Time Management Secrets for Self-Employed Slackers

Cartoon by: Natalie Dee

OK, so it may seem ironic that someone who has done nothing on her blog for the last month other than to explain why she is not posting would presume to give advice on time management.   But hang in there, that's actually Secret Number 7.

And hey, did I call this post "Time Management Secrets for World-Dominating Super-Achievers?" No I did not. Super-Achievers do not need time management tips, other than the usual "stop and smell the roses for f--ck sake, you accomplishment-obsessed workaholic chore-whore. "

Wait, that's not how you're supposed to help super-achievers? Oh well, sorry go-getters, all 2 of you who hang out at Cranky Fitness.

Note: you may, however, read this post if you are not self-employed. No alarm bells will go off or anything.  It's just that several of these tips presume some sort of flexibility in how you plan your day, which could be extremely annoying to people who have bosses (or spouses, pets and children) who do not permit such liberties.

So what are the secrets already? 

1. Don't be a Sheep--Let Your Own Rhythms Tell You What to do When

(Unless this is a goat--in which case don't be a goat. We're never sure which is which in Europe, so we call them all Geeps). 

This has been a huge revelation to me in terms of time management and has vastly improved my productivity. (Can you imagine how bad it was before I discovered this?)

The deal is: so what if you read that it's best to exercise in the morning, or nap in the early afternoon, or eat dinner at 6 p.m. instead of 10 p.m. or 8 a.m., or that you should tackle the hard stuff before the easy stuff or should do "morning pages" if you want to write creatively or never read in bed or whatever else you might have heard is optimal?

Find out when your own personal brain and body would like to do stuff.  It's amazing how much more you get done when you're working with your own natural rhythms instead of against them. But you have to take the time to experiment, listen, and adjust accordingly.

I've discovered I can't write worth shit in the late afternoon or at night so I rarely bother.  I love a nap at 4 p.m.  Calls with clients energize me so I can be flexible with these, but I'm at my best late morning or early afternoon.  I can't go for a walk and enjoy it much after 11 am until 7 p.m. or so, but can go wandering for miles after dinner and have a great time. 

See what I mean?  The two toughest things I had to learn were: not getting tempted to do low-energy, easy things during peak productivity periods and conversely, to let "hard" things slide until the next day if I haven't gotten to them on time, knowing that I'll be twice as fast in the morning.

2. Give it Your Best Shot...

...But Screw Perfection

Yeah, I harp on this a lot, but behind almost every "slacker" or procrastinator there often lurks a perfectionist who can't stand the idea of doing less than a wonderful job of everything. So they either keep fiddling and tweaking and starting over... or they avoid tackling hard things altogether.

Do you clean your house so thoroughly you could invite the Royal Family to tea when you're done? (Or perhaps just let them swing by to borrow an extra pair of underwear?)

Totally authentic photo swiped from Weekly World News

If you're going to take that approach, you might want to try cleaning the house as though the royal family were coming... ten minutes from now.  Yikes! Let's see... what absolutely has to get done?  Agreed, the dog barf in the kitchen should probably get wiped up and the fort made of couch cushions dismantled.  Do stuff like that, then just experiment with going on to something else on your list that you never get to for fear of any royal asses encountering crumbs on your sofa.  If you can stand it every now and then, it might buy you some extra time.

3. Think Outside the Box

Often there are creative solutions to getting more done, but they never occur to us because we don't step outside of our usual perspectives long enough to look for them.

How to shake things up a bit?  Well, one old but useful trick: brainstorm for a few minutes.  Get a big piece of paper and maybe some crayons or markers--or just a ballpoint if you're more the buttoned down type, and start writing down any thoughts and ideas and random images that come to mind. STUPID ideas are the best, but regular sensible ideas are a good place to start.  Keep on free-associating and letting the ideas get crazier and crazier and just see if any themes, interesting juxtapositions, or "aha' sparks emerge. 

4. Get Your Ducks in a Row

While obsessive organization and structure can be stifling, being too slipshod and lackadaisical can cost a lot of time better spent either being productive or purposefully enjoying some well-deserved laziness and sloth.

Do you lose things, forget appointments, have to pay late fees, replace things you've already bought or made, throw things out that have spoiled, have to do things over you've already done, or find yourself exhausted by the sheer clutter around you?

You may have to suck it up and invest some time in getting your shit together.

Most helpful tip here: BREAK IT DOWN.  Take one stack of papers and go through it, today, not tomorrow.  Get a calendaring system (so if you're like me, you can write things down on the wrong dates and at the wrong hours. Stupid time zones, why can't they all be the same?)

5. Question Sacred Cows

If you're like most people, there is probably some inflexible "must do at all costs" type of activity that is very important to you.  That's great!  But to the extent that you don't even question it, you could be cheating yourself out of the chance to seize fleeting opportunities you might miss, or take care of stress by catching up on other things.  For me, working out is a sacred cow... and yet I've discovered that the world does not actually come to an end if sometimes I spend that rather large chunk of time doing something that's actually more in need of attending to.  Sacred cows have a way of mooing rather loudly if they are ignored for too long, so it's worth experimenting with tiptoeing quietly away on occasion.

6. Multi-Task

Let's say, hypothetically, you went on vacation and had a bunch of left-over Scotland photos that you felt you should blog about... but you also had a blog post you wanted to write about a completely unrelated subject that could use a few pictures.


Well, instead of writing two posts, suppose you just threw these two unrelated ideas together and did them at the same time even though it might lead to a bit of awkward and arbitrary advice?


More practical combinations might be listening to audio books while commuting, getting together with friends and getting exercise by going for a walk together, meditating or doing calf raises while waiting in line at the post office, or, you know, otherwise taking advantage of times your brain and body could both be occupied doing different things at the same time.

And so OK, this may not look like a great example of doing a number of things at once, but if you look more closely... you might note the headphones (self-improvement brainwashing), and backpack (neighborhood grocery shopping), and comfortable shoes (exercising by walking to the store, not driving), and water bottle (and keeping hydrated along the way).

But that said, don't get so obsessed with multi-tasking that you forget to...

7. Enjoy the View Along the Way!

Because even if you're not coming to the end of an awesome vacation, chances are there are some moments of grace or beauty just sitting there in the middle of your workday just hoping you'll stop worrying about getting stuff done long enough to notice them.

Anyone else have any time management tips? Or hey, did you have a nice weekend?

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