I’ve always been a busy person, taking on so much that I often have myself asking “what was I thinking?” when I inevitably find myself struggling to keep my head above water. This year, I’ve filled my plate with school work, some freelance editing, writing my own novel, and two separate internships. One internship is reading-intensive, where I have a once-a-week meeting to check in and receive a new week’s worth of assignments. The other is completely remote, where it’s all on me to remember to get my tasks done on the days they need to be done.
When I’m on a normal homework schedule (aka not midterms or finals period), it’s easy for me to get everything done in a timely manner. I compile all of my to-do items on one giant, ever-evolving color-coded list and it’s almost as easy as 1-2-3 checking them off (or deleting them from the document, which is what I actually do)
So… what advice can I give?
- Use a notification system. It’s not enough to just make a to-do list. With so much going on in life, you may read that list, remember a few things, and then forget the rest. Whether that be the rest of the stuff for the day, what’s due the next day, or the day after, etc., forgetting something on your to-do list is never a good thing. By specific task names with actual reminders/notifications, even if you do more within each time block than you planned to, at least you won’t be falling behind on anything important.
- Use time blocks. Even if you set aside a stretch of time in a day for work, it’s easy to get distracted, derailed, and then realize you accomplished not nearly enough of what you had set out to do in that time. Time-blocking is far from an infallible solution to this problem, but it’s a start. This paired with my favorite pomodoro method is a good way to stay on track, allowing you to stay on top of your work and grab a few moments of peace during the small breaks. And, just think: the more you knock out, the more potential time you have to do something fun.
- Use incentives. Sometimes the problem isn’t time (although it normally is). Sometimes you have the time, but feel like you’re on the verge of burning out and need a little extra motivation to continue working and diminishing the to-do list. Make bargains with yourself (e.g. 1 hour of work will equal 1 episode of your favorite TV show). This tactic is a double-edged sword though because it can be very tempting to forgo the work and just reap the “reward” immediately. The way I overcome this is that I snooze my notifications from #1 so they continue popping up until I’m so annoyed with them that I finish the task, check it off, and then can enjoy myself in peace—for a little while, anyway.
- Do small tasks as soon as possible. One of the worst parts about a to-do list is that every task looks equal. But the truth is, some tasks can easily be knocked out, which shortens the list, and gives you a sense of accomplishment and provides momentum for being more productive. So, rather than just tackling the large projects early, try crossing out the easy tasks as soon as you get them. It’s the little things that can have a huge impact on your morale.
- Forgive yourself. Life happens, which means the universe does not work around your schedule and to-do list. Sometimes circumstances will crop up making you forget to do things in a timely manner. Assuming you’re not just procrastinating, and this isn’t a constant habit, making a few mistakes is okay. You need to forgive yourself for your shortcomings and hope others will to when you respectfully explain the situation. This isn’t a free-pass by any means. You make a mistake, you acknowledge it, and then you fix it. But it’s not worth losing your mind over.
And that is how I (mostly) successfully juggle everything I have on my plate. Do you have any tips you want to share?