In a conversation with an individual a few weeks ago, we were discussing our upcoming weeks. Here was my response: Well, I coach a poms team, so we have practices this week to gear up for camp next week. I also start graduate classes, one is Victorian Literature (five novels, one presentation, one 12-16 page paper, four weeks) and the other is online. I work at the golf course three days this week, my dance studio finishes classes and has their recital, my room mate’s brother is getting married so we have people coming to stay with us, and my softball league on Wednesday. I also have to make sure I do laundry, go to the grocery store, make my dentist appointment, respond to some e-mails, work on the golf tournament, meet with some important people, and hope to get to a few yoga classes (have I made you feel anxious yet?)
And his response? Um, how do you do so many things?
Great question. I often wonder that myself.
I exist inside a realm of anxiety; whenever I see a potentially underutilized part of my schedule, I create projects and find things to do to fill the space, thus why I went to grad school, coach a pom team, work full time, and do everything else.
If I am being completely honest with you, the first thing I do is FREAK OUT. I know this about myself and I expect this. The first day I get a class syllabus, I give myself an anxiety attack, because I am worried that I will not have enough time to complete all necessary assignments (and, I am not the kind of person who can just skip out on reading–my personality does not allow me to give anything but 100%). I feel bad for whoever has to be around me that day.
Here are a few other ways I manage my schedule:
1. Pre-Plan: Before I go to bed every night, I think about what I have to do in the morning. And, when I wake up, I re-visit that list so that I can maximize my time. If I have errands to run, I think about what the most efficient order and route to run those errands in will be. I get up a few minutes early so that I can pack my bag with everything I might need during the day. I also have a big desk calendar that I write down all of my engagements and assignments on. That way, I can visually see what my life is going to look like, I can stop ruminating about the things I have coming up, and I can tell my friends when I might have extended blocks of time to hang out. By Sunday morning, I already know what I will most likely be doing on Friday afternoon.
2. Utilize my transitions: Sometimes, I have to be very creative with when and how I get things done. This might mean bringing my books to the waiting room before my dentist appointment, reading my books at the gym, listening to my books on audio recording, having my sister read my books aloud to me while we drive places (ok, it actually never gets that bad). When I was in college, I took a course on The Canterbury Tales, which is a mix of half English, half German, and half French–perhaps the most challenging (and entertaining) pieces of literature I ever read. So, I marched myself down to the library, got the tales on tape, loaded them up to my iPod, and would listen anytime I was driving, at the gym, had spare time at work, etc.
3. Communicate: I always try to let my family, friends, and room mates know in advance when I am going to be very busy for an extended period of time (mainly in June, and competition season for poms). This way, they have an explanation for if (a) I am not responding back to their text messages right away or (b) I smell bad (hey, part of being busy is setting your priorities and unfortunately, sometimes showering has to go by the wayside…) If you communicate in advance, then you are combating potential misunderstandings and hurt feelings before they even happen.
4. Enlist help: This is the point I am working on, because I like to be in control of everything. But, I have to recognize that sometimes, life has limits, especially time limits. If I have a group project, a paper, a presentation, and another paper due in one week, I might try to ask my partner to do more of the project (which, in my case, is probably writing the bibliography, because I will probably do the rest anyways). Or, if I am in need of an errand to be run and I know my room mate is going to the store, I might ask her to help me out. And, then of course, I always make sure to thank and reward my helpers.
5. Eat & Sleep & Exercise: What I have learned is, when I don’t take care of my body, I cannot function at optimal levels. Sometimes, I get so busy during the day going from place to place, activity to activity, that I forget to take care of myself, and in that, I actually suffer and do not perform as well as I could have if I just took the five minutes to eat a snack or close my eyes (sometimes, showers are not part of this category). So, I always try to save a few minutes in the morning to pack a snack, just in case. And, I always make it a priority to go to the gym. It’s a great de-stressor, allows my brain a break from thinking, and helps me sleep better at night.