Scheduling: a habit to heal the harried full-timer

Like a lot of people, I’ve had a rough time transitioning back from the holidays into 2013, resulting in some tumbleweeds here about these parts – so when my buddy Liz offered to write a guest post I said “ohmygodpleaseyes”. Here it is, y’all! 

Hi, I’m Liz. I work a full-time “corporate” job, and have some fun freelancing on the side to sate my multipod tendencies. I’ve been called (in the same conversation) a:

  • workaholic
  • flake
  • lunatic
  • slacker
  • someone who hides behind work because her life is going to hell in a handbasket, AND FINALLY…
  • good person, if a little frazzled

Whew. With all those expectations hanging over my head just from one person, you’d think I’ve had collapsed by now under the weight! And yet, I still show up on time for my job, I still meet client deadlines…what am I doing wrong that someone I trust would tell me these things?

I didn’t have systems in place to make sure that my 9-to-5 (and my little bits of extra) didn’t take over me. I suck at setting up boundaries, and I’m a perfectionist and a pleaser. I want to make it work, and work properly, and what’s a little sleep or a cancelled dinner if I achieve that?

Answer: It’s my sanity, and the opinions of those close to me. So I found a method to tame my madness: keep a basic schedule of my important activities, and frame my routine around it.

“But Liz,” (you may say) “it’s already frustrating to operate on the timetables of others. Someone else is setting my work hours and has expectations. Then I supposed to fit in a yoga class to relax, plus run little Susie’s soccer practice, drive Jimmy to flute lessons, and watch this coming season of Game of Thrones. It’s going to look like a mess!”

First off, slow your roll and take a deeeeep breath. There’s something pretty darn awesome about all those things you listed above — you know when they happen. You also know when you’re expected to be at work — yes, sometimes late nights and emergencies occur (I work with technology, I’m an expert on the 2am “It’s BROKEN” phone call), but on the whole you can map out your “requireds” of the day without a huge time or money investment. So what’s stopping you from jumping on the time management bandwagon?

Now, identify your show-stopper when it comes to scheduling. There’s two major pitfalls that will stand in your way: time and fear. You may not think with everything you have going on that you have time to pause and map it all out. But stop and think a sec — if you map it out now, you can identify all those tiny holes in your schedule that you’re losing in the bigger picture of “OMG MY DAY WHAT HAPPENED TO IT??” Once you identify those, you see your wiggle room. You can feel it, instead of feeling the “fuck my overwhelm!” and you can take advantage of it.

Fear is a lot harder to handle. It’s amorphous and internal, so you can’t point to it and go “there, that’s why I’m not managing my time better!” Not sure what you’re afraid of? Maybe you’re like me, where free time/down time felt like a failure, instead of a blessing. Maybe free time means time to realize things you’re avoiding — a doctor’s appointment where you may get bad news, catching up your zillion items in email, returning that one call you just don’t want to make. Whatever the fear, it’s real to you and thus, in your way. So acknowledge it, give it a good cuddle, and remind your fear that you’re doing this for YOU and not the doctor, the email, or the phone call.

There are as many lifestyles, work schedules, and setups as there are fish in the sea. But the core habits and systems Michelle advocates are universal, regardless of whether you set your own hours or someone else expects you to be in a certain place for 8 hours a day. Systems are extremely important to me, as someone who straddles the world of the freelancer and the full-time employee. If you give just a basic system a shot, you may be surprised at how much good it does you, too.

Liz Patt is a creative soul, jill-of-all trades, consummate drinker of caffeinated beverages, and connoisseur of chocolate. Her background is in IT Administration, writing, and editing. Liz sightings may occur in many a coffee shop, usually with her iPhone in one hand and her Kindle (or the occasional paperback) in the other. Find her on Twitter as @awanderingliz.

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