Manage Your Time, Care for Yourself

Time. How does the saying go? Either you have too much or you have too little?
I dare say, there are many of us who don’t fit into either category. We just find ourselves in a position of staring at time, wondering how best to fill it.

The following aims to inspire you to consider yourself and time — trying to figure out how to spend it in the best possible way. After all, what we do know for sure is that, however fast or slow time seems to pass by, it’s limited. 

So, let’s make the best out of it, shall we?

Your Day as a Metaphor: A Jar of Stones

I would like to tell you about a metaphor I was introduced to during my time at university.
In the past, when looking at all the things I wanted or needed to do — I’d tend to feel slightly overwhelmed, not knowing where to start or how to fit everything into one day while at the same time trying to find time to rest and recharge. This often ended up with me putting too much on my plate, juggling a million tasks. I assume I’m not alone in this, and let me say, even if all of these things are joyful and fun, like: Cooking, going to the farmer’s market, meeting friends, reading books, going to events, concerts, sitting in cafés, playing an instrument, going out for dinner, meeting family members, and so on, overloading ourselves with things to do, even if we generally enjoy them, can be draining and lead to rushing from one place to the other. 

Thus, let me introduce you to the metaphor of the jar of stones: 

Imagine an empty jar. This represents your day/week and yourself.

Next to it, you will find a large pile of stones in different colors, shapes, and sizes.

These are your tasks, what you have planned to do. Now, look at them carefully.

Which ones are the largest? – meaning, the ones that are the most important?

Select those stones first and carefully place them into the jar.

Once it’s full, you can start by taking a few of the smaller ones and filling up the jar. 

This metaphor suggests that we should do what’s most important to us, focusing on those things first. So, before you start working on tomorrow’s deadlines first, take a moment to ask yourself: What are my personal big stones in life and in general? 

Every Day is Different & So Are You

When thinking about your days and weeks, it’s not only about the different things you’re planning to do, but also about how you’re feeling. We know this: On days that are heavy, our mind’s often clouded and we tend to move a bit slower. 

Sometimes, more effort is needed to pull ourselves out of whatever’s worrying us and switch into “productive mode”. Whereas some of us may feel like staying alone indoors, others may need to talk it out with loved ones, or time to breathe deeply, take a long bath, eat a nice meal, sip a cup of coffee or tea in silence, a few minutes of a movie or book, some physical workout, or a walk in the park. 

I am here to tell you: That’s okay. Do not push yourself too hard if your mental health doesn’t feel on point. We all have these days — take your time. Literally, take time out of your day for self-care and prioritize yourself. Put yourself first into that metaphorical jar. Recharge. Even just for a few minutes. It doesn’t have to take several hours or even the whole day. But of course, if you can, I would suggest a day dedicated to self-care every once in a while. 

Here are a few ideas: 

  • Take some quiet time in the morning, or throughout the day, to arrive in the present moment. 
  • Try a short, guided meditation. This can also be done during your working hours, on your commute, or taking a walk somewhere. 
  • Listen to a few minutes of your favorite music, podcast, audio book, or movie. 
  • Eat some nourishing food that helps fill your cup. 
  • Drink your favorite beverage in a lovely café or somewhere you’re comfortable. 
  • Make a quick call to a loved one. 

Not feeling well, pushing yourself too hard, and not allowing a few moments to yourself, will maybe help you in the short-term to achieve your tasks and meet ambitious goals, but it will leave you drained and exhausted afterward. Not only that, but it can also increase your stress levels, making it harder to be present and concentrate. 

What About Work Goals? 

Let me introduce you to the most common tips and tricks around meeting work-related goals. 

  1. Take breaks.
  2. Divide your work down into smaller chunks.
  3. Prioritize your tasks, starting with what’s most important and setting realistic goals.  
  4. Map out your days and/or weeks, making an overall list of what you have to do.  
  5. Write a tentative schedule, estimating how much time you need for each task. 

When talking about work today, we of course need to mention navigating COVID as well. The pandemic has impacted all of us and everyone’s experienced it differently, 2020 definitely changing the way we look at time. You may have suddenly found yourself with more of it, trying to figure out how best to fill it, or have opened the window multiple times a day just to take a deep breath, before throwing yourself back into the chaos. 

The following intends to lend some inspiration to those of us working from home. 

If you miss your office and the productivity it brings with it: 

  • Try to establish the morning routine you usually had before going into work. You might even get a coffee to-go outside your home and then walk back to your place. 
  • Get dressed as if you’re going in to work. 
  • Arrange a corner of your home as your office space, getting whatever you need to feel like you’re in office. Maybe that means putting your coffee machine there, getting office supplies, a lamp, or photographs on your office desk. 
  • Try to take the breaks you usually did during work hours. If possible, you may be able to share them with your favorite colleagues through a video call. 

If you don’t miss your office, but find it now difficult to get into “work mode”: 

  • Work in your pajamas. No one will be able to tell! 
  • Sit in the space that’s most comfortable. You can also move around, for instance, starting with your office in your kitchen in the morning and moving gradually through the house as the day goes on. Or, maybe meet with a friend/family member and work together.
  • Find a balance between “me time” and “work time”. If you’re flexible, you could work a few hours and then take a few minutes off and then go back to work. Close your laptop, do a bit of stretching, take a walk around your neighborhood and then come back again. 

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