I love me an expert with a best-selling book to back up their claims, but sometimes I want to know how the regular folk do it. You know, the woman with four kids who always looks French lady chic or your girlfriend who squeezes more productivity out of a 24-hour period than you can eke out of a week. For matters of time management, I turned to real-life expert Kimberly Rae Miller. In addition to one full-time gig and two part-time jobs, Kim also runs two blogs, The Kim Challenge and Forkful of News. Here's how she makes her nutty schedule work.What are your top 3 tips on how to get so much done in one 24 hour period?
- Schedule around your style: I'm a morning person in regard to brain-function. I hate waking up early, but I'm cognitively sharper in the early hours, so I wake up at 5am Monday-Friday to put in three hours of work on freelance writing projects before I head to the office. As much as I prefer to workout in the morning, I know that I don't really need too much brain power for it, so my workouts, as well as socializing, are reserved for night time.
- Schedule in little things: I know that I have to go to work, so I don't have to put that in my schedule. What I do need to make time for is calling my mom, going to the gym, getting drinks with friends, and getting a pedicure so I don't scare the people in my yoga class. Also, whenever I have downtime I like to think about my surroundings -- what can I get done that's in the area? I work right by Whole Foods, so I grocery shop during my lunch break, put groceries in my work fridge, and bring them home with me later.
- Outsource what you can: This is something that totally embarrasses me, but I don't do my own laundry. I live in a city and my apartment building doesn't have a washer and dryer. I drop off my laundry a couple of times a month.It's only slightly more expensive than going to the laundromat myself, but it saves me hours of my life.That's so worth it to me. When my schedule is tight, I buy groceries online. I also get staples from Alice.com, they adjust all orders for current coupon offers, and shipping is free. Not having to run out to buy shampoo, or toilet paper can be a life saver.
I'm big on paper. I know that's not a very green thing to say, but I need to see things staring back at me in pen-pen is so permanent. I've tried to use Google Calendar and even the calendar on my Blackberry to keep organized, but those reminders are so easy to dismiss for me. When I write something, I internalize it, so I have varying calendars for different projects. I carry a Filofax for my day-to-day life scheduling, and because so much of my life revolves around exercise I have a separate calendar for exercise. I've devised a system where I plot my workouts with color coded post-it notes (small ones) that fit in each box on the calendar. At the beginning of the week I start scheduling my workouts. When I actually do a workout, I write it in the box in permanent marker. If I don't, the post-it is removed and I'm left with a blank square-that stark white square carries a lot of guilt!
Health is super important to you. When and how do you squeeze in time for yourself: exercise, sleep, healthy eating, plain old downtime?
I plan for attrition when it comes to exercise by over-scheduling.The truth is, nothing is ever going to work out the way we plan. While planning is essential for a packed schedule, there needs to be wiggle room. I plan for exercise 6 days a week; I usually get about 4 workouts in. If I can get in more I feel like a rock star. If I don't, it's not a big deal.
Over the summer I actually saw a nutritionist about eating for optimal energy. I tend to think I know a lot about nutrition, but sometimes it's good to have someone else's perspective. I wasn't surprised when she told me to cut sugar; I was surprised when she suggested I add more meat to my diet. While I'm not a vegetarian, my diet rarely included meat. Everyone's body reacts differently, but adding more lean meats actually helped my ability to focus. I'm a total bulk eater. I like three big meals a day and if I never saw a snack I wouldn't miss it, but I've learned that I can't eat big meals or I'll be sleepy, so I have to schedule in smaller meals and snacks. There is definitely a learning curve to this healthy eating thing.
I make my lunch for the week, usually a soup or a stew on Sunday night. A slow cooker is a great time saver, I just throw it all in there and 6-hours later it's food!
Down time always has a way of sneaking in, when your brain and body are ready to shut down, they will.
Any tips on prioritizing a mountainous to-do list? How do you put things in order of importance?
I never cross things off my to-do list, I highlight the things that are done. There's two reasons, one being that if I need to reference that information later, crossing it out could inhibit my ability to read it. The second is totally mental. Seeing all those bright colors looking back at me is really motivating, it's the proverbial gold star. The more bright yellow I see, the more accomplished I feel, and the more motivated I am to get more done.
Most of the things in my life have a deadline which helps with prioritizing. I write a "due by" date on everything in my to-do list, that way I know when I need to get things done by.
What do you think it's important to always do, no matter how much else is on your to-do list (and what can always wait for tomorrow)?
The people in your life are what matters most. Even when I'm super stressed and my schedule is packed, I always make time for friends and family. It's good for the soul. None of that stress is worth it if you don't have people to share your life with.
Read more from Kim at The Kim Challenge, Forkful of News, and Social Workout.
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