I have been requested by a good friend of mine, you know who you are, to write about how I keep everything in order, achieve what I do, structure my day and not fall into a heap by the end of it. I think its prudent to say that I have an amazing and incredibly understanding wife who puts up with more than she should, and for that and plenty more, I love her. But I have developed several key ideals and strategies that I employ everyday to ensure that I can maximise my time, achieve more, and seemly do 30 hours work in 24 hours. As those of you who have read my post Maintaining My Rage are aware I am a Member of the Student Representative Council (SRC) for CQUniversity, a member of the Student Participation and Retention Committee (SPARC), a Nursing Student, a Scout Leader, a Blogger, a stay at home Father and a Husband. Along with normal family and friend engagements and activities. A full plate by anyones standards.
I would love to say that I am so super organised that I have enough spare time to paint, or play music or go to the theatre, but the truth is the ‘spare time’ that I do have I fill. Even the time I am sitting on my couch, a passenger in the car or waiting for my next engagement is filled with something. As a nursing student there is a lot to learn, and it isn’t all contained within the prescribed text books, so a lot of my spare time I am reading journal articles, new techniques, the latest research, or the coolest piece of technology that is going to change our world. If I’m not reading I’m writing, I send more emails between 6pm and midnight then almost any other time of day. My daughter is asleep, my son is asleep, my wife is usually sitting two meters away from me marking assignments or planning her next day, so I write. I inform the parents in the Scout Troop about the upcoming activities, I plan the next term, I organise regional events, I throw ideas to the Deputy Vice Chancellors of the University ways to improve the student experience, I draft policy, and I create change, in short, I don’t stop. My wife used to tell me to get off my phone, as she assumed I was emptily engaging in Social Media, she soon realised that I was always doing something, planning, reading or designing, so now she tells me to ‘Switch Off’, but who has time for that. It should also be noted that most nights I average 4-5 hours sleep, so that helps make some time available. So use your spare time wisely, yes you need rest and the 3Rs but don’t squander the time you have available to you.
Which leads me to procrastinating, in all its forms; coffee, cleaning, odd jobs, sitting, chatting, wandering, napping, socialising, or any other activity that isn’t the one you should be focused on. I feel like every day I am asking my son what takes him so long to get ready in the morning, honestly, it can take nearly 45 minutes for him to shower and get dressed. Now that is some expert level procrastinating. If you are structured, no nonsense and can focus on completing your task well the first time, you will save yourself time in the long run. The is an old saying, If you want something done, give it to a busy person, and there is nothing but the truth in there. If you want to be efficient, “overload” your plate, you will find minutes in the day you didn’t even know existed. No time to read, audio book in the car; no time relax, use your laptop on the couch; not enough time to cook dinner in the afternoon, put a slow cooker meal on the morning before; no time for gym, get up earlier or walk to work. There is secret time all through the day. A great exercise is to document a week, every day and write down what jobs, chores, Facebook, activities, study or whatever else consumes your day. Write it down with a time started, and and time finished, and see where all the time in the day goes, where there is seemingly nothing, and fill it with something. Wait a week or two and do it again. And again and again. I am constantly, formally and informally, assessing my time and where I can and cannot possibly fit anything else in.
Loving what I do
Christian Louboutin once said ‘If you do what you love, it is the best way to relax’, now I’m not normally one to quote a Fashion Designer as part of… well anything really, but he makes a great point, Work doesn’t feel like work if you enjoy it. If you enjoy your work, or extra curricular activities you can recharge from them, I know I feel a great amount of joy from helping others, a great sense of achievement when I see change for good, and it recharges me when I camp and sit around a fire. So for me SRC, SPARC, and Scouts are all rewarding and recharging activities. Sure, the emails, policy, planning, documentation, safety briefings and other mundane activities are a bore, but the rewards at the end are incentive enough for me. You may not be able to achieve the same level of enjoyment out of your activities, and you shouldn’t be discouraged by that, even if you can start by taking one positive, saving grace moment from each day, then after a week, make it two, then three and so on, before you know it everything is enjoyable.
Organising my Day, my Week, my Month and even my Year
Though it sounds like a really bad F*R*I*E*N*D*S parody, which was slightly intentional, but it is important to organise your day. I find that begins with breaking down your life into segments. For me I break it down into the following; short term – I work on the period over the next week, medium term – I work in school terms so thats my medium, and long term – the remainder of the year. From that I can split any day into 15 minute blocks and plan it out, travel, packing, meals, meetings, the works. My recommendation is to use a Day-to-a-View diary, this gives you the best coverage and space to plan your day and make notes, the size of the diary itself is whatever works for you. I also recommend finding one with a Monthly and Year planner in it, this helps with the ‘strategic planning’ of the year for big ticket items like camps, holidays, and ANNIVERSARIES! By planning out your day in 15 minute blocks and actually planing out things like travel and meals, you don’t feel like the day is rushed and you find more time to achieve the things you need to get done. This will sometimes mean you will need to rearrange activities to suit better, don’t be afraid of requesting meeting times to be convenient for you, try and avoid doubling back, or visiting the same place more than once if you can, and try and combine meetings at the same location onto the same day to save travelling and preparation time. By organising your day you will also know when to say No.
Knowing when to say No
So you have mastered you spare time, you have all but eliminated procrastination, you have organised where and when you are going to sneeze, and yet you still don’t have time to fit everything in. Now it is important to know when to say No. This is the hardest skill to learn and the hardest thing to actually do. I am notorious for over filling my plate, double, triple or even quadruple booking myself because of my stubborn natured Yes response. My suggestion is to alway have your diary near you, either physically on you, or in the car close by, this way when someone asks if you are free, you have a tangible and real idea of how much time you actually have. This also saves on that double booking problem. When to say no, is when you need to prioritise yourself. For me my priorities are;
- Extracurricular for Uni
Now this may seem a little odd to some, but those are MY priorities, yours will be different, and I expect them to be. Once you have figured out your priorities, stick to them. If something in Number Four is going to impede on Number One time, say No. It is important to do this, it will help with your sanity, it will keep your life in balance, and also help you even handedly distribute your time. This should be caveated with, you have to go to work because you love to eat and have a roof over your head, so you obviously can say No just because your family exists and you would rather stay at home with your partner watching M*A*S*H reruns. Thats where communication comes in.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Almost every marriage counsellor on the face of the planet will tell you that the secret to any great marriage is Communication, unless you are Mark Gungor and then it’s sex AND communication. But this goes for any type of relationship, de facto, friendship, Father-Son, You and your cat, communication will keep everybody happy, and if not happy, at least informed. My wife and I sit down once a week, usually Sunday afternoons, and ‘sync diaries’ we will go through the next week or two, or if something big is in the medium to long term thats new we bring that up. This way we both know what the other is doing, I know when and what to cook for dinner, my wife knows when I am not going to be home and for how long, and most importantly we can make sure that one of us is home for our 18 month old daughter, remembering for us Family is number one. We communicate every hour of every day. We text when things change, when things don’t, when we run out of something, when we fill it up, when we leave, when we arrive and when we are having a struggle with the day. You need to make sure that you communicate, maybe not to the same level as my wife and I on the onset but do communicate. If you don’t know what your significant other is doing, at least in the broader sense, one of you hasn’t communicated enough, and that can include not asking the right questions. Now this isn’t meant to be a sleuthing exercise, you are not trying to micromanage each others lives, but if your not going to be home at 6pm for dinner let your wife know, if you want your husband to buy milk on the way home don’t assume he noticed, drop a text. This will go a very long way to ensuring that the day can run as smoothly as you have planned it, or at least give you a sounding board when it doesn’t.
I hope this has at least given you a glimpse into how I juggle everything, and Maintain my Rage. If you have any tips, tricks or suggestions for how you manage your schedule write a comment in the section below. If you would like to hear about anything specific, just as this Blog article was requested, jump over to our connection page and fill out the form. I would love to hear from you.