“Chaos is the score upon which reality is written.” -Henry Miller
It’s easy to get weighed down with all the hustle and bustle of work and daily to do lists. But it’s also important to remember to take out time for yourself and your self expression.
This year, I want to put extra focus on developing my voice as a writer and creator. So I decided to make good use of my Google Calendar as a time management tool (which it’s been extremely useful for) and schedule myself some specific time to spend on all this.
I’ve begun blocking off a few hours each week as a recurring event in my Google Calendar for what I call “Write Time”. I then use that time to blog here on The Productive Artist, as well as flex my writing muscles for my personal writing, developing new story ideas, writing poetry, or just scribbling in my journal. And even if the placement of that time shifts around within its week, I never let myself skip or delete my regular “Write Time”.
So if you’re like me and need an extra reminder to take time for yourself, or want to set aside some special time for something specific, I highly encourage you to use your own calendar (be it through Google or any other system) to set aside time to do the things you want to do, not just the things you have to do.
Questions? Comments? Absurd Ideas? Comment below and tell me what kind of recurring time you want to set aside for yourself, and how you plan to use your Calendar to do it!
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“You must give up the life you planned, in order to have the life that is waiting for you.” -Joseph Campbell
Now that we’ve talked about your New Year’s resolution lists and some stellar techniques to help us stick to them, it’s time to see the other side of the coin. Besides listing out the things you want to do this year, it’s also a healthy practice to list out what you don’t want to do – what things you’ll want to avoid, things that suck up your time and contribute to your Chaos.
So let’s make a Un-Resolutions List!
Here are some suggestions from mine:
- To not check all of my email all the time. This is a massive time suck, and can be avoided by setting up a good system of filters and labels to automatically organize your emails, and then checking the whole bunch of important unread emails all at once or at set times everyday. I have done this with my own Gmail setup, and I promise you it has made a huge difference in my day.
- To not answer emails first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Early in the AM, you still might not be awake enough to properly absorb and respond, and could potentially scramble your plans for the rest of the day. Late at night, you could likewise be too tired to focus on your email, and studies have shown that looking at your computer screen right before bed can suppress your body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that helps you fall asleep at night.
- To not procrastinate. Don’t get yourself caught in the self-perpetuating “I’ll do it later” cycle. I’ve never met anyone who found true happiness and fulfillment from procrastination. Parkinson’s Law states that a task will essentially take the amount of time you allot to complete it. So set tight deadlines and then get it done! Schedule an event on your Google Calendar, and then force yourself to complete it in that time frame. Because the sooner you do it, the sooner you don’t have to do it.
- To not try to do everything. If you prioritize well, you should understand that not all tasks are created equal. And some tasks use more time and resources than they earn back. These are not worth doing! It is far smarter to focus on the most important tasks and most rewarding practices and most efficient skills, and let go of the rest. Remember, the key to having more time is doing less.
- To not try to do everything perfectly the first time. Making mistakes is part of the learning process, and it is perfectly natural. A fear of failure will ultimately only hold you back from attempting the truly important and worthwhile. Allow yourself the freedom to create a “draft” version first, and then take any slip-ups in stride and channel that towards improving what you’re working on.
- To try not to get hung up on details. I am naturally very detail-oriented, but that means that I often lose sight of the bigger picture. It’s important to balance both, and always remember the ultimate goal. That’s why I recommend keeping your high-level goals written down and easy to access. So whenever you get bogged down in the day-to-day grind, you can quickly pull back and remind yourself of your bigger objective, and then move on to tasks that better worked towards that.
- To not carry your cellphone 24/7. I know this sounds crazy in today’s age of technology addiction, but it is a healthy practice every once in a while to take a break from your digital leashes. Try turning your phone off or even leaving it behind entirely for a whole day, and see how much more you observe and engage with the world around you that day. Good chances are it won’t be the end of the world if you have to return someone’s call or email the next morning.
- To not answer calls from unrecognized numbers. This may mean occasionally missing a call you didn’t want to, but more often than not, it will mean avoiding the unnecessary and unknown callers and telemarketers. I personally never answer for a random number. That said, if I am expecting a call from someone new, and I have been given their number, I immediately save them as a contact in my phone, so that I can recognize them when they do call.
- To not take calls or meetings without a clear agenda or end time. I used to work in the corporate world of unnecessary and unnecessarily long meetings. And I learned that if there is a clearly stated objective or agenda laid out ahead of time, no call or meeting should take more than 30min. So learn from my experience, and email your request it in advance so you “can be best prepared to make good use of the time together.” Or ask that they share a Google Doc with the meeting’s agenda, so that all the attendees can collaborate and agree on it together before stepping into the meeting room.
- To not try to please everyone. It’s simply one of life’s law that you are never going to please everyone. In high school, I had a hard time grasping the fact that I wasn’t going to get everyone to like me. There will always be somebody who disagrees with you, and you’re never going to be able to control what others think. So don’t waste your time worrying about it. Focus instead on what you can control, on being someone you yourself can be pleased with and on the people who do deserve your time and attention.
There are just some suggestions of mine, but I encourage you to think of any others that might be more specific to you. Often times, our un-resolutions are simply mirror images of our resolutions. For example, not procrastinating and not trying to do everything can be seen as reflections of the resolution to better prioritize.
So look at your own list of resolutions for this year. Can you think of any potentially negative behaviors that could hinder your ability to accomplish these? Give it a solid try, and try not to stress about it too much. If it helps, it helps. If not, move on and focus on what else you can do.
Questions? Comments? Absurd Ideas? Feel free to comment on this post and share!