There are a great many lessons that I’ve learnt from my recent near-dea… I mean, from my laser eye treatment; and one day I will get around to sharing them all with you guys, so that you know what happens to people crazy enough to get a laser shot into their unprotected eyes. But there is one of those revelations that never actually occurred to me and had so little to do with anything, and…
Never before in my life had I noticed just how much time there is in a day.
It’s not like I consider myself awful at timekeeping – if I put my mind to something I can actually be quite efficient. Yet somehow it has always seemed to me as if I could do with an extra hour a day, not to work, oh no, all the gods forbid. Maybe to watch horrible TV shows? Or stalk bunnies on Instagram? Something like that.
But once I detached myself from the world of seeing and the majority of the pain was gone, I quickly realized just how many too many hours there are in a day. Once you stop watching things, reading things, playing things, going on sunny strolls and stuff, all that’s left is Bananagrams and audiobooks. And, trust me; you don’t want to listen to the entire HP series in one go (only around 130h… I tried).
So now that I am kind of, almost, maybe one day, back to normal, I decided this whole extra hour thinking needs to stop. There is definitely enough time in a day to stalk bunnies on Instagram while staying on top of my workload. It’s all about good timekeeping.
And what good timekeeping means is our mystery of the day.
Busy does not mean productive
Call me a prejudiced bitch, but I just don’t trust busy people.
Some of you, of course, most likely, I mean, it is statistically probable, some of you consider yourselves busy from time to time; and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I go through periods of life when I struggle not to be busy and no amount of timekeeping will save me from it. Sometimes too much needs to be done too soon. That’s the way of life.
No; I mean the busy people. People who, no matter what is happening, are always preoccupied with something else too much to even listen to you.
I know plenty – and I am sure you do too. Every workplace or school has at least one of them. The sort of person that walks around with piles of papers, never turns off the laptop, always complains about all the important things that need to be done… yet never actually achieves anything. Any email you send their way takes them two weeks to answer– not because your question was difficult, but because, well, they are super busy being busy.
If you do that and somehow feel hurt by what I am about to say – well, there is still time to see the light.
Just because you’re busy, it does not mean you’re productive.
It does not even mean you are achieving anything. I have worked with plenty of people who kept themselves so busy they don’t have time to actually do their job. Nothing gets done if you’re just busy. Be busy because you’re doing things. Don’t be busy because things need to be done.
Be lazy about it
The number one rule of my personal timekeeping, since being busy never really aligned with my nature, may sound very counter-intuitive, but somehow it does make sense. If you have plenty of responsibilities and little time, be lazy about it.
This can mean a great many things. From choosing the path of least resistance, through prioritizing things to actually deciding what needs to be done and what is nice to have – all of the faces of what I will call a lazy productivity are your friend.
At the end of the day you want to achieve a perfect balance between the quality of the outcome and the effort put into it. This is what good timekeeping often means. The good-enough solution.
I can hear the perfectionists cringing, and the little miss perfect inside me weeps over it too. Too many times I have killed myself over something that was not worth my effort; too many times I will do this again. I know myself. I like things being done to the letter. I like to get the final 1%, even if it costs me as much time and strength, and often health as the first 99%.
But I know it is wrong; and I do want to change that. Who said one cannot have ambitious goals, huh?
Utilize down time…
Where there is little time, there is nothing more frustrating than pockets of unused possibilities. But some things just cannot be faster. All we have left to do is wait.
What does good timekeeping have to do with any of that? Well, any little downtime is an opportunity to squeeze an otherwise insignificantly short task into it. What’s funny about insignificantly short tasks is that they add up real fast into blocks of never-ending madness.
When was the last time you found yourself spending your entire evening just going through your emails…? Precisely. They DO add up.
Imagine you’re learning a foreign language. Waiting for a bus to come, not even being on the bus, is a perfect time to improve on it. I remember the good old days when I could be bothered to read the news in French; while waiting for the bus, I could read an article or two. No more than that, of course, I’d only have a few minutes.
A few minutes are enough for so much.
For some reason we are good at utilizing big downtimes, like a bus journey itself – you can read, write, put make up on, anything – but not the tiny ones. Tiny downtimes are a real staple of good time keeping.
… but don’t forget to take a break
When we’re truly busy, the first thing to go are breaks – and although on the surface it makes perfect sense, you know, we’re not actually achieving anything, right?, that is one of the worst things you can do.
It seems like a real no-brainer to me, and yet I make the same mistake over and over again. When we’re tired, we’re just not as productive. Sure, such surges of intense work can help us sometimes in the short term… but good timekeeping is all about the long run.
Scheduling time not to do anything is as important as scheduling time to do stuff.
And it needs to be true rest, something that will really unwind us. We need to ease our minds and bodies down properly. No hassle on the side when break time is here. Also no worrying that we are just procrastinating and therefore wasting time. You know what is a massive waste of time? Worrying for no good reason.
To-do lists are your friends
If you’re struggle with just getting yourself organized, write it down. We all forget about important things. It is normal and it is human, and unfortunately there is no changing that.
Write it down.
I am a great fan of to do lists and other forms of written reminders. I love my plans. But I also realize not everyone can follow the same pattern and for some people making to do lists turns quickly into their own way of being busy. But writing things down, even as much as putting it in the notes on your phone (although I love my fancy notebooks myself), it just makes it more… real?
It also gives you time to think of what it is you actually need to achieve and bring it down to Earth in terms of all the necessary steps and conditions. Thinking you need to start looking for a new job does not work as well as writing down I will answer 5 job adverts today. Trust me. I tried it all.
There are always apps for that anyway
And if timekeeping is just not for you, well, your phone can track it all down for you.
App stores around are full of different productivity apps – and if you’re ok with them being free for the ‘small’ price of leeching all your personal information into someone else’s advertising campaign and earning money out of who you are and what you do… Ok, I promise I’m done with the security talk. The point is: there are plenty of apps around that will track your day for you.
Personally I use one of these habit recording apps, as it focuses more around things I need to do daily rather than tight scheduling and it relies only on my input and not on the data from my phone (fingers crossed). But these apps come in all shapes and flavours, with everyone’s favourite anti-procrastination apps that will make sure your phone stays idle for X amount of time and various to-do list apps alongside.
The internet has your back.