Updated: May 31, 2019
When I was in college, I had about two spare minutes every day. I lived off 5-6 hours of sleep and had 3 jobs at the same time. When I moved off campus, I got a little more sleep, but I had to start cooking, cleaning, and buying groceries for myself. All throughout that, I managed to get good grades and do a lot of extracurriculars, like writing my blog and hosting a writing group. I even had a lot of friends I kept up with more or less, not to mention spending time with my bf. I’m not saying all this to brag, but I definitely had to learn a lot about time management and balance.
Now, I feel like my life is so much easier, with no homework and only 2 jobs, but planning a wedding and a future adds some challenge to my schedule. I have to keep a good planner to remember everything I need to do and not get overwhelmed. I know a lot of you have an even busier schedule than I do now and have a hard time keeping up with everything. It can be hard to have time for everything important, so I compiled a list of things that help me. I’m not perfect at it; I still struggle sometimes with my to-do list, but it’s so much better than not having a method.
So, without further ado, here are some things I use to keep on track:
1. Figure out the hard/easy days during your week.
Unless you’re superman/woman, you’re going to have some days that are a little more chill than your craziest days. You probably have a day off during the week, or at least when you work less than others. That is the day you need to do the stuff you can’t fit in the others. Monday is my day off, so that’s my laundry/cleaning/cooking/errands day. It doesn’t sound fun, but it actually is a nice change from staring at a computer like the rest of my week. I get as much out of the way on Monday so that on the crazy work days (Tuesdays I often work 9-5 and then go straight to teach 3 piano lessons) I don’t have to do anything. That way, I don’t feel bad for just crashing. Also, Monday I cook enough to cover Tuesday, so I’m not left scrambling to find something to eat.
I can’t stress how important it is to have a day off. One summer, I worked every day of the week, and it was exhausting. Even though some days were shorter than others, I never had a full 24-hours to relax and catch up on other things. God created a day of rest, and I think we need to stick to that. So if you can, make sure you have a day off from everything. Sundays are normally like that for most regular jobs, but if you work in retail or food service, you might have to work all weekend. Find another day that you can request off. That way, you have something to look forward during those grueling hours at work.
2. Keep a planner, review often.
At the beginning of every week, I’ll get my planner out and look over what I need to get done that week. Usually there are a lot of variables, and I don’t always stick to what I wrote down, but at least I have a list to look at when I forget what I need to do.
The key here is not to be strict and force yourself to do exactly what you planned for that day, it’s to get as much done as you can and know what you need to do. There’s nothing worse than waking up the middle of the night, realizing you forgot to do laundry and now have no clean pants to wear to work tomorrow. It makes it easier to take care of the important things first and only worry about the other stuff if you have extra time.
3. Put dates/appointments into your phone.
My planner is pretty big, so I don’t want to lug it along with me every day. That’s why I put every appointment/friend date/work schedule into my phone calendar. That way, if someone asks me if I’m free on the weekend, I can check right there and tell her if I can hang out or not. (It has actually become a crutch though, because if I forget to put something on my phone, I’ll double book myself easily. Reminder for me to always put it down immediately.)
4. Write out your non-negotiables and stick to them.
This is so important and probably the hardest part of scheduling for me. My goal is to read my Bible every morning before going anywhere. But if a friend asks me to hang out early, I’ll drop that goal and go out without reading. I tell myself that I’ll do it later in the day, but it’s often forgotten, or I’ll end up staring at my Bible at 11 pm, trying to focus and not fall asleep.
Personal growth is so underrated, and we don’t think it’s a good excuse to say no because we want to do something for ourselves. We shouldn’t feel bad about scheduling personal time and saying no to others because of it. If something is important to us, we should put it on the non-negotiable list and be firm in sticking to it. That’s how discipline begins. You’ll be surprised how much others will respect that.
5. Schedule time for “anything.”
So you’re all booked. You’ve scheduled everything you need to do. But where’s the fun? Don’t overlook this step. It’s as important to have some down time as it is to be productive. We we’re meant to run around without a break. We should have time for fun and socializing.
One of my biggest victories in my scheduling journey was when I realized I can schedule time for anything… or nothing. My fiancée is not a planner, and it can get on his nerves when I’m not flexible at all. That’s why I decided to have a cutoff time for my work. When he got off work, I’d let myself be free. That way, we could do spontaneous things, like driving out to the beach at night, hanging out with friends, or just watching our show. This helped me as a rigorous planner calm down and not feel bad for not being productive. I made sure I was done with my work by a certain time, and after that, I could do whatever we felt like.
Especially when you’re in college, you can get invited to go somewhere at midnight. Of course, there’s a balance, but those random adventures are usually the ones you remember, and you don’t want to miss out on those because you’re being too strict on your schedule. Being flexible is good.
I hope these points have been helpful—they took me a long time to figure out, and have been a huge help to my productivity. Stay tuned for a video of me showing you my planner and how I organize things! It might help this post make a little more sense practically.
I’m really excited about this series. And I’m far from perfect and am always ready to improve, so feel free to share your productivity tips with me!