Do you start your day with a long list of things to get done and go to bed without having accomplished even half of them? Between dealing with the kids and taking care of everything else, do you struggle to find time for your job search?
If so, you aren't alone. I have so many things competing for my attention every day - it seems there's never enough time to deal with all of them. There are so many things that I have to do, like working, running errands or taking care of my kids. On top of that, there are all the things I need to do, both for my career and for my family, like building my social network, making grocery lists and spending quality time with my family. If that wasn't enough, there are still things that I really want to do but I can't seem to fit into my day. For example, I want to work on my novel, spend more time volunteering and spend another day at the beach before it gets too cold. With all of these things on my plate, it's no wonder that I feel overwhelmed most of the time.
So, what's the answer? I didn't know, so I did some research and found a great time management strategy. The story goes like this:
Picture, if you will, a big, empty bucket - this represents your day. Sitting beside the bucket are three buckets, all of them about half the size of the first bucket. The first of the three is filled with rocks, the second is filled with sand and the third bucket contains water. Imagine that the rocks represent those things you have to do, while the sand stands for the things you really need to do and the water is all things you want to do. How can you possibly get all of that stuff to fit in the big bucket-without it spilling over and making a huge mess?
If you're like me, you might try to pour in some of the water first, because doing what you want is much more fun than doing the stuff you need to do. Since I would feel guilty if I didn't do the things I have to do, I would try to throw in the rocks until the water displacement made my bucket overflow. It's not very effective because I don't get all of the rocks in and I don't even touch the bucket of sand. If I'm being honest, I would probably try to pour out some of the water, hoping to fit in a few more rocks - which would leave me spending the better part of my day just moving water and rocks around.
What would you do? When you take a step back (plus a deep breath) and look at the problem creatively, the solution is simple:
First, throw in all of the rocks. Schedule all of the things that you absolutely have to do. Get a daily planner and write down all of these tasks, making sure that you allow ample time to accomplish them. To make this easier, you can learn some time management techniques that will make these jobs easier and more efficient. At first, it might not look like fun, but trust me, there will be room for other things.
Next, pour in the sand and give it a shake. Fill in all of the things that you know you need to get done. These tasks are important and while they may not have to be done today - taking care of them now will prevent them from turning into rocks you'll have to deal with later. When you look at your daily planner, you should be able to find ways to squeeze these tasks in around the rocks.For example, if you have to take your children to after school activities or appointments, maybe you could work on these tasks while you wait.If you aren't sure how, there are plenty of great multitasking tips that actually work. Get creative here.
Now, add the water. Once you have the other things taken care of, you should still have some free time to fit in more of the things you really want to do. If you think about it, it really does make sense. Once the rocks and the sand are in the bucket, the water can seep in around them, making it's own path. Don't dismiss the importance of doing things just for you. You have to make an effort to find the time to do the things you love, or else you'll slowly lose your passion and enthusiasm.
When I am being really honest with myself, I can see how much time I spend doing things that aren't important, all in an attempt to put off doing the things I know I need to do. Procrastination is a major time sink and it can happen to the best of us, sometimes without us even realizing it. All those five-minute Facebook breaks that turn into half hour (or longer) sessions of distraction are the enemy and the best cure is effective planning, along with a dab of creativity.
Do you have trouble trying to fit everything into your day? What strategies help you the most? Please share your thoughts in the comments.