I have a confession to make: I am the worst when it comes to managing time. That’s right. The truth is, I put on a good game face. I look the part. As a result, folks around me think I’ve got it all together. There’s some true to that. But there’s a side of me that many people don’t know.
Come to my house, and open the doors to the secretary desk from which I write and work daily, and you’ll find evidence of my lack of time management.
Books that I’m currently reading (Nobodies to Somebodies by Peter Han, The Little Black Book of Success: Laws of Leadership for Black Women by E. Brown, M. Haygood, and R.J. McLean, and The Other 8 Hours by Robert Pagliarini) — are opened to the page I last read and are faced down and shoved into the desk, as if I suddenly lost interest midway through, or more than likely, got distracted by something seemingly more important at the time.
Moreover, I’ve got stacks of mail hidden in the crevices of other stacks of books and strewn papers. It’s a hot mess, to say the least. But, again, it’s all hidden and because my inadvertent secrecy, I’ve maintained — at least among close friends and colleagues — an image of perfection in that regard. That is, until now.
Again, for the most part, folks think I’m pretty well-organized. (Thanks. I clean up well.) And, actually, despite my mismanagement of time, I seem to get things done and am on my game. I wonder how much more efficient I could be if I were to improve in this area? Hmm. Let’s table that thought for now.
Like many people in the world, I’ve benefited from time management strategies. Especially lately. I’ve tacked on more things to my already full plate of being a mother, wife and journalist. Let’s see:
- In addition to running this blog, I recently joined the board of the Alliance for Women in Media (Washington, DC chapter) as the Career Development Chair.
- What’s more, I’m helping to plan the very fabulous, fall wedding of a very good friend of mine. (No easy task!)
- Plus, I’ll be starting graduate school this fall at Johns Hopkins University towards earning a Master’s degree in nonfiction writing.
There are other projects that I’m working on related and unrelated to the above-mentioned items. When I think about all the things I have my hands in at the moment, it’s tempting to get overwhelmed. Then I’m reminded that everything I do in this life, particularly work-related stuff, is something I’ve CHOSEN to do. None of this has been forced upon me. And in knowing that, I’m instantly relieved of all the pressure. Everything is fun again. And I feel . . . empowered.
That notwithstanding, there’s still the looming responsibility of managing said projects well. I mean. I’m not fooling anyone, and neither are you, when I say things like, “I work so much better under pressure” or “I do my best work when it’s down to the wire.” Yeah, right.
Getting work done at the very last second can’t be good for mental or physical health, and it’s certainly not beneficial to the process of producing a finished product that you can feel really good about. What you do everyday for work or in your career should not resemble a fast-food assembly line. The mechanics of serving hurried customers a ready-made hamburger is just not the same as the process undertaken in most other professions.
Doing gratifying, quality work requires patience, time and attention-to-detail. Time management is the root of all success, of course. And ‘procrastination’ is the Achilles heel of many professionals, including me.
Therefore, I’ve developed a set of rules to nip procrastination and time-stealers in the bud. Some of which, you may have heard before, but could stand repeating.
- Learn to say “no.” I’ve been that “good girl” all my life and in filling that persona comes a lot of people-pleasing. Because I can’t stand the thought of letting anyone down I have often said ‘yes’ to projects that just weren’t worth my while or strategic to my overall career goals. Sometimes, it’s in your best interest to tell your boss “I’m not able to handle your request at this time.” Or, tell a friend who needs your help, “Is this urgent? I love you, but I’ve got a lot on my plate right now.” If you’re having difficulty formulating the “right” thing to say then the just say “no.” You may lose a friend or two, but at least you’ll keep your sanity.
- Stop procrastinating. Okay, this pointer goes without saying, but sometimes procrastination masks what’s really going on. Ask yourself what’s really holding you back? Are insecure thoughts telling you you’re not good enough? Do you need to do more research? Repent of laziness? Rev up your level of expertise? There’s never a perfect time for anything, but there is such thing as perfect preparation. Food for thought.
- Get organized. ‘Nuff said.
- Write a to-do list. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, it helps to prioritize what’s already on my plate. A simple to-do list can be a critical, yet simple, time management tool. And it only takes a couple of minutes to jot down the tasks that are screaming for your attention. And just a second to categorize what’s going to be a valuable use of your time.
- Take a time-out. We’re constantly bombarded in such an information-overload era. Take a moment to meditate, pray or even to step away from all electronic devices to regroup and reassess life. Don’t get swept into a whirlwind of life’s distractions that you become too busy missing out on life itself.
How do you kick the procrastination bug? And what tactics do you use to get back on track?
About the Author
Emily Brown is the creator and key contributor to TheCareerPioneer.com — a blog born out of a strong desire to offer other new moms, as well as professionals in transition, motivational and practical advice on careers and personal branding. In addition, Emily works full-time as a journalist. Her previous work has appeared in Bloomberg News, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. Emily, a graduate of Howard University, is currently earning a Master of Arts in Nonfiction Writing at Johns Hopkins University. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband, two-year-old daughter and their cat.