Cleaning up your time will ultimately clean up your life.

We all can relate to times that seem to be in complete chaos. Mornings are dreadful. Nights aren’t any better. Days are longer and more stressful than ever, as you pace around thinking about what you’ll have to do the next day.

This was the case for me over the past month. The workload from school and work was piling up all at once. It wasn’t surprising, though. I knew it was bound to happen at some point.

The break that came before all of that allowed more time to focus on my writing. Most of my days were spent pouring out the ideas bouncing around inside my head.

But now that my priorities have shifted, I have to be more intentional about how I fill my days. Otherwise—like any human—I’ll be left with the feeling of productivity congestion.

Such is the case of life.

On Managing Time

“Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.” — Stephen R. Covey

It was easier during the break, I’m not going to lie. Waking up and getting straight to a post was how I would start the day. There weren’t too many things to get me off track of what I wanted to do.

Things have changed since then.

Papers are due. Assignments have to be completed. The to-do list has seemingly doubled. And before I know it, it’s near the end of the day.

The common response to this, of course, is the sense of being overwhelmed. It’s not something to be ashamed of. We all go through it every now and then, some more often than others. There just isn’t enough time in the day it seems.

In reality, we aren’t overwhelmed. We just need to manage our time better.

I didn’t see this as the underlining issue at the time. I thought I was fine. No need to change anything. But there was no adjustment made when my schedule shifted.

It’s easy for us to become accustomed to a routine. Day after day of doing the same thing, it eventually becomes a part of us. We don’t even have to think twice.

This is where time management shines.

So often we assume there’s no time to do what brings us joy. To be fair, there are times when this is true. Like being parents of a newborn who requires most of our time. Or taking care of an elderly person who can’t live independently.

Most often, though, the problem stems for us neglecting to intentionally sit down and schedule tasks, estimating how long it will take to complete them, and getting to work on them distraction-free.

We aren’t in control of everything in our lives, but there’s no reason we shouldn’t plan ahead for what needs to be done.

Prioritize Your Tasks

Since starting a new semester, I can see how important it is to prioritize what I have to do. You may not see it immediately, but this is crucial to minimizing stress and eliminating the temptation to procrastinate.

Over the past month or so, my twin brother and I made the transition into our newly renovated apartment. Adding the process of moving to an already-busy semester had proven challenging.

That’s why we made such a strong effort to prioritize tasks throughout the day. This gives us an idea of what matters most and what can wait before taking any steps.

Make an effort to list your most important tasks first. Throw your attention on them as early as you can, and knock it out of the park.

Not only will your future self thank you, but you’ll also make room for other activities without the added load of guilt. Trust me, that couch feels a lot better after you’ve gotten things accomplished.

We commonly think of small tasks as something we have to take care of before getting to the big stuff. But doing this is counterproductive.

As you spend precious minutes completing the little tasks, you push off the heavy-lifting for later. No one likes to finish a task that’s been sitting there for hours. You’d much rather get it out of the way, right?

First thing’s first, then.

Minimize Distractions

I can’t even begin to tell you how easy I get distracted. Mostly due to neglecting to turn off notifications (still working on that one), I find myself staring at a device for hours “accidentally.”

Don’t you hate yourself after that happens?

You wish you could go back in time and just get started, rather than playing around and tweeting stuff. I’m right there with you. And as I take steps to improve, I want to help you too.

Whenever possible, cut out the distractions around you when a task is important.

If you’re not willing to turn your notifications off, at least put your phone on silent mode and place it out of your frame of vision. I’ve found this to work wonders already.

As for the television, there’s not much for me to say that you don’t already know. We all know that it’s not good to work around a TV, yet we do it anyway.

I had this same issue with social media before I decided to do something about it.

Distractions will never go away unless we make intentional steps to pull the plug on them.

It will not be easy, but it will be worth it in the end. No need for apologizing, either. There’s work to be done, stories to be told.

Pretty soon, you’ll come to value the importance of focusing on the tasks at hand. And that burden of feeling overwhelmed will disappear, all because you were willing to say no.

Photo by Kal Visuals on Unsplash

Reward Yourself

This is another big one that most of us forget about: you need to have some fun when it’s all said and done. You worked hard for that story, that picture, or that song. Why spend hours worrying about it later?

Sure, you want it to be great. You want the world to love what you’ve created and search for your name on Google, eventually finding it in the pile of other superstars.

But that’s not as important as you think it is. And if it is, maybe that’s why you feel overwhelmed.

Don’t put pressure on yourself to become the greatest at what you do. I hear people say that all the time and I empathize with what they mean. At the same time, though, I feel sorry for them.

You should be creating because it’s what you love to do, not because you want to be better than everybody else.

This leads to binge-watching the stats, ignoring any notion of rest, and degrading others for the sake of attention. That’s a punishment, not a reward. There’s more happiness in practicing what brings you joy.

Then the fun times with family and friends are just that: fun times.

No shame. No regret. No guilt. Just pure delight.

Life is filled with enough pressure, there’s no need to put more on yourself. What you want is to take your time (prioritizing tasks along the way), limit your distractions as best you can, and have fun in the end.

I may not be the best life coach, but I do understand the benefit of living an enjoyably simple life. A congested timeline is nothing to take lightly. And yet, we often take it too far in the opposite direction.

Give your days some structure. You’ll see clearer then.


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