Handling a Full Plate
A full plate is better than an empty one, right?
Today’s post is about time management (thanks to Audra for kicking this topic off!) but I’m going to stick to the food analogy for a few minutes, first.
At our church we have carry-in meals once a month. (Fellowship time is important!) When I go through the line, I’m always dazzled by the many choices! Casseroles, salads, breads, sometimes a pot of soup on a cold day, sometimes a delicious brisket (we live in ranching country.) Occasionally a main-dish salad, too. And then there are the desserts…
Do I hear any “Amens!?”
We all know that there is no way even a small spoonful of each one of those dishes is going to fit on our plates, but we fill them up anyway.
After all, a full plate is better than an empty one.
Except when the plate starts tipping and a bit of the jello fluff slides onto the floor…or the dinner roll perched on top takes a nosedive for someone else’s plate…or the tuna noodle casserole’s sauce insists on mingling with the oil and vinegar dressing on your lettuce….
Maybe there can be too much of a good thing!
My life is a bit like that. I know I’ve said “yes” to too many responsibilities, and when fall comes I’ll be adding another huge one back onto my plate. And then there is the possibility of a grandchild (or two) arriving in the next year or so. Each of those important things needs a spot on my plate.
How do I give all those responsibilities the attention they need? How do I keep any of them from falling off the plate? How do I make sure I accomplish what needs to be done WHEN it needs to be done?
My favorite tool for time management is a planner. And my favorite planner is my Bullet Journal.
Why a planner?
Because our lives are full of details that need our full attention.
I used to just list the things I needed to do on my planner page in no particular order and without a lot of thought, but that could be so disheartening. My list was just too long, and what about the things I didn’t really want to do? Well, it’s easy to just move them to the next day’s list, and the next one, and the next one…
Then I discovered a new strategy: Divide and conquer!
Here’s a picture of my Bullet Journal page for last Friday. It takes me less than five minutes to put this page together in the evening and finish it up the next morning.
Do you see how I listed my priorities at the top? There are three of them. Keeping that list to three items is my #1 rule.
Then I divide my tasks into three areas: personal, home, and writing.
I try to list no more than three things in each of those areas, but sometimes the day is extra busy.
The colorful column on the right is where I divide my day into blocks. (I use color-coding to make everything easy to keep in order.) The numbers in that column correspond to the time of day.
If you look at the column, you can see that I’ve scheduled my writing tasks in three separate time blocks. 6:00 am to 7:30 am, 9:00 am to 11:30 am, and 12:30 pm to 3:00 pm. That’s a total of 6 ½ hours spent on writing and writing related tasks.
Now look at the items I’ve listed under “writing” on the left. I usually spend my first writing block putting words down in my WIP. My goal is 1000-1500 words during that block.
The second block is for more writing or tackling a sticky technical problem with my website or publishing.
The third block is for a variety of things. Sometimes I use that time for research. Sometimes for listening to podcasts or reading craft books. Sometimes for writing my newsletter content. Sometimes for writing a blog post.
The key? I know I’m more creative in the morning after my first cup of tea, so I use that to my advantage and do the most important thing first. I also know I tend to be a bit draggy in the afternoons – so that’s when I take care of tasks that require less concentration.
I do the same for the “personal” category and “home” category. I do those planned tasks during the times with the matching colors in my schedule.
Is this method perfect?
No, but it’s as close to perfect as I can get for me. You might find that a different kind of planner suits you better, or that a bunch of sticky notes on your computer screen’s frame is the perfect solution. The idea is to plan our time so that it doesn’t get frittered away.
Nope. I schedule my working days like this, but never Sunday, and I usually take another day off during the week for our “Saturday” chores and time off. This is a tool I use to make my work days go more smoothly.
Does this method work?
Yes, it does. When I have my day planned out like this, I tend to get most of the tasks accomplished, just like when I have a reasonable amount of food on my plate!
How about you? Are you a planner?
And here’s an interesting question: if you’re a planner, are you also a plotter in your writing? And if you aren’t a planner, are you a panster in your writing?
Here's a picture of my mom and I on our special day: