Today I want to talk a topic that relates to pretty much everyone—how do you get all your sh!t done?
One of the most common questions people ask me—both those who know me in real life and those that know me from here on this blog—ask me is, “how do you find time to do it all?”
The short answer is, I don’t.
I’ve mentioned it on here before, but to me, balance doesn’t necessarily mean giving the same amount of time to each of my commitments every day, every week, or every month. There are certain times of the year when I have to sacrifice some of my social life so I can focus on work and getting enough sleep, and there are other times of the year when I know I can schedule after-work events every night. I’ve learned, that for me, personally, I need to create some balance over a longer period of time to feel grounded and stay sane, but I can burn the candle at both ends for a week or two before starting to feel burned out.
That being said, I rely on some strategies to ensure I conquer my to-do list each week while still making time for fun and for recharging, so I thought I’d share those with you today since this topic was requested a few times in my 2017 reader survey. (Great suggestion, ladies!)
01. Keep a separate to-do list for each area of your life.
I find that when I separate out my tasks by category, and then sort them by priority, it becomes a lot easier for me to get a handle on what I need to do. Wunderlist has been a game changer for me in this regard. I have the app on my phone so I can always add to it. With Wunderlist, you can create notes for yourself, set deadlines, and share lists with other people.
My lists are as follows:
- To Do—what I need to get done this week, i.e. drop off package at post office, finish social media for blog post, call Comcast
- Groceries—everything I need to buy on my next trip to the store
- TOT Post Ideas—ideas for future posts; I star the ones I plan on writing this week
- TOT Improvements—my long-term blog list, i.e. re-shoot photos for DIY glitter champagne glasses, post past posts to Pinterest
- Scott Street Paper—all the ideas I have for my Etsy shop
You’ll note that my day job tasks are not listed as one of Wunderlist items—that’s because I am old school when it comes to work, and literally keep a running to-do list on a large post-it note on my desk. I like being able to see everything I need to do right in front of me and love getting the satisfaction of physically crossing it off with my Sharpie ;]. On that post-it note, I keep all the tasks that require immediate attention within the next week or two, but I keep my long-term work to-do list as a task list on my Gmail calendar. I also mark any deadlines on that same calendar so nothing slips through the cracks.
02. Work when you can, even if it’s just for 10 minutes.
I joke with people that my two biggest pet peeves are being wet in clothes and wasting time. If I have downtime—such as if I am waiting on the Metro or for an appointment, I try to do some sort of work—whether it’s writing the draft of my latest post as a note on my phone, skimming my emails, responding to social media posts that have backed up. Those little chunks of time really can add up. If all else fails, I usually have a book with me to pass the time.
03. Schedule specific times to check your email and social media.
I don’t know about you guys, but I could make a full time job out of checking social media and my email. But, in order to have time to do other things, I try really hard to not get suckered into either if I am mentally engaged in a project.
On the email front, at work, I typically check my email when I am at a good stopping point and have some time to filter through and prioritize the new work or feedback that has come in. On weekends, I typically check my email once a day. I don’t set any notifications on my phone or computer about my email so that I’m not distracted by incoming mail and have to seek it out.
In regards to social media, I’ve found that catching up on Instagram once after work and once right before I go to bed is what works best for me. (I’ve shared a little bit more about this strategy in this post.) Twitter and Facebook are less of a time suck for me, so I sometimes check those throughout the day during a mental break, but typically catch up on those at night, too. I don’t check social media right when I wake up, and I don’t watch Instagram stories or scroll through my feed while I am at work—it is just too distracting for me, and I’d rather enjoy catching up with my favorite accounts when I can be fully present.
04. Know when you do your best work.
At my day job, I typically work from 9:30am to 6pm. I like to start on my hardest project of the day in the morning so it’s out of the way and I can focus on other things. I typically either finish that project or find a good stopping point around 1pm. That’s when I like to eat lunch, and if I can, I generally eat at my desk and take a 30-minute mental break—catching up on blogs, skimming the news on Twitter, watching a YouTube video or two. Then I either pick up my task from the morning or work my way down my to-do list. Of course, some days are completely ransacked by meetings or fire drills, but on an ideal day, that’s how I like to schedule my work flow. Because I am a night person, if I have extra work I need to finish up or it’s a particularly busy time of year at the office, I generally like to take a break at 6pm, work out, grab food, head home, and then hop back onto my work email around 9pm and take care of what needs to be done. My boss is also a night person, so she is usually online this time at well if I have questions or am waiting for feedback. I’d much rather take a break, get out of the office, and work until 2am than feel like I’m chained to my desk—but some of my coworkers would rather work until they’re done for the day. I’m lucky that my office is pretty flexible as long as you’re meeting deadlines.
For my blog, I’ve learned that I do my best work on the weekends when I have ample time to shoot images, write my posts, and schedule social media. Because I am a night person, I generally do all my “me” related tasks during the day—running errands, doing laundry, cleaning my apartment, visiting with my friends—and then work on my blog from around 8pm to 2am while watching Netflix or a movie. (Of course, I shoot my photos during daylight!) This works best in winter when I don’t go out as much because it’s so darn cold, but in the summer when I have a hard time saying no to Friday and Saturday night dinners and parties, I typically work on my blog first thing after waking up and then go about the rest of my day. I used to write my blog posts during the week, but it was becoming too much on top of work—so I switched to weekends.
By figuring out when I’m at my best to do the different types of tasks on my plate, I’m best able to maximize my time.
05. “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.”
The more I have on my plate, the more I seem to be able to get done. I definitely do my best work under a little bit of pressure. If I don’t have a lot of deadlines on the horizon, I add more long term projects to my regular to-do list so I can keep working at a steady pace.
I will also say that while I kind of hate the word busy and what it’s become in our society—some weird badge of honor—I do think life is much more interesting when you’re busy than when you’re bored. Showing up to things, working hard, and going above and beyond really does get you far in life—and makes those breaks and vacations so much more rewarding.
06. Don’t procrastinate.
I try really, really hard to not put off what can be done today to tomorrow. You never know what sort of fire drill will come down the pipeline that will take your attention away from your existing to-do list, so staying on top of what you need to get done will help you in the long run. I also find that when I procrastinate a project, it becomes a more difficult task to complete than it actually is since it starts hanging over my head. The more you can get done today, means the more you can get done tomorrow, so hop to it as soon as you can.
07. Make time to do something for yourself every day.
It’s no secret I love to read, and one of my favorite nighttime rituals is reading for 20-30 minutes before its lights out. No matter how busy or crazy my day, I always try to do this little thing for myself. It doesn’t always happen, but I’d say 95% of the time, it does. This could be something different for you—maybe it’s 20 minutes of mindlessly scrolling through social media without feeling guilty, painting your nails, or going on a long walk. Those restorative moments are so important, and will make you more productive in the long run.
I’d love to know any tips you have for staying on top of your to-do list! Let me know in the comments! x