I’m sure everyone has been in this situation before: you want to start a new routine, and a few days in there are deadlines of big projects coming up that you cannot find the time to stick to the routine anymore. But those projects look so complex and you don’t find the motivation to even start. So you end up doing nothing, and you feel stressed and guilty as deadlines approach.
How I "balanced my life" during the busiest, craziest time
Whether you are a student, employee or CEO, you still struggle to a certain extent to balance everything in your life. Health, hobbies, main gig, relationships.. ugh, how do those people seem to have it all on social media? And how do you not be distracted from the most important work?
Don’t be fooled. Everyone struggles, and everyone stumbles from time to time. We are all human. People who experience more success just have a strong determination, discipline and drive to stick to what they say they will do. Easily said than done, I know.
When I look back to the days I prepared to get into the Master of Creative Music Therapy program, I noticed a behavioural pattern. During those 3 months of intense preparation, extra lessons, online psychology course, instrument practice on top of a demanding day job and poor mental health, I figured a way to plan my schedule and routine so that I always got things done. And today, as I’m working towards bigger goals, I use the same method to maintain health and skills on top of increased responsibilities and workload.
What you need to know about productivity
The ultimate productivity hack of all times: say no to most things so you have time to work on what truly matters. Yes, contrary to popular opinion, productivity is not about doing as many things as you can in a given time. If you are doing things that get you nowhere, what’s the point?
So when you plan you days or go through your task list, you have to prioritise tasks that are important. Otherwise you will always be working on urgent tasks and being chased after by endless deadlines. What tasks are important? Things that lay the foundation of other tasks or things that contribute directly to your long term goals. For example, scheduling 15 minutes to reflect on what went well and what did not over the past week is important. It certainly is not urgent – but when you don’t reflect and refine your productivity system, next week you will be repeating the same mistakes and there goes an aimless grinding loop and burnout.
The second thing you need to learn about is the nature of your tasks. There is a difference between things you need to actively maintain for a long period and things that you can set up a system to automate the process. Go through your to-do list, if you have one: are there things you repeatedly do but can be replaced by automation? Things like blog post scheduling, weekly report emails, specific fund transfer etc. fall into this category. The main point is to automate those tasks so that you can free up mental space and energy to focus on creation and thinking, and to switch tasks less often.
To illustrate the importance of recognising the task nature, let’s look at my current reponsibilities and how I set myself up for success.
Things I have to maintain
- Studies (lectures, assignments and placement)
- Physical and mental health
- Musical skills (practice and extra classes)
- Language learning
- Contract work
Things I can automate
- Scheduling appointments on my calendar (school days, placement, work, gym, therapy and extra classes)
- Content creation (batch blog posts, Instagram and YouTube content – schedule them using business tools)
- Invoicing clients
And this is where my productive procrastination comes in.
When I have to work on important tasks that have deadlines, for example a 3,000-word essay for my course, I still don’t want to sacrifice my good habits. What I typically do is to leverage rest time for some “active recovery”. When I need a breather from writing my essay, I leave my work desk. Once I turn around, I will find my guitar leaning on the wall waiting for me to play. I purposefully set the environment up so that I won’t skip my practice. After playing one song, I call it a day and I feel recharged so I can get back to work. Same applies to language learning and exercising. When you “don’t have time”, you can always squeeze in 5 minutes to do the reps. Keep moving. If you have 5 minutes to scroll Instagram, you have time to maintain your good habits. This method never fails me.
Yes, productive procrastination is just a fancy term to say you have time to maintain good habits apart from working on multiple projects. You should still focus on the important tasks. But don’t forget that you need rest – so why not make your other tasks fun so that you don’t miss your workout and practice?
Remember, you are in a long game. Don’t get too caught up in the everyday busy-ness and forget your bigger goals.
This is how you can “have it all” through smarter time management and productive procrastination:
- Identify important tasks
- Block time on your calendar for those tasks (i.e. deep work – you must be indistractable and uninterrupted)
- Identify tasks that require long period of maintenance (work that you don’t see results immediately – learning a new skill, working out etc.)
- Set up environment for those tasks (make it more accessible)
- When you take a break from your deep work, leverage rest time for those long-game tasks
- Get back to work
- Result: you get those projects completed on time (thanks to timeblocking and deep work!), and you are able to maintain healthy routines by taking the baby steps. Trust me – you will thank yourself later for maintaining that impressive streak for good habits.
Are you willing to give this a try? It’s about time to end the crazy ratrace that gets you nowhere. Focus on what truly matters. Stay in the lane. Do the reps.
Interested in learning more goalsetting methods, or how to do what you say you would do? Join my Find Your Forte program where we go through the 3 stages of peronsal development that helps you gain clarity and courage to go after the life you want! Deets: http://findyourforte.carrd.co/