Work, life, balance, and a little sanity

As many of you know from reading my blog, I have several things balanced on my plate. I…

  • work at a garden shop to fill my bank account (and that of Insanitek’s) ~32hrs/wk
  • tutor on my days off from the garden shop ~8hrs/wk
  • work on Insanitek every chance I get
  • spend time with my fiancé (and his family)
  • keep my gardening up at home
  • exercise regularly
  • keep the house as clean as I can

This, when you step back and look at it objectively, it’s a normal life of someone who works 40 hours a week while trying to open up a company all their own while having a reasonably balanced life as well.

So, how do I do it?

This was the way it was during my last few years of undergrad… then I got smart.

Well, it’s not magic. Or excessive caffeine. It’s plotting, planning, and definitely scheming. More importantly, though, there are systems and lists. All of these things keep me highly organised, on task, and always moving forward no matter what life throws at me. Using all these tactics is an art, but they are what works for me — and with any luck you can modify them to work for you, too.

Tools to use:

Day planner with print-it-yourself pages styled with everything you need to keep track of

This is so I can keep track of everything going on in one place. I like the Arc Planner because it’s cheaper than the Levenger’s Circa (read a review of both here), but works the same. I use the Super Sweet Life Planner that my team got me for Christmas this past year to fill it. Oddly, them giving this gift to me was the impetus for even creating my current system so I could use the printables they bought me. What I like most about it is that it has the month overview, then a week by week overview. I write down monthly goals, deadlines, meetings, birthdays, and anything else that needs to be noted on the month view. Then, I transfer the important stuff to the week view to work around and fill in a few notes around the week that need to be noted. It’s just an outline that keeps me on track.

Very detailed daily schedule sheet that plots out your day by the half hour (or smaller increments if needed) — laminated

Click the Get Buttoned Up link above, and you’ll see what I use. I chose the 18h schedule because I don’t feel the need to block of the time when I sleep, and I work during the day so it works. However, they do have a 24h one for those of you that need it.

I printed this out, then used self laminating sheets to laminate it. Then, I can use wet erase markers to write on it every morning a very detailed look at my day. Seriously, as detailed I can get. I include things like “shower” to make sure I’ve blocked off enough time to do things that I need to do as well as things I want to do.

Timer (I use a cheap, $3 kitchen one)

You could get fancier if you wanted, but this is what I use as the basis of my productivity life. All it does is keep me to task and remind me to focus. I set it to go off every half hour so I can get up, stretch, use the loo, get more tea, reassert my reserve by looking at my goals, and then get back to work.

Goal lists for both short and long-term — laminated.

What’s all these to-do lists without a goal in mind? Nothing. It’s just a way to pass time productively. I use the goal list outline linked from Get Buttoned Up to make an outline of how I’m going to get from here to there, and for what reason. Using the lamination and wet-erase marker technique it lasts for, well, I’m not sure because I haven’t worn one out yet. 😉

Plotting, planning, & scheming

The tools are one thing, but the fun part comes with implementing creativity, imagination, and giving yourself permission to kick ass. For this, you need a system — yes, systems can build creativity. Reason? You can structure your day to get the “meh” stuff out-of-the-way, thus freeing up your brain for more creative stuff on your time.

Step 1: Grab your monthly view, whether that’s your digital calendar or your date book. Fill in all dates you can’t forget, such as anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, regular family gatherings, etc.

Step 2: Grab a piece of paper to stick in front of your calendar or use a digital list maker like Asana, and start writing down all those things you want to do… then the things you need to do. Putting the dreaming first puts you in a motivated mind frame to get the most out of your days. Write it out on the goal list sheet with defined steps.

Step 3: Go to your weekly view and put down your basic schedule, such as working or major things scheduled that day, such as birthday parties or launch releases. Then, jot down a goal for the week, and use the spare time every day to work toward that goal. If you are busy, keep the goal small, and the steps you’ll take each day even smaller. Doing this will give you a sense of purpose, then a sense of accomplishment when you get it done.

Step 4: Go to your daily schedule, and fine tune what you will do when. Start with the big, important timed things, then fill in around it with flexible activities. Don’t forget to be honest with yourself about how much time it will take (or how much time you will spend on it). Also schedule in breaks so you can feel relaxed and productive all day. Use the timer to keep yourself on track, then adjust for the next day as necessary.

Thanks to XKCD.

Yep, it’s just like this.

Carpe Diem

Seize every single day and own it. Make the most of every day, no matter what it brings by being organised, yet flexible. Have priorities so you can say no to things that “pop up”, while accepting things that further your goals and life. In the end, you control your destiny, and you can make it anything you want with the right mindset, the tools to get it done, and a great support group.