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The 5 Changes That Finally Gave Me Enough Time to Get Everything Done

I never used to have enough time. 

I struggled to keep up.  I’m organized, definitely the planning type, but even with those skills, I just couldn’t find the time I needed.

This picture is me eight years ago.  Caught off guard…somewhere in Switzerland on “vacation” but not actually disconnected from work.   I don’t look all that relaxed right?  (If you want the full version of this site, embarassing pictures of me included, it's over here.)

I was a new-ish attorney, just a few years in.  The “omg I’m done with school and finally a lawyer, and I kind of feel like a bada** grownup” thing that helped keep my energy up was starting to wear off a bit. I still loved being a lawyer but not always.  The love was hiding behind how run down I was starting to feel.

I was super-busy and super-overwhelmed.  I had lots of responsibilities & lots to get done.   It felt like I had a million tasks on my to-do list and like I added more every day than I could get done.  I ended each day thinking of the stuff I still had left to do and couldn’t get to by the end of the day.  I was frustrated and never satisfied with what I accomplished, even when I got a ton of stuff done.  The undone things still left me feeling like a failure, even if they weren’t really that important.  I definitely didn’t have time to do everything 100% either — sleeping, working out, and eating healthy often got pushed aside, which meant I just didn’t have enough energy most of the time.

Yuck. 

I was totally out of balance, but I didn’t have the time to fix it.  So frustrating.  Honestly, I was exhausted.

Some days, I felt determined, but I still couldn’t tackle my out-of-control to-do list.  Other days, it was hard to focus and stay on task.  I knew I probably wasn’t always using my time wisely, and I didn’t know how it would all get done.  Distractions and constant interruptions made things worse.

The thing is though, I’m organized. I’m a total dork and definitely a planner. (You’ve probably guessed that by now.)  But still, back then, it wasn’t enough to keep me feeling balanced. The days were long and blurring together. I wasn’t not seeing my husband or my friends as much as I could. When my husband hung out with friends without me, they called me the “the mysterious other” (they told me years later) because I wasn’t around. We had just bought a new condo too, but I didn’t have the time to enjoy it.  I felt like I was just constantly running on a treadmill, tackling my growing to do list, putting out fires.

By the end of the day, I was totally wiped. I wasn’t taking good care of myself, I just didn’t have enough time.  I was super frustrated, but I didn’t feel like I had the time or space to do anything about it.  I was almost to the enough-is-enough point.  And honestly, I wish I got to that point faster.

Getting there finally drove me to figure out these five main changes that finally got me un-stuck.  I finally made some real, huge progress.  After I figured out how to make these changes, it was muuuuch easier to fix things.

(I’m going to show you how to fix each of these things too, but more on that in a few.)

 

Change #1: Rethinking typical to-do lists and planning tools.
I love lists.  Checking boxes is as delicious as ice cream.  In fact, if you’re the type to do a task that wasn’t on your list, then write it down anyway just so you can immediately check it off and feel satisfied, we might be long lost best friends.    But even though I had to-do lists, I had categories of to-do lists, I had paper ones, to-do list apps, I had a calendar and reminders, I had email to-dos and post-its…it just didn’t quite work perfectly for me.  I tried all the things that you’re supposed to do to organize yourself, and none of them was a good fit.  I had to find what worked for me, not what was supposed to work for me.

Change #2: Realizing that I had more control than I thought. 
I was living the typical law firm life, so I had to answer to partners and clients and ringing phones and urgent emails.  So even though I was frustrated at not having enough time, I didn’t think I could do anything about it in a world where it felt like other people controlled my time.  I felt helpless and kind of doomed.  When I finally realized that wasn’t quite the case, when I realized how much control I actually could have, even in that world, it opened the door to much better days.

Change #3: Cooling it on the productivity tips. 
I’m a big productivity nerd.  I would read pretty much any time management tip or article that floated across the screen at me on social media.  Bring it on.  I think I secretly thought the next one I read was finally going to have THE secret that finally made it all better, that I just hadn’t uncovered the magic fix yet.  But for every 20 productivity articles I read, there was maybe one minimally useful tip or reminder that helped.  It wasn’t worth the time, but I kept reading them anyway.  The problem with all these articles was that they amounted to a random collection of tips.  Pasting together bits and pieces of systems  and disconnected tips and ideas here and there wasn’t getting me anywhere.  I needed an overarching system, something step-by-step that fit together.

Change #4: Realizing that “things just take as long as they take” was a myth. 

Even after I started to figure out these first three things, I still felt a little hopeless for two reasons.  The first was, I kind of figured that things took as long as they took.  It wasn’t like I could magically go much faster or create more time, so I felt stuck on my hectic treadmill.  But I was wrong, super wrong.  There were many ways to change how much time I needed to get things done.

Change #5: Figuring out that not having time to fix it didn’t mean I couldn’t fix it. 
The second reason that I felt a little hopeless was I thought even if I could figure out all the changes I needed to make, it didn’t matter.  I didn’t have time to get things done as it was, how on earth was I supposed to have time to make any changes?!  So I just kept plowing through my days, bit by bit, doing what had to be done.  But again, I was wrong (and yay for that), because I didn’t actually need a bunch of free time to solve the problem

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For me, it wasn’t easy to figure all this out, then when I did, learning how to act on these changes and actually fix my days took time and hard work before things changed.

BUT the good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way for you.  You don’t have to do that hard work (and cheers to that because you don’t have time).  [Continute reading...]

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