Deadlines and Goals

There is never enough time to do everything. We think that these organised people around us somehow make new time to do all things they love. They don’t. They just have their priorities straight. For effective time management – every book on that subject will tell you so – you need to set your goals. You need to see where you want to go, how you will get there, and when you will do so. That would be all fine if there wasn’t that nagging voice in the back of your head: Does it really matter RIGHT NOW? Couldn’t you just do it in two weeks time? Nobody will care anyway. Watch one more episode. Meet with your friends for dinner.

We put our tasks off until we can’t anymore because we have reached the ultimate deadline. Resulting in stress and bad outcomes. Why not invest more time in realistic planning before hand and then getting the job done? (Hint: we are lazy)

For all this wonderful planning (that I by the way adore) you need to know your goals in life. And then hustle. I just read Lilly Singh’s “How to be a Bawse” and it is awesome. So much practical advice on how to a) be a decent human being b) get shit done c) set your goals and d) grow and climb the ladders of life. You should really check it out. This book is a kick in your booty that was located lazily on the sofa. My booty has been in a very comfortable position lately. I told myself to write daily for this whole year. I made it until the middle of April. Then I stopped. Too much to do, I told myself. My dream – becoming a writer – seemed too far away. I had writer’s block on my latest book project and I just couldn’t get myself to add any more words. The mere thought was ridiculous. How could I write anything every anyway?

Instead I told myself that there was too much to do for uni and then ate my body weight in peanuts and watched youtube videos. Congratulations.

Goal setting for my blog hasn’t worked out that well in the past (look at the hundred’s of posts where I told you I was going to upload regularly. That went so well…) But it doesn’t help to complain about that. Let’s try again. Only talking doesn’t bring me anywhere. I need to do what I preach.

To kick myself in the booty, get away from all this “I am so stressed” nonsense, striving towards my goal of being a writer, I will post once a week. Please hold me accountable for that. Write me angry emails or comments if I do not provide a post every Friday.

Do you have a project you need to get done? Set yourself a deadline and tell your friends to check if you achieved it. Write me in the comments! Tell people about your goals and you are more likely to succeed. Let’s beat the monster of procrastination together!


How to Master Time Management

I love planning. I love organising. That has nothing to do with keeping everything neat and tidy. I’m a messy person. My head is messy. Total chaos at times. But I have my priorities in order. I know what to do, where to go, how to get stuff done. Here is how:

After reading “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey in the end of 2016, I set up a new planner for myself. I always make them from scratch because I like the process of decorating.

How is my calendar structured?

Firstly, we have a yearly overview with all the upcoming dates. Exams, deadlines, birthdays, these sorts of things. I have a bookshelf-page to put all my readings into. Most importantly, a goals and dreams page. Here, I put my mission statement, my new year’s resolutions and habits I want to develop.

There is an overview for each month. I wrote down all the important appointments of every day, when I need to be where. Furthermore, there are my accomplishments of the month and some inspiring quotes to keep me writing.

The real planning happens on a weekly basis. Just as suggested by Stephen Covey, I divided this page into a few parts.

Roles. Identify which roles you hold in your life. You might be a daughter, a spouse, a parent, a co-worker, a friend. A manager, a worker, an artist. Write all of these down. Plan what you are willing to achieve in each of these roles over the course of the week. Put them into the weekly schedule. Plan every day but leave space for surprises and relaxation.

I added a field which is called “Sharpen the Saw” for Habit 7. We need time for ourselves, to do something for our health and well-being. There are four parts to it: mentally (read, write etc), physical (exercise, eat healthy), emotionally (meet with people) and spiritually (meditate). I find them very important so I highlighted them in my calendar.

I’m a student and that’s why I need an exam plan. On this page, I first wrote down when the exams are. I added every single topic I have to study for. Copy notes, do research on a special subject, read some literature the professor recommended. Now I counted the weeks that are left until the exam and the numbers of topics. I distributed them while also checking my schedule so that I won’t overwork myself in an already stressful period. I assign them to my weekly goals. This plan is really helpful to not get overwhelmed. With small portions of content every week I’m not drowning but doing something. Procrastination has no chance here.

Here are some extra tips to make your plan as effective as possible:

1. Think realistically. If you know you are exhausted, don’t plan to do things in the evening. Shift them to other daytimes. Don’t overdo it with the goals for yourself. Set a low number at first. You will be angry at yourself, otherwise, for not reaching your target. Know where your limits are and act accordingly.

2. Write down how much time every activity you planned took. That way, you will know next time that writing an essay will take this long and cleaning your bathroom that long. It makes it a lot easier to squeeze in something you really have to do.

3. Add meetings with friends and things you love to do to your planner. Don’t make it a “To-Do List”. Make it a plan of your day. With all the fun stuff included. That way you will feel like you have accomplished a lot that day, even if you just had some fun meet-ups.

4. Don’t stress out about not meeting your goals. I wanted to be done with so much revision by the end of this week. I didn’t! It doesn’t matter. I’ll plan some more time for it next week. It’s ok. These are just self-set goals.

5. Add the type of activity.

In habit 3, a very common strategy of time management is described. Distinguish between urgent and important. Think of four squares.

There are quadrant 1 activities: Urgent and Important. That work piece that needs to be done right now. That present you need to buy because her birthday is THIS EVENING.

Then there are Urgent but Unimportant activities. You feel they are urgent but in the end it doesn’t matter if they are done or not. I need to make this project report today… No one is going to read it anyway and I don’t want to be involved in yet another thing. Don’t do it then! If it is not important, screw it!

While always running after quadrant 1 activities, we get stressed out. What better activity than sitting in front of the tv the whole evening? That’s a quadrant 4. Not important, and not urgent. Do you feel better after doing that? Chances are you are extremely unhappy with yourself. Why? Because this is not important in any way. You are just wasting away your time.

This is why we should live our lives occupied with quadrant 2 activities: Ones that are important but not urgent. They represent your goals in life, what you would like to work on. These are the meetings with your friends. It’s also exam preparation. Exams are one month away but I’m preparing them anyway because I don’t want to be stressed out when the time comes around.

That’s what you should always aim for: Do the tasks you want to do because they are important. And do them now. So that you don’t freak out, so that they don’t become urgent. Your life will be a lot calmer.

Certainly, we cannot avoid quadrant 1 activities but with a little thought and planning, we can minimise the amount of them. Two weeks ago I started with this new planner. My tasks were basically all quadrant 1. Now, just a few days later, nearly all of them are quadrant 2. I learned how to fulfil my duties in time so that they don’t get urgent. Isn’t that amazing? I’m so much more relaxed! I know that if I stick to my plan, I’ll be fine.

So write it down. Write a little 1 or 2 next to your task and please don’t occupy yourself with unimportant activities. Life is so short. Find out what is meaningful to you and then go do that.

These are my updated tips on how to be better at organising. I love this new system and I will keep you informed on how the exam phase goes, now that I’m in charge of my schedule.

How do you plan? Do you have any additional tips to offer? I’m curious to hear them!

NaNoWriMo Day 25: How to Get Stuff Done.

Nanowrimo is really about time management in the end. If you start this project, chances are high that you know how to write. The really tough thing is to keep yourself motivated to make time for it every single day. Sometimes, it’s challenging. It’s already so late again, although I promised myself I would be going to bed a lot earlier today. Not happening. Who knew.

How do you find two hours a day in your already tight schedule? That’s the real difficulty here. Not the writing part. Easy peasy.

It takes 19 days to form a habit. Now that I’ve reached day 25, I don’t know how to stop. If I don’t write late at night, something is missing. If I get too much sleep so that I’m not that exhausted anymore, something feels wrong. My mum asked me today how I can do all this stuff. I go to uni, work, meet friends, go for runs, paint and play the uke…so many other things. And every night I sit down to write. Because I can’t stop myself. The word “Break” doesn’t exist for me while Nanowrimo is on. It’s a challenge. I accepted it.

Here’s how to do that.

1. Know your goal. You will get things done much more easily if you have an aim in your life. I identified my life’s purpose yesterday, if you want to read about that. Now that I have it in the back of my head, things are a lot easier. I will see the reason behind the exercises I do. I have to study this because I will need it. I sit down every night despite being tired and get the words flowing. Because I know I want to write. This aim keeps you going whatever the circumstances are. Write your goal down. Put it up on the wall over your desk. It helps, trust me.

2. Write everything down. I keep a bullet journal. That means I make a planner from scratch and have a little to-do list for every day. I add inspirational quotes and pictures, little drawings and lots of lists. I love planning. It keeps my head clear for the important stuff. If you have written down what you want to achieve that day, it is a lot easier to actually do it. You can learn a lot more about this technique here:

I love bullet journaling. It is both creative and productive. I can write weekly aims down, what I need to do. Transfer them to another day or week. I have monthly overviews with important events. If you have a hard time motivating yourself to do anything, write down “have breakfast”. It looks nice if you have accomplished something that day. All the other tasks will be easier for you. Start easy on yourself.

3. Prioritise. That’s a vital part of planning. Over time you will know how many hours you need to do certain activities. For example half an hour to clean the bathroom. 7 hours to do statistics homework. … Yeah… Write it down. Sort your assignments for the day according to the time you are going to need to finish them. Start with those which take the smallest amount of time. They will keep you going. Go on to the more demanding ones with the feeling that you already have accomplished something.

Furthermore, it is important to note when those tasks are due. If you have to hand in an essay tomorrow, or write a report for you boss, do it now. Do the most important pieces of work first, so that they are out of the way. If you do not face them, you will have them in the back of your head the whole time. That makes realising other projects more difficult.

4. Find a great workspace. If you love your kitchen table but the temptation to go to the fridge is high, don’t sit there. If your neighbours are annoying or too loud, get out of the house. Find a spot where it is silent and you can focus on your work. Switch your phone off. I can’t stress that enough. With the notifications of modern mobile phones, productivity is impossible. I like to go to the library of our uni because there are so many people studying, who keep me motivated. Also, I just leave my phone at home. Then I have no chance but to work.

If you get on with the work, stay hydrated. Allow yourself breaks after each half an hour. Stretch a little, move. Concentration leaves us after 1.5 hours because our glucose levels are too low. You could eat an apple for example to get your brain going again.

5. Focus. That’s one of the hardest parts. To not let your mind wander, to not let yourself get distracted, to not start day dreaming. I have put a little note on my desk with “Stay focused” on it. That sometimes helps. I’m the person who puts sticky notes everywhere.

6. Keep going. The most amazing tool for productivity is “Pomodoro” for me. That’s an app that basically works like an egg timer. It’s usually set for 25 minutes of work, 5 minutes break, 25 min work, 15 min break. These intervals work very well. You get so absorbed in your work in these 25 minutes, it’s great. The app tracks the time you invested in certain tasks. It’s always nice to see how many hours you have worked that day on a specific project. That’s also what I write down in my bullet journal. How many pomodoros it has taken me to complete the exercise. Consequently, planning gets a lot easier.

7. Don’t multitask. If you started with one topic, finish it. If you focused all you energy that day on one project, keep going until you can’t go on anymore. Don’t try to switch between tasks, that’s not going to work most of the time. It’s like reading books for me. If there are only a few pages left, I will finish it, no matter what time it is.

8. Know when to stop. If you are facing a particularly different challenge, it maybe nice to have a break to clean or tidy something. To go for a walk. Give yourself some time to recover your mind. To lift the pressure off you creativity. Our brains are hardworking organs and we have to be kind to them. It’s so easy to destroy a day of hard work within just moments when you are tired and unmotivated. Don’t let that happen. Listen to the signals your body is giving you.

9. The 80-20 rule. Being a perfectionist is hard. Especially in a time, where we have so many different things going on in our lives. If you want to do everything perfectly, the possibility that you never get anything done is high. The 80-20 rule says, that you do 80% of the work in 20% of the time and the remaining 20% of the work in 80% of the time. Just go until 80, that’s enough. The reworking parts are the most time-consuming ones. Here’s a tip: Start to work on a project and do it until you are fine with showing it to others. Do something completely different. Then go back to your project and see if your work was enough.

10. Time for yourself. You need to sleep, to eat, to meet people, exercise a bit if you want. Treat yourself. If your whole day is packed with work, you won’t last very long. We are not made to be under pressure the entire day. (In whose head did Freddie Mercury sing this line right now? :D) Make yourself a cup of tea, sit down for a while. Read something. Watch a video. Talk to a friend. You need time to calm your mind and gather all your energy. It doesn’t help to freak out about all the stuff you need to do and in your panic do everything wrong. (Oh, all this lovely maths homework… I know what I’m talking about…) Don’t push yourself over the limit, just gently touch it and then let yourself fall down again. It’s great to test how far you can go. That’s also the kind of experiment I’m doing right now. How much work can I do in one month without completely losing it? I’m still fine, you see.

These are my top ten tricks how to manage your time effectively. I love to manage. To pass tasks around and to bring people together to work on a project. It’s just a process that I really enjoy. If you have other tips, please tell me, I would love to know! What works for you? How do you motivate yourself to get things done?

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