Time Management for the Insane

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It’s Sunday and I’m wondering exactly where my weekend has escaped too, something I do all too frequently.  And then I remember that I fell into the rabbit hole of driving for UberX (including my live tweetalong last night which you can still read on Twitter via #virtualride) and keeping the content flowing here (something I do on a very part-time basis).  In fact, I’m resisting the urge to check the UberX-issued iPhone batphone to see if there are rides to be had this morning (and thus money to be made) as I really need to catch up on a few things here at home before I start a whirlwind of travel again.

I’ve had a couple of friends email me in the last day or two to ask if something happened at my “day job” or if I had quit one of my other commitments so that I could (fill-in-the-blank) drive for UberX/blog for Prior2Boarding/volunteer with my sorority/take a cooking class/whatever I’ve posted about that has peaked their curiosity.  Its the same question I take up anything new outside the normal 8 to 5 range.

The theme is always the same – “how the heck do you find the time”?

That’s a question that I actually took offense to for many years (as I always thought the person asking was either doubting my ability to follow through or thought I was insane) before I realized that many people genuinely want to figure out how some people can take on more than others with out feeling the strain.

Juggling life on the road with a very busy non-travel life is an exercise I like to call “time management for the insane”.  Insane in this sense is my loving way of describing my schedule as my life can definitely look crazy from the outside, but it don’t feel that stressful from where I live it.

It takes a bit of management (and several spreadsheets) to keep things together though.  I still run off two planners – the calendar function on Outlook (mine is color-coded by area of my life and captures a good chunk of my waking time) and a pen/paper Franklin Planner.

Pen, paper, and highlighter are still the best way for me to guarantee a productive day!

Pen, paper, and highlighter are still the best way for me to guarantee a productive day!

I got hooked on the Franklin Covey school of planning a couple of decades ago and have continued to integrate it in my life.  I have tried many other methods over the years and know that pen/paper is very old school, but the art of writing everything out, prioritizing it, and crossing things off when completed still works best for getting things done.

For me, its a fact that if I have a chaotic day or two or feel like I’ve gotten very little accomplished, I can look back and see two recurring themes.  I either didn’t wake up in the morning and engage in a few minutes of proactive planning.  Or I can look at my calendar and I see wide open spaces of nothing.  Nothingness keeps me from focusing.  Its what finds me sitting on the sofa at 3 pm still in my pajamas binge watching a marathon of an old sitcom I never even liked while surfing IMDB on my iPad with one hand and playing Candy Crush Saga on my iPhone with the other.  Occasionally I plan for that to happen.  But if it occurs too frequently, my life dives quickly into chaos.

So planning is an activity I actually plan for.  (Plan to plan sounds silly, but it works.)  I try to take time at the end of each work day to review what I’ve done and what needs to move to another day’s list.  And then I actually do that on the planner.  If I’m leaving the office and office-based tasks aren’t done, I either delegate them and create a follow up note – or I schedule them for my next in-office block of time.  In the evening – or first thing in the morning – I do the same with my personal lists (and also my volunteer and blog lists).  I then spend about five minutes looking at the list against my calendar and blocking out time to actually cross items off.

I did a bit of planning this morning for the next month when I will have several commitments intermingled with multi-night trips and many deadlines.  Lots of colored blocks dot the days on my Outlook calendar (travel, stretches of volunteer time, work conferences and commitments) and I have small gaps between them.

But the big rocks are already there (much like the much used Stephen Covey analogy from his book First Things First) before I start scheduling the other things.  So just as I know that one of my friends who is training for a triathalon will get her daily runs/swims/cycles in while still doing her day job and caring for her two kids, I know that I’ll be able to manage what I’ve committed myself.

And it means I need to get out of bed now… and NOT turn on the batphone, but instead go to the kitchen to make breakfast, get showered so I can make my seven hour volunteer shift at the sorority house today (TCU recruitment starts this afternoon), and get home to do laundry and pack for my next trip.  Working with (and not against) those big rocks is the only way time management for the insane can ever work.

About Jennifer Moody

Jennifer is a management consultant and avid volunteer. Her career and volunteer duty travels have helped her log top-tier airline and hotel status annually for the last eighteen years. In addition, she embraces the opportunity to maximize her vacation time by planning extracurricular trips that have taken her to over 60 countries and 47.5 US states. Although she averages 200 days a year on the road, she loves to return to “the homestead” in her native Fort Worth, Texas where she enjoys cooking, gardening, sewing, needlepoint, wine, and cocktail mixology.

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