Before I get on to today’s topic, it seems only normal to note that today is the 11th November, Remembrance Day, and say that my thoughts are with the friends and families of anyone whose loved ones are deployed or have ever been deployed.
If you’ve been reading my recent blog posts, you know that I’m in the throes of producing the Marlowe Showcase (it’s next week in fact, so please send all of the leg-breaking vibes you can to our actors!). I am also doing a full time degree, working in the university theatres in the box office and as a duty manager, and singing in a Chapel Choir four times a week, as well as trying to maintain long and close distance friendships and long-distance relationships with both immediate family three hours away, and extended family across seas and oceans. And writing a blog. I’m busy, obviously, and one thing that means is that I’ve become an expert at time-management and the juggling act of maintaining all the aspects of my life at once. This is what I do, to try and make sure that I get as much of what I need to get done done, while making sure that I don’t burn out in the process.
- Prioritise and write to do lists
If you have a lot of things to do, one key way not to get overwhelmed is to have to do lists of priorities, and break those down into daily to do lists, with the knowledge of which things are more important than others.
I have a weekly to do list on my desk, and a notebook in which I write my daily to-do list each morning, from what is left on (or more likely, has been added to) the weekly to do list. And then I work through it, crossing things off when they’re done. I’m a full line through things which are done kind of girl, ticks just aren’t quite as satisfying, and don’t give you the same visual aid of lots of things fully crossed out. (Note: A temptation is regularly to deal with the little easy things, so that more things are crossed off, and leave the big scary thing at the top uncrossed out but it’s okay because it’s only one thing, even if it is the most important one… This is a mistake! Priorities are the things you should be dealing with first! And if it helps to break one thing down into lots of little ones on your to do list, so you can see you’re progressing through a task – do it! Split ‘Read X Book’ into 10 bullet points of ‘Read Chapter 1, 2, 3…’, it will help, I promise.)
- Know how to say ‘No.’ and ‘That won’t work for me.’
These are complete sentences, and learning to say them when people ask too much of you is not only okay – it’s very important, for your health and for your ability to do things you are committed to well, that you know when is so much to do that you will be crushed by it. Even if what you’re being asked to do sounds fun, or useful, or you’re being guilt-tripped because they have no one else and really need your help and you’re friends, you can still say no. Sometimes you should say no, and learning to recognise the moments when you should (and then doing it) is a vital skill for busy people.
- Thrive in the business and let it help you.
I work much better under a tight deadline, and business is a way of regularly creating those for myself. If I have a whole day ahead of me, during which I need to do a few things, or read a new text or piece of critical material, and nothing else on, I’m so likely to say ‘Oh, I have time, how about I do x or y fun thing first, or sleep for an extra fifteen minutes, or read this one interesting article on the internet’… The odds are that that will turn into procrastination and I’ll do what I need to do in about six times as long as it would have taken me if I had two and a half hours before a meeting to get it done.
- Remember to take breaks/Remember that you will be taking breaks
It is impossible and unhealthy to be ‘productive’ 100% of the time. You just can’t. So there’s no point setting yourself a schedule or to-do list, which is manageable only on the assumption you aren’t taking any breaks. You won’t succeed, and, if you’re anything like me, the sentiment that you haven’t done everything you need to do is more likely to lead to stress-procrastination and a spiral of stress. Schedule in breaks/times you won’t be doing x,y or z. E.g. You don’t work after 10pm, or you don’t answer emails between 9am and 1pm, because that is time dedicated to essay writing. Or every Sunday evening is time off to ring your mum. Or you definitely take a whole hour for lunch and even if you’ve eaten in 15 minutes, you have 45 minutes to watch funny YouTube videos. Or you have 15 minutes mid-morning to drink a cup of tea. Or you go for a run in the morning before you start anything else. Whatever it is that you need scheduled in, keep it in! It will save your sanity.
- Ask for help
If you need help, and everyone needs help sometimes, ask for it. Most people do not want to see others crumble under punishing to-do lists. If you are struggling to manage your academic work, ask your supervisor if they have study tips. If you can’t manage all the aspects of student producing, get an assistant producer and delegate! They’ll get experience, and you’ll get time back! If you’re struggling in choir, ask your choir director for assistance/support. And, most of all, ask your friends for a hug and a shoulder to cry on, when you just need some sympathy.
Also, if think you may be suffering from any kind of mental illness, ask your doctor for help. They can provide you with whatever mental health support you need, which is invaluable.
Thanks as always for reading and I’ll see you next week! Feel free to like this post if you enjoyed it, follow the blog if you haven’t already done so, and do let me know your thoughts and/or questions in the comments!