Just a few years ago, my life was much simpler. I woke up in the morning and got ready for work. After work, I went home. I even walked the 2.4 miles each way since I had nowhere else to be and all the time in the world. If I got invited to a happy hour, I was free. Sometimes I even went to the gym.
Everything is totally different now. I don’t know how exactly I became this person, but I can’t remember the last time I had a free evening to just go right home after work. Each month, as my schedule fills up weeks in advance, I think to myself: “Next month won’t be so crazy. Next month I will have more time.”
And then the next month fills up too. It never ends.
So how do I stay focused and get everything done? As a full-time content manager and social media specialist, and a part-time health and fitness blogger who considers her daily workouts part of her job, how do I do it all?
I’m not going to lie – it is hard. To give you an idea of my schedule, I’m going to share a typical day in my life. This past Monday, to be exact – although most days are pretty much just like this:
5:30 AM – Wake up; 6:00 AM – Write NBC New York GO Healthy NY post; 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM – Work; 5:30 PM -6:30 PM – Exercise; 7:00 PM – Dinner with a friend; 9:30 PM – Edit Dori’s Shiny Blog post; 10:30 PM – Sleep
You think this is a lot? Imagine if every single day was like this – and your days were scheduled-out weeks, even up to a month, in advance. I need time to write my blog, write my NBC New York column, do my full-time job, exercise (often overlaps as a blogging commitment), attend health & fitness networking events and see my friends. How do I manage it all?
Here are my top five tips for managing a busy schedule:
- Wake Up Early – As you can see from my example, I woke up at 5:30 AM. I always wake up early because I find I am most productive in the morning. It is a good, quiet time to get things done. Since social obligations tend to be in the evening, being productive in the morning is that much more important.
- Exercise – I make exercise a priority. I schedule my workouts up to two weeks in advance. Exercise improves more than just my physical health – it is a stress reducer and it clears my mind. During that hour, I am intensely focused only on the task at hand, which in turn stops the overload of thoughts I usually have racing through my mind. Whenever I am struggling with a problem, I find that after an hour of working out I usually have a solution.
- Make Time for Socializing – Believe me, I know how easy it is to fall into the “I’m too busy” trap when it comes to seeing friends. Don’t do it. Make time to see people. Part of the reason I write and exercise in the morning is so I can use my rare free evening to catch up with friends. Not only is the advice I get from my friends often excellent, I usually feel rejuvenated after spending time and laughing with others.
- Weekend Down Time – While I often have commitments on the weekend, I usually also enjoy many glorious hours of doing absolutely nothing. Should I be writing? Sure, it would save me from waking up at 5:30 on Monday and Tuesday. Am I writing? Nope. Should I be laying in my bed watching Netflix on my iPad? Probably not, the dishes are piled high! Am I laying in bed watching Netflix on my iPad? Yep. Allow yourself this time for yourself – guilt-free.
- Be flexible – Things come up, plans change. There will never be a “good time,” so be ready to adapt and make the time you have work. For example, I was planning on a 5:30 pm workout with a fitness instructor I really wanted to take next Wednesday when my friend who I have not seen in months asked me to get a happy hour drink after work. My first instinct was to put it off and try to find another time, but then I realized I would just be in the same situation a week later. I needed to adapt to make these plans happen, or I would never get to see my friend! So I changed my Wednesday workout to 6:30 AM, signed up to take the instructor I wanted on Friday, and made plans with my girlfriends. Putting something off doesn’t make it go away and having plans hang over you just causes more stress! It’s best to be flexible and easily adapt to schedule changes.
I often wonder why I do this all, and have days where I just crave rest (and sometimes I take a rest day – be flexible!). When it comes down to it, I love my busy life. I love the opportunities I have and the work I am doing. Finding time for everything can be a challenge, but the more productive I am, the more rewarded I feel.
Dori Manela is a writer, content manager and social media consultant. Raised in Queens, Dori now lives in Manhattan, taking as many exercise classes in NYC as possible in search of the perfect workout.*
The content shared is the author’s opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of Xerox. #FocusFriday is a weekly conversation helping people with productivity in the office. Posts can be at the same time fun and serious, in the spirit of the Xerox’s Business of Your Brain app, yet always focused on what matters most, Real Business.
*Updated November 21, 2017.