Self-care can be as simple as figuring out how to prevent bad things from happening and managing the chaos when or if they happen anyway.
A major trigger for many people’s anxiety is time. There never seems to be enough time in the day to get the things that we need to do done. Even as a child, I knew Mick Jagger was full of shit when I heard him sing “Time Is On My Side.” There’s a reason for all of the cliches like “beating the clock” and “the race against time” — time is on no one’s side.
Even “normal” people have difficulty with time management. If you compound that with generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and the many other mental illnesses and personality disorders that many of us possess, you end up with heightened and exaggerated problems. But what if there were ways to help manage time better? What if there was a way to mitigate the stress that erupts every time a paper or project is due, or you have to be somewhere and just can’t seem to get it together to be on time?
Time management is a form of self-care. With all of the anxiety and potential for a spiral of bad things that could happen, learning how to stay on top of your responsibilities can be the key to preventing the downward spiral. Time management can be an essential part of mental health and maintaining professionalism in a competitive environment full of triggers for us tenderhearts.
Here are several strategies for getting your schedule under control:
1. Put The Day Into Focus
It’s hard to get a hold on things when you have so many tasks piling up that you lose track of what’s due and when. Trust me on this one, it’s the curse of creatives and freelancers. Before you even sit down to check your email (ok… Facebook), it’s a good idea to make a list of what you need to accomplish for the day and what you need to do first.
Set clear goals for the day. It’s okay if those tasks end up changing order — you just need to know what due dates are looming before you get sucked into the social media vortex or pulled onto another task.
2. Create Habits
Try to do tasks at the same time and in the same location every day. It may sound boring, but a routine can help keep you on task. Go to bed and wake up at the same time. Set a shower/bathing schedule. Eat breakfast at approximately the same time. Give yourself flexibility within your work schedule, but try to keep it uniform. Have a favorite show that you like to stay up late for or a club night that you hate to miss? That’s okay. Indulge if your schedule allows flexibility and just start work an hour later the following day, but make it a reliable weekly adjustment so that you can make your schedule work with the quirks.
3. Carve Out A Niche
If you work from home, create a workspace. Proper light, a comfortable seat, and your daily necessities should be taken into consideration when creating this space. As a person with chronic pain, I need a quiet spot where I can also elevate my swollen feet that also gives me privacy. If I don’t have these things, I’m constantly shifting my space throughout the work day and never getting anything done. For each interruption, it takes me about 20 minutes to get back into the swing of things. That’s something to consider when trying to maximize productivity.
4. Audit Yourself
Do you constantly find yourself missing deadlines? Create a time log and use it to audit your behaviors in order to figure out what the crux of your problem is. Write down everything you do in a week to help identify when you are most productive and when you are just futzing around. When you figure out what times you are most productive, schedule the tough jobs in for those slots.
5. Limit Multi-Tasking
Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’re supposed to be the multi-tasking generation. You know what? It’s given us AD/HD and made us less effective. Carve out your day into chunks and do certain tasks at certain times instead of stopping and starting constantly. Check your email first thing, when you return from breaks, and before you leave. Do the hard stuff during the times you are most productive and save the little tasks like emails and planning out social media blasts when you are in a productivity dip.
6. Take Regular (and Self-Regulated) Breaks
It’s important to take breaks, but it is also important to keep them on a schedule, as well. If you are at a computer, take breaks hourly to give your eyes and a brain a break. Try to keep them at the same time every day in order to keep in the workflow. Give yourself small rewards along the way if it helps motivate you.
7. Review Your Tasks
Before you call it quits for the day, review your list. Did you meet your goals and deadlines? Celebrate the small victories and come up with an action plan for those goals which you did not meet this time around. Prioritize the things that you did not finish and do the projects that you are avoiding while you still have the extra morning steam to avoid mental exhaustion and procrastination.
When you hit your mark, you are less stressed out. With these time management skills, it’s much easier to achieve those goals and get your anxiety under control!