Time Management and the Overachiever

There just does not seem to be enough hours in a day. With everything that is going on in our lives, it is amazing anyone can keep afloat. Most people find themselves in over their heads at some point or another. The trick to survival is find a way to manage your time wisely.

I know. It’s easier said than done. I have been an overachiever my whole life. Time management has always been an issue for me. Even as a teenager, I lived my life on the run. I had school, band, choir, color guard, dance lessons, drama club, flute lessons, Key Club and I worked 15-35 hours a week. Plus I still had church events, family time, and of course time I spent with my friends. Back then, I could not live without my student planner. Every rehearsal, work shift and major homework project was in there. If it wasn’t written down in that spiral bound book, there was a good chance it wouldn’t happen.

Over the years the activities have changed, but the insanity has remained constant. Now I have a full time job, teach part time, write freelance, working to get one novel published, developing three additional novels, and doing some writing for my boyfriend and his business partner. This doesn’t include maintaining my relationship, grown up things like cleaning my apartment and paying bills, my social life, my family or my pets. The student planner has been replaced by lists, but the feeling is the same. If I didn’t have at least average time management skills, I would alway feel overwhelmed.

The best way to deal with the craziness is to be organized. There isn’t just one way to manage your time. Some do lists, others use the old fashioned calendars, while others use PDA’s. The only way I can keep a stitch of sanity is to plan ahead. Each day I have a schedule already made out. It may not be on paper, but I have a structured idea of how my day will progress. Sometimes I make physical lists of the things I need to do that day. Every person is “wired” differently, so you have to find an organizational method that works best for you.

When you organize your time, remember to make realistic goals. Big goals and plans are great, but they may not always be the right choice. Try breaking up the bigger tasks into more manageable parts. Getting a novel published is a huge undertaking. After the novel was completed, I went looking for a publisher or agent. Instead of putting all my effort into the process, I broke it down into steps. I picked ten publishers I wanted to submit my work to. I sent them my manuscript and waited for their reply. While I waited, I had the chance to spend more time on the other three novels. Like with my second novel. I knew I needed to read over it and do some minor revamping. That is a big task. There is no way I can do it all in one sitting. Instead I broke it up into pieces. I made time for the read through and note taking. Later this week I will do some brain storming on those notes. Then I will be able to type up those notes and expand on them at a later date.

Another thing to keep in mind is how important is the task at hand. You need to prioritize your activities as you manage your time. My family and my relationship are important to me, so they take high priority. In my case, the ones that involve money usually take precedence. Making sure my bills get paid, is high priority. My full time job doesn’t have take home work, but my teaching job does. I have papers to grade, lecture to place, homework to create and other paperwork to keep up on. Since it helps pay my bills, it also has high priority. After that usually comes my freelance work. That leaves my novels on the neglected end of the spectrum. It is my dream to get them all finished and published, but since it is not currently bringing in revenue, they may not have equal footing.

Boundaries are a very important part of the overachiever credo. This is where my time management problem usually arises. Once you have your organization and your priorities, you have to keep your boundaries in place to keep the peace. Know your limits. How much time and energy can you commit to each project? Having boundaries doesn’t mean that your schedule is totally inflexible. You can move things around as needed, but you can’t be too flexible. This is especially true when you are working with a deadline. My problem is that I am a people pleaser. I want people to be happy, and I will drop what I doing to reach that goal. I may have two hours of typing planned, but if a depressed friend calls I drop it all. I hate to say it, but sometimes you have to be a bit selfish. You know what work you need to get done. Maybe you can go, but you can bring some work with you. Sometimes you just have to say no. It isn’t anything personal. If I have planned to write my Thursday lecture on Wednesday evening and then my boyfriend calls and tells me he wants us to go visit his best friend, I’m going to have to decline.

Being an overachiever isn’t a bad thing. It usually is just the way a person is. We thrive on the stress and sense of accomplishment. However, it can be overwhelming if you don’t take the time to sort it all out. If you manage your time wisely, you can pull it off and make it look effortless.

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