Time Management

This idea has been coming up repeatedly in my life so I decided to delve a little deeper into it:

We are all given the same 24 hours. It is what we choose to do with it that defines us.

  • I don’t have enough time to do everything.
  • I don’t have any free time!
  • I want to have a work-life balance
  • I am so jealous that you have time to _____

The above bullet points are all quotes that I have heard recently, and that I have heard on more than one occasion. Here’s the thing: you have the same amount of time as your peers. Your free time is determined by you. You govern what “work-life balance” is. You can have the time to do whatever you are jealous of, if you put your mind to it.

I don’t have enough time to do everything

Yes, you do. I am all for the occasional vent session when your boss, parent, friend, significant other, etc. asks you to do something and you are already pressed for time. But here’s the thing, I said it already, you have 24 hours each day. Every other employee, child, friend, and significant other also has 24 hours each day. If the person next to you can get it done, so can you. You are limited by the other demands you have placed on yourself, the requests from others, and your natural abilities. Here is one thing we have to understand: we are not created equal. (Side note: that hurt so much to type because in other contexts, of course we are equal). What I am able to do in one hour, you may not be able to do in one hour and vice versa. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and we need to learn to use our strengths to help us succeed.

If you truly feel that you cannot do your job in the 8-hour work day then either you need to change your approach to your job, or change your job entirely. I know plenty of people who are in different careers than what they thought they would be when they went to college (if they went to college). I know people that have switched careers early in life, late in life, and anywhere in between. There is no shame in admitting that you need a change, that the life you thought you would lead is not the life you find joy and happiness in. That is totally and completely okay. The hurdle is to just admit it.

I don’t have any free time! and I am so jealous that you have time to ____. 

Oh puh-leeze. How much time per day do you spend on your phone, Facebook, eating, cooking, etc.? You have time, it is all about how you are using it. Not too long ago, I woke up when my alarm went off at 5:15AM and I didn’t have a workout to do that morning so do you know what I did? I parked myself in the kitchen with Hulu, a cup of coffee, and my knitting. What did people tell me? I am so jealous that you have time to do that in the morning! The only reason I had time for that was because I had a plan for the rest of my day. I knew when I wanted to go to work, I knew when I wanted to come home from work. I knew when I was going to workout that evening. I was going to have leftovers for dinner, so there was no need to cook. Do you get my point yet? I had free time because I made a plan and then life worked out a little better than my plan. I am not saying that having a plan automatically gives you free time, or that life will always turn out better than expected. I am saying that by having  a plan in place, when I got a little bit of extra time I had absolutely no guilt about how I chose to spend it. And do you know what else? I was really, truly happy.

I want to have a work-life balance.

I am BIG on the concept of a work-life balance. My parents never brought work home with them, and I hope to never do that with my children either. However, for my career goals, I completely understand that my children may come to work with me. I actually want my children to have exposure to the University environment from a young age, so it would make sense that they would come to work with me. Is this still a balance? You tell me (well, just tell yourself, because it is all about what YOU want). The concept of a work-life balance really means finding joy in both sides of your life. Your personal life should bring you joy, whether that be parenting, traveling, stamp collecting, or something else. Your work should also bring you happiness, I believe above a work-life balance you need to find a job that you are truly passionate about. Find a job that makes that 8-hour work day go by like nothing. Maybe even a 10-hour work day fly by in the blink of an eye. If you can do that, I think the balance will come easily. If you can focus yourself at work, do your work, and be great at your work, and then go home and do what you love and be great at what you love, you have a balance. Use your vacation time to do something that brings you joy. Don’t use your vacation time to visit a sick family member (I mean do, but stay with me) because it will just bring you down. Visit your family member in the morning, eat breakfast together, watch some crappy daytime television, and then go out and spend your afternoon exploring. Try new things. Stay in with a good book. Take a bath (yes, in the middle of the afternoon. Shamelessly). Do whatever it is that will rejuvenate you such that when you return to work you can hit the ground running.

I don’t have enough time to do everything (again)

Okay, so you want to work 9 hours a day, and you want to have time to relax daily at home, and you want to take vacations, and you want to…. How do you do it? You make a realistic plan. If you know what your tasks are at work, plan them out one to two weeks at a time. Plan bigger projects out over the total span of their time, but take it one week at a time. Re-evaluate where you are every other week. Determine if you need help, or if you’re ahead of schedule. Figure out what you want your “me time” to be when you are home. Again, determine how much time you need for that. Figure out how long it takes you to get ready in the morning. I recently changed my alarm because I didn’t need all the time I was allotting myself and I was wasting it. Now, I can stay up a little bit later at night reading and relaxing before getting a full nights sleep. Figure out where you want to go on vacation and make it happen. If it’s going to be expensive, figure out when you will have the money before setting a date. Figure out if this vacation will work around your work projects well, if not, reschedule it. Keep your work at work, and keep your personal life personal, and find the time to do everything that you need to do. It’s all about how you use the time you were given, not trying to find ways to make more time.

This post ties in very well with my most recent post on goal setting. If you found this post helpful, I encourage you to check out the other post as well.


Published by She Got The PhD

A web-based soapbox of an Assistant Professor of color in Chemical Engineering; sharing my feelings on books, academia, and current events. I hope you enjoy reading :)

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