A lot of people ask me how I manage to balance writing, fitness, professional learning, and parenthood. While I wish I had wonderful self-help tips endorsed by Carol Dweck, I simply don’t.
What I can offer is my understanding that nobody has a lot of time – but more importantly, our energy is also limited. To-do lists, reminders, and plans will only get you so far in managing it.
The more limited your time is or the bigger your goal is, the more contentious the management strategy needs to be.
How do I suggest managing time?
You have to be a minimalist. Have to. Set limits and boundaries around everything.
You need to Marie Kondo the bejeezus out of your life. I am not talking about your material items – though reducing physical clutter helps. I am talking about activities that clutter your schedule.
Set limits on it. All of it.
Television and idle social media scrolling. Too much of it is a waste of time. Married at First Sight? Nope. Cat videos? Funny, but let’s not get carried away. I occasionally watch a Netflix series with my wife as a form of self-care, but it is not four hours a night. I can recommend Schitt’s Creek, but save it for after you’ve kicked some goals!
The offloading of drama. I don’t have deep and meaningfuls with people I haven’t seen in years. I don’t allow people to call me on my own time to talk about their woes if we aren’t close. I don’t do small talk, if I can help it.
Look, you seem nice, but your drama will take both my time and energy.
Likewise, people I don’t know well who try to press-gang me into polite conversations about nothing. Ten minutes on the bus while my baby is passed out is better spent with professional reading than listening to your life story, Mr-Random-Stranger.
Relationships. I don’t make time for people who bring massive amounts of unnecessary complexity or negativity without adding much joy. Or people who I have little in common with. I don’t invest time around people who bring all negativity and no joy, even if I have known that person for years and there is a history.
Once it becomes toxic or I start feeling bad about myself, I’m out.
It’s great to have lots of surface-level friends but it depends on how much time you can give – is it worth not getting your assignment done so you can meet for coffee, for the umpteenth time with someone you met on a Facebook group, to talk about the weather? Hmm.
Make time for at least one hobby. Running, reading, gardening, whatever you like. That shit is important. It makes you feel good. Life cannot be all work and no play, lest you become a dull boy.
Unless you cut out the time-wasters, though, you won’t get to the fun stuff.
Some people don’t like my approach and they call me anti-social, a bitch or tell me to ‘live a little.’
My ‘living a little’ is committing to what needs to be done, to achieve the things that I see as important, then using my free time on the activities and relationships that really spark joy within me.
It doesn’t matter if people see your goals as modest or unimportant, if it is your goal, it is worth your time.
Let me say that again.
IF IT IS YOUR GOAL, IT IS WORTH YOUR TIME.
If you want to achieve anything, you have to prioritise it. Sometimes that means watching a bit less TV and pissing a few people off.
When you are holding your doctorate, bachelor’s degree, finished manuscript, or walking into the job you’ve hustled for your entire career, those energy-draining people who call you a bitch won’t be there anyway – or if they are, they won’t be cheering for you.
Success comes at a price – sometimes, that means limiting people or activities that used to be big in your life because they no longer spark joy in you or encourage you.
Only you can decide if it’s worth it.