Do you ever feel like there is simply too much to do? Have you given up on your dreams and hobbies because there isn’t enough time? Or do find that ever since you started a family, there just aren’t enough hours in the day?
Like most people, I was there too. But then, gradually, things started to get better. Now, I have enough time to do just about anything that I want, and I want to do it all! During the last two years, while researching theoretical computer science as my “day job”, I have learned how to sing opera, while also working on a book and writing articles. Oh… I also have a four year-old son (born at the start of my PhD), a wonderful husband, and I almost forgot about my friends, for which I also manage to find time.
Until recently, I never thought of my ability to find time to do what I like as special. But then, people would ask me “How to you manage to do a PhD and have a child at the same time?” When they find out that I also sing opera and write for a blog, many get seriously curious. Then a friend asked me to write an article about it. Only then did I decide that I might be able to help others by sharing how I do everything I do.
What I am about to suggest goes completely against most time management and multitasking advice. I don’t plan every moment of every day. I don’t write down my goals. In fact, my time management does not take up any of my time. I never multitask – I always do only one thing at a time. Instead, I figured out how to get it all done naturally – without stress!
It’s really very simple: I do things that I love, and I do not do things that I don’t love. When your life becomes full of things that you love to do, and not cluttered by other things, you will find time for all of them! Now, it is important that you do only one thing at a time. Really focus on what you are doing. Then, when you get sick of it, do something else that you love. And most importantly, take good care of your health first! That’s it!
For example, since my son goes to daycare, during the day I have the choice between doing research, singing, working on my book, or writing an article for this site – all of which I love to do. Today, I spent several hours on research, and needed a break. So I thought that I could practice my singing for a bit. But then I realized that I had a strong urge to write this article. So I went for it.
I will explain some more about my main points.
Do things you love
Think of the last time you did something that you really enjoyed. How did it feel? It probably felt pretty natural. If your schedule would allow for it, you would probably want to do it more often. We are also generally good at things that we love to do. The problem is that for many of us, our schedule doesn’t allow enough room for doing things we love, because we fill it with things that we do not love. Which brings me to my second point.
Do not do things that you do not love
You are not going to get something for nothing. There are only 24 hours in a day. You can’t just keep stuffing your schedule and expect to get it all done. At best, you will get it all done and do a terrible job at everything. Nobody wants that.
I realized that if I do less of what I don’t love, I will have more time to do things I love.
Then, of course, there is the issue of money. Too many of us work 9 to 5 at jobs we hate, which leaves very little time for anything else. So as a result, we spend most of our life doing something we don’t really enjoy. This is a truly regrettable state of affairs, and I sympathize because I was there, too. We have several articles devoted to precisely this topic, so if you’re interested take a look at Pursue Your Passion, Loving Your Job For Life, and Money Doesn’t Buy Happiness.
Get others to help with things you don’t love
I don’t clean. We hire cleaning service. I don’t cook too often; my husband is a wonderful cook. Of course, this doesn’t always work out perfectly: For example, as neither of us likes to do laundry, we are always behind on it. If this bothered us too much, we’d hire someone else to do it for us. The bottom line is that doing a lot of something we don’t like is not an option for us, and we are not afraid to get help and make the necessary financial sacrifice. If you feel that you just don’t have the money to get help, I would suggest you read How to Be Rich Now for some advice.
But getting help isn’t always about hiring somebody from the outside. Your spouse and your children (that is, if they are old enough), can also help. When everyone does their fair share, everyone wins. You deserve time to do what you love!
Stop doing it when you get sick of it
Everything gets annoying when you do too much of it. Even your most favorite hobby will eventually start to seem boring if you were to do it all the time. We need variety, and being able to go from activity to activity keeps them all fresh (I elaborate on this in Loving Your Job For Life). I usually rely on singing as a break from research. But right before a performance, when I sing a lot more, research feels like a break from singing! So I have learned to stop doing things when I get tired of them. This also keeps up your productivity! By moving between different activities, you stay alert and are able to perform better. I usually spend between 1 to 3 hours on an activity at a time. After 3 hours I almost certainly need a break, and instead of watching TV or sitting around doing nothing, I move on to another activity that I love! I also don’t aim to work on everything, every day. But, over the course of a month, I devote a lot of time to everything that I love.
This once again brings me to the problem of work. Many of us work at jobs that don’t allow for this level of flexibility. But it may still be possible to switch between work related activities, or at the very least, you could reserve this principle for your free time. However, I believe that having a greater degree of freedom and flexibility significantly contributes to job satisfaction, so it may be worthwhile to search for ways to achieve more autonomy at your current job, or find a job that allows for more flexibility. See Loving Your Job For Life for more on this.
Take care of your HEALTH first
The healthier I am, the more I can do, and the better I can do it. A tired Maya is simply not as capable as a well-rested Maya. Too many of us run ourselves down trying to get it all done. Ironically, when you push yourself beyond your limits, the quality of your work degrades, you begin to work slower, and you can’t get as much done. So take care of your health first.
Get enough rest. If you have sleeping problems, spend the time to learn how to fix them (here is an article that helped me). Your brain recharges when you sleep, and, if you usually work when tired, the difference will surprise you. If you don’t already, learn how to eat well – food is fuel for the brain. Take time to walk and exercise. The ones who don’t have time for self-care need it the most. All the time you put into your health will pay back with dividends.
And that is all ladies and gentleman. I have no other tricks hidden up my sleeve. I simply follow my heart, both at the high level (I choose occupations and hobbies that I love), and at the everyday level (I pay attention to what activities I feel like doing, and when I don’t feel like doing them any more). I get help doing what has to get done, and I take care of my health first.
Of course, sometimes I have to do things that I don’t want to do, and before a deadline, I may work past my comfort point and even, occasionally, cut down on sleep. But I find that the more I integrate these principles into my life, the happier I become, and the more I get done.
I would love to hear from you! Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.