If there's a skill that I've been putting to the test recently, it's time management. Since starting college at the beginning of the month I've been splitting my time between my course, my part-time job, my blog and my social life which has been tiring, to say the least, but I think I've managed pretty well. I mean, if I didn't keep going on about it would you have even noticed that I'd taken on yet another commitment for my schedule? Well, I think my incessant tweeting would have given it away anyway, but you get the point.
Juggling my time between so many aspects of my life has been a great test of my ability to prioritise and make the most of my time, so I figured I'd do what I do best and blog about it. I have to say it helps that I adore my blog to pieces, and find the whole process of blogging very enjoyable, whereas if I had been going through one of those recurring phases where I felt like I was forcing content out I probably would have just left this little spot on the web to gather dust for a while until I got myself out of the funk. It does happen, and I think it's because I am very guilty of burning myself out sometimes, so I'm hoping that by taking more care to manage my time efficiently it won't happen quite as much!
Rambling aside, here are some slightly more practical tips that I've found useful when trying to fit it all in. It is basically just me rambling about how I organise my life right now, so you have been warned.
Over the past few weeks, I've come to realise just how much time I can save by being a bit more prepared for the day or week ahead. On a Sunday night I try to set aside a little bit of time, maybe 20 minutes or so, to sit and look at my diary for the upcoming week and figure out what each task requires and where my free time is. I make a list of the things I'll need for the week, including lunch ideas and any homework that needs doing, then I set about preparing them or carving out some time to get them sorted as and when they're needed. Even little tasks such as planning an outfit the night before, packing my bag and sorting my lunches create these little pockets of time that mean I can work later and sleep a bit longer in the morning, spend a few spare minutes catching up on my inbox or just skip the queues in the canteen. Trust me, those queues are black holes when it comes to time.
I adopt a similar approach for my blog, but I'll talk about that a bit more in the next point...
So this is quite similar to the first tip but on a more long term scale. This is more important when it comes to planning my blog posts, which I've talked a little bit about before, but by taking a moment to sit and plan out my posts for the upcoming weeks I can really optimise my time in a way that makes me a whole lot more productive. By planning out my posts in advance they tend to stick in my mind more, and knowing what I want to write about means that I can maybe draft posts on my phone (or in my head) and bulk take the photos as soon as I have the time. Working out my calendar this way means I can usually get a little bit ahead of myself and my blog keeps on ticking away even if I'm having a night off. Basically, having a plan of action really suits me and my way of thinking. I like having lists to tick off and work through in a methodical manner, so adopting an organised approach like this helps a lot even if I'm secretly screaming internally about how much I have to do.
Make The Most Of Little Moments
This has come in particularly handy with my new daily commute into college, as the rush hour traffic provides a little chunk of time where I have no choice but to sit on my bus and twiddle my thumbs. I try to use this time to read my book, as I find I can get through books at a relatively decent pace if I get in a bit of reading each morning, or if I've forgotten my book/I'm not generally feeling like reading I take to my phone to get a little bit of admin done. Be it replying to those emails that keep piling up, or scheduling a few tweets to get me through the week, having that forty minutes or so is a very welcome addition to my schedule. If I manage to get an early bus home and miss the traffic it can take as little as 15 minutes to get home, so that time tends to be a bit less productive and mostly used to scroll social media and see what I missed that day.
Case and point: this post. Right now, I'm sitting on my couch watching You've Been Framed. I've finished my college work and I have a day off tomorrow, I've just made a big ASOS order and I could quite happily head to bed right now but it's a little bit early. I just took a quick glimpse at my calendar, with my posts planned for the month ahead, and noticed that I had this post pencilled in for next week. I know that writing this now, in this spare moment, will help me save time, so even though I hadn't planned any blogging time tonight I'm going to smash this ramble out right here and now.
A quick way to manage your time better is understanding how best to prioritise your tasks. Getting the most important stuff out of the way when you have the chance can be a huge weight off of your shoulders, and leaves more time for the fun stuff! When I get home from college the first thing I want to do is put my pjs on and grab a cup of tea, maybe watch some TV or play The Sims, but I know that my college work is important so instead I get it out of the way before I get comfortable. It's not my ideal task after a long day in classes, but it's sure as hell better than remembering that huge pile of homework just before I was heading to bed.
Right now, college is my top priority so it has to come first. If that means missing a day I'd wanted to post on or having to take on fewer hours at work, then so be it! Within my main priority lists, I have smaller, more specific priorities. For example, when it comes to my blogging priorities my posts are top of the list, followed by social promotion, then my inbox then comes things like catching up with my favourite blogs, spending some time on Pinterest, or just generally getting involved with the community. All of them are pretty high priorities for me, but that's just how they rank within the overall heading of blogging.
Take Breaks When You Need Them
Quite possibly the most important tip of all is to know when you need a break. Like I mentioned earlier, I can get quite burnt out at times and in the past I've been guilty of not taking breaks when I need them. Taking a break isn't a bad thing, in fact, it's usually a really good thing, and in my experience, it really helps me to take a step back and just indulge in some good ol' me time. I schedule regular breaks into my weeks, and where I'd used to quite happily spend every single spare hour glued to my computer working on this here blog I'm now taking the time to get stuck into that book that's been sitting by my bed for weeks, or watching that show that everyone's been talking about, or even just taking a nap! It might not seem productive, but understanding what you need and when you need it is the best way to ensure an efficient way of working.