I work full-time, I take ballet at least twice a week (though now that it’s Nutcracker season I have it four times a week *crazed smile and laugh*), I have friends and family that I occasionally like to interact with, I sleep, I eat, I try to work out, and I run a blog and write for at least two other sites (sometimes more). Suffice it so say:
The biggest question I get is how do I have time to do All of the Things and still maintain my sanity? Friends, I’ll be honest, I am regularly precariously perched on the precipice of busy and fulfilled and crazy overwhelmed. I’ll be honest some more and say that I frequently get it wrong, and find myself plunging into the depths of overwhelm. So what do I do to keep my sanity? Even if I do plunge into being overwhelmed, how do I pull myself out? Well, I’m by no means an expert, and sometimes I feel I get it wrong more than I get it right. However, here are a few tips I have for maintaining a busy schedule while still making time for those projects that give you life.
Get. A. Planner.
If you remember one thing from this post, remember this point. You need a planner. It can be digital, it can be paper (if you’re into paper planners like I am, might I recommend this one?), but you need to get a planner in your life. If you’re like me, I use my planner to sort out my blog stuff. I know I’m gonna be at work every day from 8-5, so there’s no need for me to log that. But planning out what I want to write here for the month and keeping track of my various Geek & Sundry deadlines? I need help there. So however you use it, whatever form it takes, just remember: PLANNER.
Learn when to say no
As I’m writing and gearing up my freelance hustle, one of the hardest things for me to do is say no. Though I do a lot of freelance writing, I also freelance edit. One of the crazy things you’ll find when people find out you’re an editor is how many writer-friends come out of the woodwork. Some of them are actual friends of yours (so you probably already know they’re writers), and some of them are long-lost friends. Usually the latter will ask you to edit their stuff, for free, and will say things like, “I hoped you would look at this so we don’t have have to pay a real editor”. Still, if you’re like me, saying no to anyone remotely close to you can be hard, and saying no to something you physically can’t swing can be hard when you know it will pad your resume. But if you’re going to maintain your sanity, you’ve got to learn to refuse projects from time to time. Define your own boundaries. Do you only want to do paid writing? No editing romance novels? You’ll only do writing for your blog? Whatever your boundaries and standards are, figure them out, and stick to them. Trust me, you’ll be thankful you did (oh the stories I could tell you from projects I wish I’d refused to do…)
Let yourself do nothing productive…for a set amount of time
One of the best ways for me to recharge my batteries is some solid, quiet, Kendall-time. Whether it’s questing around Skyrim, watching Netflix, or even taking a nap, having time where I don’t have to interact with anyone or do anything charges me back up. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and anxiety-filled, my body goes into emergency mode, and shuts my entire body down, forcing me to do nothing. This is often not great because usually those emergency shut down periods happen when I really need to get stuff done. So, to avoid your body forcing you to stop, give yourself time to recharge, however that works for you. Let yourself do something thoroughly unproductive, just set an end time to it. Something like, “I will let myself watch two episodes of the IT Crowd, and then I’ll get back to work.” Whatever gives you energy, do that for a bit, and don’t let yourself feel badly that it isn’t necessarily “productive”. After all, if you’re not healthy, you can’t get anything done, so it’s better to take care of yourself than have to deal with the consequences of neglecting your health later.
Plan out specific time for specific tasks
When you’re balancing so many tasks, you’ve got to be intentional with stuff–especially those tasks that aren’t necessarily your favorite. Like I said earlier, I just know that I have to go to work everyday, so I don’t ever worry about “scheduling” it. However, I have to be intentional about literally everything else. Ballet at 7:30. Blog planning on my lunch break. Writing time on Sunday at 9:00. If I make schedules and plans with myself, it’s much harder for me to forget or blow off responsibilities. It also helps me see either that I have done a good job managing my tasks, that I have a bit of extra room in my schedule for another project, or if I need to back off a bit. In my experience when I say, “I’ll write tonight,” rather than, “I’ll write from 9:00-10:00,” I usually don’t start writing until I’m ready to go to bed (usually because I haven’t been taking care of myself, so I’m worn out and overwhelmed, so I felt I needed to take time for myself), so I get stressed, I write, I stay up late finishing whatever writing needed to get done, and I wake up tired and cranky. When I make plans and schedules, everything works so much better.
Let yourself stop if your heart’s no longer in it
The thing about blogging, freelance editing/writing, and any of those entrepreneur/hustle type projects is that your heart has to be in it. This is even more true if you’re blogging for fun, not money. If you get to the place where your heart’s not in it or if the entire situation fills you with dread or anxiety, be okay to bail. Maybe freelancing isn’t for you. Maybe blogging isn’t for you. Maybe trying to start up your own business isn’t for you. Or, maybe that stuff is for you, but it just isn’t the right time. Either way, it’s okay if you decide you’re done. Let yourself be done. You can always come back to the project, the blog, the business, or whatever when you feel more ready to tackle it, but if you’re forcing yourself to blog–again, especially if you’re doing it just for the fun of it–or if you’re forcing yourself to manage a zillion projects at once, you’re asking to crash and burn. Blogging, freelancing, starting your own business, or whatever in addition to an already full schedule is tough enough. Don’t make your life more challenging by trying to force something on yourself that simply isn’t working for you.
It’s tough to manage a full schedule while making sure you have time in a day to also work on your passions (especially because those passions often don’t pay the bills), but it is far from impossible. The key is to take care of yourself and do what you can to stay organized–you can do it, you just have to work a tad harder than the average person. But if you’re heart’s in it, it’s totally worth it. Because of my own interest in following your passions and starting something where nothing existed before, I’m going to be starting a series called “It’s Totally a Real Job” here on the blog to discuss being a geeky girl boss and carving your own path in the business world. Stay tuned on the blog and Twitter for more info on that, and leave any time management tips you have in the comments!