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How to Get More Done in the Day


I would wake up in the morning--seven, I promised myself. Five minutes won't hurt. Oh, well, it became ten minutes. I drink my tea, throw on some work clothes, and head out the door for work. During lunch, I either took a minute to process being away from crowds of people or played card games with the others on my lunch break (I work in a fun children's museum with lively coworkers, not a lumbermill where we play poker, just for context.) By the time I got home in the evening, after grumbling through traffic and exhausting all my playlists, I was tempted to curl by my unmade bed and scroll my phone, looking for nothing in particular and probably just rising my blood pressure.

One day, I saw a compelling tweet by an author I follow called John Carroll Walls that said, "Put down your phone and answer your calling."

I've struggled with productivity. Making my livelihood takes a significant chunk out of my day, coupled with driving and all the little and big obligations that fill our days. By the time I get home and stress out about how I need to vacuum and do laundry, the last thing I want to do is pick up my writing notebook or chip away at my to-be-read pile.

Here's how I handle time management:

- Make a list of three important things you want to tackle that day. Don't expect to get fifteen things done from a to-do list you made at noon. Three is a realistic, achievable goal. Maybe it'll be more for you, maybe less, but I read the rule of three somewhere, and after trying it, it worked. 1. Write one page of your project, 2. respond to x amount of e-mails, 3. change the litter box. Once you've done all those, if you have extra time, great! More time to do other things or space to be spontaneous. By the way, me-time, self care, or relaxation are not only alright to put on your to-do list but highly suggested and should be mandatory. If you have no time but did all three, congratulations! You carried your to-do list to completion, and those three tasks were probably very thoroughly done.

- Don't look at your phone in the in-between moments. Ask yourself why you want to look at it, and if it's valid, go ahead. But otherwise, do something else. Look at what's around you, think about random questions you never usually have time to ponder, and talk to someone near you. My first instinct when I came home was to look at my phone, and I wondered why, when trying to cut down on screen time. I realized it was because I needed to be somewhere with quiet and alone after being outside all day. Needless to say, I didn't achieve peace by bombarding myself with content from my phone. When I get home now, I look at my phone for about twenty to thirty minutes, and then I change into comfortable clothes, tidy up my area as it needs, and pick up a book or listen to a podcast.

- Change of setting. Sometimes going somewhere else to get things done helps you get two things done in one action. Go to the library to get writing or homework done and then return those overdue books, to a coffee shop to get some reading in and relaxation, or for a walk to get exercise and meditation time or listening to podcasts off the list.

- Think about the people around you. This might not fit into the jar of Practical Things To Do, but the reason that we live life and manage our time is largely to be with people we care about. Birthdays and holidays creep up on us because we don't think about them in time. Is your mom's birthday in August? Brainstorm gifts now anyways.

Life isn't a list of things that we have to do, but if we want to make room for, well, living, then we have to get important things ticked off a list. I'm reading the book "Die Empty" by Todd Henry (excellent book, highly recommended), and he suggests, when planning your day, imagine someone is going to shadow you tomorrow and take notes about how you spent your day and time. What would you want your days to say about you, who you live, and the work you do?


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