How to tackle feelings of anxiety and overwhelm by managing your time more effectively
We all know that to be our best, productive selves, we need to plan our time carefully. Learning to manage our time well can also help keep those feelings of overwhelm I mentioned in my previous post at bay. But time management can be a hard skill to grasp – especially if, like me, you have developed an all-too friendly relationship with that stealer of time: procrastination.
So I decided to work out why I found it so hard to manage my time properly, and soon began to realise what was going wrong.
Problem number one: overplanning
This is the big one for me… trying to plan everything too far ahead, in too much detail, in one gigantic lifestyle overhaul. Whoa! This is a sure way to provoke chronic overwhelm.
Problem number two: constantly feeling that I don’t have enough time
This cropped up in my last post as an absolute overwhelm-inducer. I’m mentioning it again here because you can’t manage time you think you don’t have!
Problem number three: always letting the urgent things take priority over the important things
This is probably the trickiest one to get to grips with – I’m not expecting to get this right every time!
Having nailed the problems, I’m now trying out some solutions.
Once you recognise the ebb and flow of your year, you can use this knowledge to shape your own planning… and begin mapping out your time.Helen Duncan, Silver Nutmeg
1. Take a gentle, broad overview of the year
I’ve started the year by taking a broad-brush approach to the next twelve months, thinking about what I would like to achieve in the year ahead, what I need to focus on in each quarter in order to get there, and then how I use my time each month to do what I need to do. Rather than compiling stress-inducing lists of everything that needs to happen, this is a gentler overview of the year.
It’s useful here to think about the character of each quarter and then each month. For example, the first quarter of my financial year tends to be quite busy sales wise; Quarter 2 covers the summer months and is a good time to be getting stock ready for online Christmas markets; Quarter 3 is a manic juggling act of making, selling, and promoting; Quarter 4 is quieter and a good time to reflect, as well as to mull over new designs. Within each of these characterised quarters, I then consider what each month is like. So, while Quarter 3 is personified as “the manic one”, it’s November and the early part of December that prove the busiest for getting orders out, meaning October is still good for finishing off new stock, and getting ahead with promoting.
Once you recognise the ebb and flow of your year, you can use this knowledge to shape your own planning. Then you can begin mapping out your time. So if, for example, I’ve decided I need to focus on making in Quarter 2 (“the getting-ready one”), I work out how much stock I need to make, and how many days I need to make those items, then I map out that time on a planner. At this stage I don’t need to write in exactly what I will do each day – I just need to know that I have allocated enough time to achieve everything I’m going to need to do.
When it comes to actually getting stuff done, I work on a weekly basis. I find Friday afternoons are a good time to sit down and plan my work for the week ahead, so that my to-do list is out of my head and down on paper before the weekend starts.
Similarly, at the end of each working day, I look to see what I’ve completed and what still needs to be done, and use this to plan my time for the following day.
2. Include empty ‘buffer zones’ in your schedule for unexpected tasks
To counter that paralysing feeling of not having enough time to do anything, I’ve started to schedule blank spaces into my planner as buffer zones, so I can cope with unexpected tasks or things that are taking longer than anticipated.
Allocating just an hour or two in this way can introduce some breathing space into your working week, helping you to feel calmer and more in control. I’m playing around with establishing regular, short buffers into each week, with longer ones every month or quarter, to give myself time to catch up where I need to.
3. Prioritise the important things over the urgent
We’re probably all familiar with these four categories:
- urgent and important
- not urgent but important
- urgent but not important
- neither urgent nor important
The trick is to concentrate your time on the things that are “not urgent but important” so that your to-do list isn’t constantly screaming “urgent” at you, and you’re actually working towards your bigger business goals. The idea is that by focusing on important tasks you’ll be more effective, rather than just efficient.
I think this one is going to take some practice, but so far using these categories is proving a useful way of prioritising tasks – especially when I combine them with my new rule of empowerment (see my previous post)!
I hope all these tips are helpful – let me know in the comments if there any other time management tips that work well for you!
Find more time management tips here:
How to create an action plan for your craft business – so you can achieve more by doing less – https://blog.folksy.com/2019/03/01/craft-business-action-plan
How to write better to-do lists that get things done – https://blog.folksy.com/2019/04/17/tips-for-better-to-do-lists
How to make more time for your creative business when it’s not your full-time job – https://blog.folksy.com/2019/06/04/how-to-make-more-time
How to make time for marketing, social media and YOU in the busy Christmas period – https://blog.folksy.com/2019/11/28/marketing-social-media-and-self-care-tips