My cat meows to wake me up in the morning. When she’s really hungry, it’s almost a yowl and a tad forlorn, as if she thinks sounding really sad will make me move faster to feed her. So I rush to feed my cat and her kittens while I get ready for work. This means I often forget to get breakfast for myself. Somehow, I remember to wash my face and brush my teeth and manage to get out the door in the proper attire, my laptop bag on my shoulder.
As a freelance writer working in several different places, my schedule tends to be inconsistent. I might run from one office to another if I need to go into HQ, or I’ll be interviewing several people throughout the day and writing in between interviews. I work a part-time retail job as well, and there are days when I have to switch from my “reporter” role to that of a sales associate in the space of only a few hours.
So much running around can get exhausting. I don’t always have time for myself (I skipped yoga quite a few times last month…), and I haven’t had time to get started on some passion projects either. Many of you have busy schedules, too. So, what can we do to make sure we don’t burst at the seams from all of this pressure? The girls here at Feather have a few tips that might work for you:
Calendars, calendars, calendars. You have to be able to keep your schedule straight. How many times have you accidentally double-booked yourself? I’ve done that once or twice. Our executive editor Sarah Kester uses the calendar and reminder apps on her smartphone, and our marketing director Ansley Pentz has a color-coded system for her Google calendar. Jaclyn Guzmán, our social media manager, says,”I like to write everything down so it feels more organized.”
If you’re tied to your smartphone, put your schedule into a calendar app. And if you’re like me and still need to write it down, keep an appointment book or write your engagements on a physical calendar on your wall.
To-do lists. Lauren Swanson, a fashion and beauty writer, emphasizes the importance of making lists: “Lists, lists and more lists.” You can create a list that forms a step-by-step guide to what needs to be done for each project, or you can create lists that name each project or appointment in the order you need to complete them. Then mark the list item off when you’re done.
But be careful. Chaining yourself to a to-do list can backfire. According to psychologists, the uncompleted to-do list can enhance your anxiety. Maria Popova wrote in The Atlantic: “In fact, our brain appears to be wired to nag about unfinished to-do list items as uncompleted tasks and unmet goals continue to pop up into our minds.” She recommends keeping your task lists very specific and short, and make time to do something you enjoy.
One thing at a time. Multi-tasking is a myth. Yes, you might have to handle several tasks around the same time, but it is not possible to focus on all projects simultaneously. Your brain does not work that way. “What people really do is shift their attention from one task to the next in rapid succession,” psychiatrist Edward Hallowell, MD, director of the Hallowell Center for Cognitive and Emotional Health in Sudbury, Mass. told WebMD. “That reduces the quality of the work on any one task, because you’re ignoring it for milliseconds at a time.” At some point, you just lose track of what you’re doing and can increase your chances of making a mistake or missing important details.
Our editor-in-chief Brianti Downing suggests focusing on individual tasks. “I do one thing at a time. I do Feather work in the morning and late-night/early morning and when I’m at my day job, that’s my focus,” she says. “That way, my brain isn’t processing a million things at once and I can focus.” Manage your schedule so that you handle one task at a time, and your brain will thank you.
Take breaks. Sitting at your desk for hours and hours can drain your mental energy and dull your creativity. If you’re doing something physical, you could be straining your body and ignoring signs that you need to slow down and rest. According to the latest social science research, it’s ideal to work for 52 minutes and break for 17 minutes. Taking breaks allows your mind and body to rejuvenate, and you can tackle problems with a fresh perspective.
Some of my writer friends will get up from their desks and go for walks around the block if the weather is nice, or will take a much-needed coffee break. If you can watch Netflix without getting into a marathon session, then taking a mental break to watch one episode of your favorite show could be just the thing you need to relax before tackling the rest of the day.
So, Feather Girls, how do you get your groove back when your schedule is busy? Share your tips in the comments!
(image source/public domain)