out loud. But consider timing it at the best time for you. Saving must-do tasks for the right moment makes all the difference.

So take little bit of planning, add a little bit of flexibility and a smidge of procrastination….and you’ve got some gamer time. By adjusting my schedule a little bit, eliminating unnecessary obligations, and learning to do what I need to do quickly and efficiently, I’m able to carve out an hour to myself at least two nights a week.

Now you might find it's harder to decide what to do once you have that free time. Rest? Read? Play games? Watch TV? Spend time with the husband? Take a bath? Phew. This is where the real trouble starts for me. I got nuthin' for you, readers. I am always struggling to decide which non-work-related task I should dip into. 

What about you, loves? Any of you have some time-management tips you swear by? How do you decide what to do once you’ve made the time to “be free?” I'd love to hear about it in the comments down below!

As always, thank you so, so much for reading :)



  1. I love your timer idea. I waste a lot of time mulling in "I don't want to do this." I'm going to try it.

    1. Awesome! Thanks Savvy :) I just gotta have it or else I stray off-track, or work too long and burn myself out, or fail to have ANY sense of urgency whatsoever.

  2. Love the quote you used (the pinnable one!!!).

    1. Thank you Paula :) I have to re-read it is so easy to just do the steady, solid stuff for a living instead of reaching out and risking everything to reach my dreams!

  3. I definitely agree that no matter what your life and schedule are like at the moment-it's usually possible to squeeze in time for what's most important to you--the things that make life really good, even if many hours are eaten up by work. Although if it would actually work to not sleep just think of all we could do...

    1. That would be insane, wouldn't it? I sometimes think about how weird sleeping is....we all need to kinda go into a weird comatose state every single night. So weird. Thanks for stopping by and reading :)

  4. You definitely need to find the time to do what makes you happy and agree when you are happy doing things they go much quicker. I am crazy organized. I buy things when it is convenient for me not when I need them. People think I am crazy that I have a thousand cards and I plan my daughters's birthday party for months. But knowing what I need means I am be super efficient with my time and buy things when they are a good price not oh crap now I must have this.

    Great Time Management ideas.

    1. Thanks Sarah! Buying ahead isn't crazy - it's proactive!! :)

  5. I like your rotating days. I've been sort of doing that when it comes to my blogging but sometimes my rotations turn into nothing and then I'm frantically playing catch up (like today) which just puts me in a foul mood. What I won't give up is sleep. You wouldn't want to know me! haha! When I work fast it turns into too many mistakes. I guess I'm just a slow and steady person and if it gets done, it gets done. If not, then oh, well.

    1. Hey that works! Whatever works for you - I am a "get faster" person only because I am dying to get a few more hours in my day. The more I practice and the more I enjoy the task, the faster it naturally goes. HAHA and I hear you about sleep - I turn into a non-real-person. Thanks so much for stopping by :)

  6. You have FANTASTIC ideas to help with time management. I need to really think about this and make a plan. I waste HUGE amounts of time and then at the end of the day wonder why I didn't get everything done or have time to read. BAH! Wonderful post!! I'm pinning it right now!! --Lisa

    1. Thank you Lisa :) You are so funny - I am huge on wasting time on Facebook. I recently had to put Facebook in its own little bubble on my phone on the last page, under a subheading titled STOP. Sad. So, so sad.

  7. I schedule everything. That way I get everything in! And I workout when my kids are on the swingset, or first thing when they are sleeping in the morning to get that out of the way. Great post! But seriously...gaming? wow! I wan't to see a vlog on that!

    1. HAHA yes! Gaming is awesome! Read my Video Games for Hott Chicks post! I swear you'll see something there you like - give it a lil shotterooney!

  8. Oh man.

    You do great! Waking up at 430? Ack! I'd have to consume lots of caffeine..

    1. It's gross. Honestly, there are worse things in life, and much worse things in other people's lives, but in my life, the wake-up call is the bain of my existence.

  9. Absolutely fabulous post, Jen! I don't play video games (My boys all do!) but the way you talk about this one makes me want to try it!