Do you feel like a professional juggler? Time management tips.

Nelika McDonaldSo, I just wrote a book.

When I say ‘just’, I mean that it took three years, and they were not easy years. There were a lot of tears of frustration and fatigue, a lot of doubt, a lot of late nights and early mornings and sunny days spent inside with a laptop, in those three years. There were plenty of headaches and heartaches about the time and resources and energy being diverted from other parts of my life in order to funnel them into this project.

This is my second book. The first one happened a lot faster. But, the month after it came out, I had my first child.

He is adorable and frustrating, a dictator and the thief of my heart and my best little mate. He had an aversion to sleep for a long while, and an aversion to playing quietly at my feet while I work that continues to this day.

I also work part-time as a copywriter at Churchill Education. In my role at Churchill, I get to talk to a lot of students. Some of them are mums or dads with young children or other family commitments, some have part-time or full-time jobs. They may have come to us to study, or to get RPL. They may be in their twenties or their fifties.

Without exception, all of them are juggling various commitments, often a lot of them.

So how did they do it? How did I do it?

There are lots of articles about time management around, and lots of articles about the fallacy of time management. There are lots of tips about procrastination and motivation, and lots of instructions about how to be faster, better, more productive, how to streamline your life like it is some sort of high-performance vehicle.

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I don’t know much about those things. My life is more like a rusty old wheelbarrow than anything else, and I probably spent as much time procrastinating as I did writing, over the last few years.

So, I’m certainly no expert. But, I did learn a few things about what works for me, and I’m going to share them here in case they might be useful to you as well:

1. Find someone to be accountable to

Maybe I’m just trying to make amends for my ill-spent youth, but I’m pretty obedient, these days. If someone is going to be checking up on me, I will have the work done, because I don’t want to let them down. I was at my most productive when I had weekly phone meetings with my editor. Who can you be accountable to?

2. Know how you operate

I work best to deadlines that are set by other people. If I set them myself, I ignore them, and forgive myself for it quite quickly. I also work best at night. I’m useless in the mornings and there is no point trying to pretend otherwise. What are your best times? Do you need flexibility or structure?

3. Imagine how you’ll feel when it’s done

The thing that kept me going (even when I was so tired that I fell asleep with my fingers on the keyboard and wrote a whole chapter that was just the letter ‘k’) is knowing how satisfied I’ll be, how happy and proud I will feel when I walk into a bookstore and see my book on the shelf. It will all feel worth it. What will make it all worth it for you?

4. Reward yourself

Now that my son is three, we have officially entered sticker-chart territory. But, reward systems are not just for kids! Find an incentive that works for you. I can personally recommend completing two hours of work and then watching an episode of your favourite show.

5. Accept the non-productive days

They will come, for a variety of reasons. When you agonise over them, you waste time. Trust me on this one. Put it aside, and carry on.

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