My biggest struggle with work (and with the time-management part of my personal life) is that I always underestimate how long it takes to get tasks done.
Like you, I’m a busy person with a lot on my plate, and lately, with the launch of my website, my task list has never been more difficult to manage, but as I shared in my last post, the Ivy Lee Method keeps me sane, while remaining as productive as ever.
I’ve always had above-average organization and time-management skills, along with the discipline to self-start and get done what needs to be done, but it’s impossible to create more than 24 hours in a day. I’ve been trying to my whole life, and nothing’s been more freeing than accepting that it’s just not possible.
I don’t waste a lot of time either—I close my email and put my phone on silent when a project needs to be tackled; I batch similar projects so I don’t waste time shifting from varying types of tasks; and I live and die by the tenet that everything I do needs to have an ROI.
Still, if I’m not careful, it can end up feeling like I’m trying to squeeze two gallons of water into a one-gallon jar and figuring out how to manage my anxiety.
My task list is wide-ranging and robust. I run a business where I oversee almost $20M in annual global sales for two baby product brands. I’m the cook in the family (I LOVE cooking!), and with it, I also procure our groceries, going to farmers’ markets once or twice each week to keep our veggies and fruits well-stocked. And caring for our 100-year-old home, which is going through renovation and repair right now, is at least a part-time job.
I work several hours each day on my writing, and along with that, I read constantly because I love to learn. Now, I’m striving to have my writing published in The New York Times and other great media publications and thus have chiseled out 30 minutes in the morning to study the NYT.
I also have established a self-care routine, which, quite honestly, takes several hours each day, but it’s how I maintain balance and emotional health, and without it, I’m simply not able to thrive at my maximum potential.
The self-care routine is interesting because while it’s there to help me, it’s often felt like the biggest thief of my free time, but I NEED it for my emotional health. Throughout the years, I’ve received countless suggestions on how to get help, ranging from breath work, to walks, to cold plunges, to outside meditation (too many bugs!), and while all well-intentioned, the selection process has been challenging.
I’ve gotten better at it, but as a psychic recently confirmed, I have the tendency to be gullible, so I’ve had to learn how to set boundaries. But I have a hard time saying, “No, thank you, but that’s not for me.”
Therein lies the secret, though—we need to make our own choices. And those choices need to provide the highest ROI and line up with our priorities.
I’ve got a lot going on right now—arguably more than ever and I’ve had to make many adjustments. I no longer can hope for two-hour gym sessions, nor can I usually swing the gym in the morning and do yoga in the evening for my emotional health, the way I used to.
It’s rare that I pull out cookbooks to make anything too elaborate on a weeknight, so I’ve prioritized what’s important, which, for us, is nutrition. Even with all I have going on, I religiously make it to the farmer’s market and buy what feels like enough produce to feed a large family because David and I eat TONS of veggies and fruit. They make us feel good. And, for me, since I don’t have as much time to work off over-indulging, I’m controlling what I can, and that’s eating healthy— at least a few days a week.
I’ve found that by eating healthy a few days a week, the reduction in workout time has been counter-balanced, and I’m still feeling good about how I feel and look.
I’ve got a system that’s working pretty well—I keep fresh veggies cut up for snacking to eat with hummus; there is always fresh fruit to grab on the go or cut up for a breakfast yogurt parfait (my favorite thing in the whole world!); and there is always broccoli, asparagus, Brussel’s sprouts, chard, or zucchini ready for steaming, roasting, sauteeing, or grilling.
I keep my freezer stocked, so it’s easy just to pull some meat out when it’s time to make protein for us. More often than not, it’s not fancy—just ground turkey sauteed with onions and spices, but it’s healthy, and that’s what’s important in this season of my life. Priorities. Choices.
I also have found a lot of value in doing small things as they come up: opening up mail when it arrives vs. letting it pile up for a week; putting away socks that I seem to leave all over the house; and placing a grocery order when I have only a few things that I need— another hack that’s helped me maintain sanity.
I can’t get to everything, and as we change and the seasons change, our priorities have to change. But more than that, we need to put systems in place because if we’re just flying by the seat of our pants, we’re not setting ourselves up for success.
Over time, tasks become more routine, and things that used to be challenging become easier.
The key is to keep making choices around your priorities and not overload your plate.
Keep prioritizing. Keep optimizing. Keep being kind to yourself.
What are your priorities in this season of your life? What choices can you make that will give you the highest ROI?