December 10, 2007

How I keep it together

Todays business world is fast and furious. To get ahead you really need to be on the ball and just about never stop. I was reading an older article on CNN Money about how the big time executives handle the stresses. A lot of them rely heavily on assistants, and the ability to control their schedules because people wait for them. Most of us "normal" people don't have the luxury. Then again most of us aren't that busy either.

In the last year or two my time has been stretched thin, and it seems as I become more successful, the strain is just getting bigger. I have found the need to actually manage my time, when previously I could just go with the flow. As it stands, I manage 2 full time jobs, school (finishing my degree), freelance work, the gym, personal time, time with my girlfriend (who I live with) and time for friends and family. It really is hectic, but here are some tips on how I keep it going:

  1. Schedule Everything: Schedule as much as you can. There will always be things that just come up, but do you best to schedule the things you can control. Monday mornings, I spend about an hour planning out my week. I plan everything from meetings, trips to the store (grocery shopping etc), phone calls that will take a while, time to write in my blog, time to just relax with my girlfriend, time for the gym, everything. I have also found it useful to schedule "free time" where it is for me to just re-organize or spend on anything that I needed to spend more time on. The "free time" acts as a buffer for when things get off schedule. I am lucky, since in my line of work, many of the tasks are repetitive, so I can take a pretty good guess at how long each thing will take, so scheduling becomes easier.

  2. Stick to your schedule: Once you set your schedule, stick to it. Make sure your meetings stay on task, make sure you get everywhere on time. Good planning plays a part in this. If you know that the drive from your office to your client will take 25 minutes, give yourself 35. This way, if there is traffic, or you need to make a call, you will have a buffer.

  3. Meetings: I hate meetings. I used to love them because for the most part they could kill some time and they aren't much work. But as I become busier, they just wasted my time. Don't go to a meeting unless there is a clear agenda. It just isn't worth it. If you are in a meeting and you see it start to get off topic, get it back on topic, or politely excuse yourself.

  4. Know your limits: We are human, we are not built to run 24/7 and need rest and fuel. Find your limits, and while it is OK to push your self once in a while, try not to pull 4 over nighters in a row, you will regret it later.

  5. Speaking of Fuel: Eating right will keep you going stronger and longer. loading up with greasy fast food will eventually make you feel like crap, and make you want to just drop. not only does it lack the nutrients you need, it is high in oils and fats that just make you feel sluggish and slow.

  6. Disconnect: Everyone needs to disconnect from work and have some alone time. Some people choose to meditate, some go fishing, I lift weights at the gym while listening to heavy metal. It works for me. It centers me, and releases stress like nothing else. Find a way for you to disconnect from everything and center your self. (Dumb Little Man offers some tips on meditation)

  7. Feed off others: After working long hours nothing gets me recharged faster than the energy of my friends. I can go from dead tired to fully loaded quickly when I am around them. We just have a great vibe and it relaxes me then gets me going. So feed off others energy if it helps you.

  8. Take a Vacation: Disconnecting for an hour each day is like like taking your car for an oil change, it is great but sometimes you really need the complete tune up, so take a week off. You don't actually need to go anywhere, but you do need to make sure you aren't working. Do something you enjoy. Relax, and just escape from the day-to-day action for a bit.

Doing these things keeps me going. I am able to work 100+ hour weeks while going to school and hanging with my friends and family. I get to hit the gym and unwind and spend quality time with the ones I love. Balance in life is key, but at times can be very hard to find. Once you find that balance, try and keep with it. Humans are creatures of habit, so when you get a good rhythm going, try not to stop it.

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