Okay, I’ll admit it…I hate my alarm clock!
Always have, always will. It’s not personal. I just don’t like to get up early.
I’ve tried, really. When I was a kid, my mom would literally have to drag me out of bed to get ready for school. Her nickname for me? Elmer’s Glue – because I was always stuck to the bed.
I’ve tried everything from going to bed earlier to cutting out caffeine to putting my alarm clock across the room to force myself to get out of bed. Like most “Night Owls,” I thought it was something I was doing wrong, and therefore, could change. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that this “defect” in my sleep cycle is actually genetic! National Geographic has done studies on this and concluded that it’s something you’re born with. What a relief!
Once I established that I couldn’t do much to change my DNA and miraculously become a morning person, I began seeking ways to work around it. In addition to being a wife and mom, I work a full-time job outside my home and have my own business as a freelance writer. Needless to say, without a few time-management techniques, I’d never get anything done.
Here are 5 of my favorite tips:
1. Get Organized.
Anytime I’ve been stressed about running late or not getting to something I had promised, it’s been because I wasn’t organized. With so many things to fit into my day, it’s imperative that I actually write down what I need to accomplish. I find that I need more than a “to do” list, so I put sticky notes on everything, use a calendar with audible reminders on my computer, and apps on my mobile phone to record everything from grocery lists to doctor appointments.
The key to making this work is getting into the habit of recording everything and updating it regularly. It’s easy to become blind to the tasks requiring attention, so when an item is done, I discard the notice and reminder. I also look at my lists before I head to bed at night, so I know what’s happening the next day – especially to coordinate with my family’s schedule. If I don’t plan ahead, I can be sure everyone in the family will be fighting to get in the shower at the same time.
2. Prioritize and Re-Prioritize.
It seems only logical that I have to determine a priority order to my chaotic life. Surprisingly, I still find myself trying to fit “one more thing” into a few extra minutes before work or shaving off some time by multitasking. The problem with that plan is that I always miscalculate how much time it takes to do each task. While it seems simple enough to throw a load of laundry in while I’m waiting for the toast to pop, inevitably I get sidetracked with an unexpected phone call or the smoke detector going off. I ate a lot of burned toast and ruined a few silk blouses before I figured out I had to prioritize.
Now, I check my list in the morning, determine what HAS to be done that day, and work toward getting those things done. Whatever didn’t make the cut that day moves up the list the next day.
While I like to think that I’m Superwoman and can handle everything alone, reality has proven that I’m not, and I can’t. This is still difficult for me to do. I take great pride and joy in doing it all. In other words, I’m a bit of a control freak! In order for me to maintain my sanity, I’ve had to let go of a few things and let others help. Surprisingly, the dishes still get just as clean if someone else loads the dishwasher. There are many things I have to do myself, and asking for help doesn’t mean my Superpowers are slipping.
4. Say No.
This is another challenge for me. I’m a people-pleaser by nature, and I never like to disappoint. If you’re like me, you’ll want to extend yourself to the max just to avoid saying no. Continuing on this path will certainly help you accomplish two things: burnout and dropping the ball on something. Time management is only successful if the amount of work you’re trying to accomplish is reasonable. If you take on more than is humanly possible, or at the least, establishing a standard no one could possibly maintain, bad things will happen. Instead, learn to manage your workload, and kindly defer projects with impossible deadlines to a time when other obligations have been completed. Trust me, your client will appreciate your honesty and commitment to doing the best job possible.
5. Give Yourself a Break.
I know it goes against every logical bone in your body to manage your time by taking a break. I used to think it was crazy to not fill every waking moment with something productive. Of course, I was wrong, and so are you. A groundbreaking study in the journal Cognition suggests “that prolonged attention to a single task actually hinders performance.” I used to think that my shortening attention span was tied to the fact that I was a night owl living on an early bird schedule. But actually, once I started taking short breaks throughout the day – even just walking around the building for a couple minutes, or the unthinkable, taking a lunch – I found I had more energy and drive to finish the task at hand.
I’ve given up thinking I’ll ever be an early bird. In fact, I kind of like how quiet the house is late at night when I’m up writing my blog. Hopefully, these tips will give you a better perspective on how to manage your time better and be more productive, especially because you’re a night owl like me. Now, if I could just figure out how to get rid of that pesky alarm clock!
Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. I’d love to hear some of your ideas on this subject.