We’re going for optimization here, not perfection, by the way. We want to be happier and more productive, not even more frustrated and self-critical.
First, please accept the reality that we’re going to be limited. That means we’ll need to strategize and make conscious and deliberate choices about what we do and most importantly, what we DON’T do.
So, second step: please eliminate some stuff on your list. Get rid of it! What really has to be done and what not? What’s the worst that could happen if you just don’t do it?
I’m not taking about basic care and feeding of yourself and others, but rather things that we think are have-tos but in fact may be impositions that don’t matter that much.
And so many things can be done to an acceptable level but not with maximum effort. Some things are just not worth the time and effort and energy we give them. Like ironing, haha.
Or maybe we can reduce their frequency and still feel OK about things, and have a better life!
Related to that: do we have to compare ourselves to others all the time? What would it take to sit with that discomfort of not living up to impossible standards and then to let that go? If we decide to, that is. Ask yourself if you could you use that time and energy better somewhere else.
So, what do you value the most, and of that, what needs your specific involvement? By all means make those things your priority. Otherwise, cut mercilessly, and offload what truly does not require your specific involvement.
Next, batch stuff! Schedule all your work on a particular topic for one specific block of hours. I know you don’t have complete control of your schedule, but if you’re strict and set clear expectations, you’ll be surprised how much people will come to comply with your wishes.
Add in buffers. Yes, unexpected stuff will crop up, every week. Reserve some percentage of time to deal with these, even though it hurts to admit you need to do this. Start with twenty or thirty percent of your waking hours and block them out on your calendar. You don’t know what will come up but if you add in buffers for the unexpected, you can go a long way towards protecting your plans and priorities.
Expect overflow as well. Most people underestimate how long tasks will take, so pad your idea. If you think it’ll take an hour, allow 90 minutes, and so on. Yes, you’ll have to be selective and prioritize!
Importantly, work towards managing your energy and emotions. This is just as crucial as time management. What good is a free hour if you’re not in a state to be able to use it the way you want to? This means getting more aware of what affects you and what you need to truly replenish and process interactions, etc.
Give yourself something to look forward to every week, even if it’s a small thing. And try out some body doubling sessions (scheduling a time with someone online to work together in companionable silence).
Experiment and get curious. Lose the judgment and play around. Get clear on your true priorities and ask yourself, how can I make what I want possible? How can I get one step closer to my ideal this week?