Ask the readers: When life gets busy, how do you protect your time?

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Credits: Ales Krivec
I can’t get enough time to write these days and I feel terrible.
And I know the main culprit very well, it’s my 9-5 job. Isn’t ironic for someone that is working to be FI?

My 9-5 job has now turned into a 7-10 and that is obviously eating up a significant portion of my free time.
As a project manager, my job is interesting because it is what we call ‘global’, meaning that the projects I manage impact multiple countries globally. My counterparts are ‘local’ as they work on the implementation in-country.

Forced Productivity Improvement

Obviously, the Oil & Gas industry has seen better days with everybody being in full “cost control” mode (read : cost cutting), having a global position is an advantage for job security. The obvious downside is that local positions slowly going away to “right-size” the organization, the global positions are expected to fill the gap(s).

So these days, my work starts with 7am meetings with Russia, Middle East or European colleagues and ends with roll-outs in Asia, around 10pm.

From a management perspective, this is hugely interesting. More hours worked without increased compensation means increased productivity.

From a personal perspective, this isn’t great. When I find the time to write, since I’m a lot more productive at night, it makes my morning meetings that much more challenging. I’m not 20 anymore and I can’t survive on 4h of sleep, so the time left to do anything outside of work has shrank dramatically.

Time management tips?

There are so many more articles that are in my draft folders that I would like to get out, but I feel like I do not have time to get to it. There are so many things getting in the way!

One of my ideas would be to get up earlier and dedicate more time for myself, to reflect, meditate and write. If I could wake up at 5am everyday, that would give me at 2h to use before work. I’m just not a morning person and waking up at 6am feels painful already. Could I push it another hour? If a night-owl has managed to become a morning person, I’d love to know how to do that.

The other avenue I’m exploring is to re-focus my priorities and say ‘no’ to more things in order to reduce my workload without impacting my priorities. This sounds easy to do, but identifying the activities that can be pushed back isn’t always obvious. If you have suggestions on how to say ‘no’ more often without being an a-hole, please share!

I’m not a productivity expert but these are the 2 areas where I think I could get the most benefits from. Of course the week-ends are obvious sources of free time, but for some reasons, there’s always more house maintenance / grocery shopping / paperwork to deal with than I’d like to.

What are your tips for managing an overwhelming schedule? What are ways that you have managed to get back more time?

-Nick

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8 COMMENTS

  1. Yeah that is a tough one. While my job is more of a 6:30-6pm kind of time suck (commute and everything added in) when you throw 2 kids in the mix I’m in almost the same boat. I don’t work as late, or deal with the kids as late, but still – it seems like most free time to write is squeezed in during the evenings somewhere, or if I can shut my door during lunch then I “veg out” by writing some brain dump drafts, or I edit previous brain dump drafts. Now, you can tell why we don’t get out more than 1 post a week. 🙂
    Like you I have a lot of drafts, but they don’t have the same passion around them by the time I get them edited, or they need more work, or whatever else is the issue. Other than using lunch time, if available, then I just have to make myself work on writing at night. With you not being free until 10 though, that sounds like an issue too.

    I would say try and write at work if possible during your lunchtime or other time you need to turn your brain off from “work thoughts”. Otherwise treat it like training or exercising and make a committed time to write – although I’m not always creative whenever I’ve scheduled myself time to write or play music, so there’s that to deal with too.
    Hopefully some of those ideas may help. 🙂

    Good luck!

    • Well, congrats for still being able to get 1 post a week with a busy job and 2 kids!
      I very much like your idea to treat writing like training and exercising and in fact, I’m sure this is one of the best ways to build a habit. I have tried before but creativity wasn’t always there and that wasn’t efficient. I should try again, thanks for the suggestion.

      Regarding drafts, but one way I recently managed to make it easier to complete them later on is by capturing 3 things when the idea comes: what is the conclusion, how it can help the readers and why i’m excited about it. If I can use an example to illustrate it, even better. I realized this helped me ‘get back’ into my train of thoughts when time comes to write about it. When I can’t get all 3, that’s a sign I shouldn’t write about it.

      Thanks for the ideas, I think I’ll also try the ‘lunch break brain dump’ technique as well, that sounds like a good way to take a break!

      • Yeah I find that using your method of the 3 things related to an idea works well – although i didn’t realize I was doing that until you pointed it out. 🙂 I find with my brain dumps, that when I get an idea I’ll write about it, and then it comes out and the point is kind of there, but it takes refinment. If I try to edit the first time I write it, it turns into a train wreck. That’s why the brain dump works well because then I can leave it alone for a day and when I come back, I hit those 3 questions, and copy, paste, delete, and type more to try and formulate it better.
        Good luck!

  2. We don’t have the long work hours, but always struggle with balancing the things we want to do and the things we need to do. I wish I could tell you I love waking up early… I don’t. I wish I could say I’ve figured out how to do it all and not lose my head… I haven’t. Some things work for a time and then don’t work anymore. Mainly, I batch everything. I have batch hours in which I get a lot of writing done. And then batch hours in which I get a lot of work done. Good luck. We’re all struggling with time management. 🙂

    • Doing things as a batch is definitely a good technique and this is usually what I end up doing… at the last minute 🙂 Multi tasking really doesn’t work for me and blocking time for doing 1 specific thing does help with productivity.
      Sometimes, I also batch hours of procrastination, but that doesn’t help much 😀
      Thanks for the input, this is very helpful, I’ll try to organize my schedule for maybe less frequent but longer sessions.

  3. The way I got a morning person: our kids. I know, not a useful tip. If I break it down, it comes down to waking up each day early and around the same time. Ours hd quite soon the habit of waking up around 6:00. It actually only worked as soon as I went to bad sooner. No more just past midnight, rather around 10-11 PM and on occasion sooner.

    In my job, I manage projects as well. The scale is not global. IT is more a team of project managers and analysts. One of that hinting that reduced my time spend on the job is delegation. Is that an option for you? Do you need to do all things yourself? Can a local guy do the job under your control? Ok, he will do it differently, you only need to validate. For me, that works.

    By rearranging some jobs, I also gained free time. I do grocery shopping Friday evening. Before, I would just watch TV. that is an hour gained. I also stopped pretty much watching TV at all. I spend that time blog writing and reading. Downside: I miss out on some conversation at work during lunch.

    • You say I need to have kids to wake up earlier? 😉
      Waking up earlier indeed goes hand in hand with going to sleep earlier and so far, I’ve only managed to get up as early as 6am. Once my recurring 10pm calls end, I’ll try to bring this forward a little. I’d love to get up at 5 and have 2h just for me before going to work.
      Like you I have stopped TV and for me, it was around 10 years ago. There is a movie night here and there when we rent a movie on the Apple TV (we watched the Big Short this week-end, a must see for the PF community!), but no traditional TV for lack of interesting content.

      Going grocery shopping on Friday night is actually a great idea. I’m usually brain dead at that point, so that’d probably be a very good use of my time, thanks for the suggestion!

      Most of the projects I manage are centrally designed and locally implemented, so much is already delegated to our local teams and/or to our suppliers. They all do a great job and it’s fantastic working with these people. You’re right delegation is a very powerful tool, so I’ll review my activities this week and see if there is more than can be delegated. Sometimes we can’t see the obvious.
      Thanks for your input!

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