Posts tagged ‘time management’

January 20, 2014

Editorial Calendars: do they work?

Trying to wrestle my blogging timetable into some kind of manageable shape has long been a battle of mine. I’m continually torn between wanting to create good quality content, which takes time, and trying to ensure that I write enough posts to maintain a regular readership.

Slow Blogging; the creation of content that is considered, as well written as I can make it and not created purely for page rank is important, but I’m currently enjoying the discipline of writing a post to a given theme each day. Having it all laid out in a spreadsheet helps me to see at a glance what subjects I’m covering each week and reduces the panic about want/must/should/need to write something. All of those feelings are obviously self-imposed, but they are real, and this is helping me to banish them.

By forward planning, even though I have to find the time to write a post to publish each day, knowing in advance what that post will be about means that I need less time to create each one. I’m also finding that it helps me to ensure that I’m not covering similar topics too closely  together. Spending some time thinking about the seasons, special days and events and determining what I can write about that will tie in with those subjects, whilst remaining true to the Margot and Barbara themes, has also resulted in lots of ideas!

My method of creating an editorial calendar is simply a spreadsheet, with the dates down the side and the days of the week across the top. I’ve added in special days (such as Mothering Sunday) so that I know what’s coming up, and then started to populate it.

One thing that I’ve realised is important (and was raised by Kay in the comments of my blogging schedule post) is retaining enough flexibility to move posts around if I get invited to an event, or a product to review. Having a combination of posts that are time-limited and those that are not, means I can move things around if necessary.

Elizabeth at Rosalilium gives great advice here about different tools you can use to create your own editorial calendar. But for the moment, my simple spreadsheet is working really well for me, helping me feel as though I can fit my blog around my work and life. I highly recommend you try using one for your blog too!

January 18, 2014

Photo of my week #1

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Finding time to study this week has been a challenge…

October 11, 2013

Doing One Thing Well.

As someone who has a myriad of interests, I’m usually in the middle of several projects at once. At the moment, having just counted them out, there are at least a dozen things I’m in the middle of and that’s pretty typical. Sometimes, it works well and I feel in control and sometimes it doesn’t. Today is one of the ‘it doesn’t’ days, and I feel a bit like I’m in the eye of a storm of my own making.

For the past couple of days I’ve had a sentence running through my head, and it’s one that is anathema to a scanner, really.

“Do one thing well”.

It’s from the brilliant David Hieatt, founder of Huit Denim and the Do Lectures. Attending the Do Lectures is high on my life’s wish list. But for me, the idea of doing just one thing is a bit terrifying. I hate the thought of missing something, the chance to try something new, have a great experience or learn. Yet the self-made storm of projects that are littering both my mind and my home means that I really need to move towards doing one thing, rather than trying to do everything simultaneously.

Perhaps I can translate ‘do one thing well’ to ‘do one thing well at once‘? So, instead of trying to write, research, check Twitter, plan my allotment crop rotation, take a photo for Instagram and set up a mailing list all at once, I could commit to one thing at a time. I’m thinking of using something like the Pomodoro technique;  even I could manage 25 minutes of concentrating on one thing instead of trying to do it all together and ultimately achieving very little! As I wrote on my friend Dave’s brilliant blog the other day, although I’d really like to be accomplished at something, I have accepted that I’m not a specialist, and this is just who I am. But I still need to check myself every so often to make sure that I’m not sabotaging myself.

Although multi-tasking is often spoken of as a way in which to achieve lots, I’m not really convinced of it as a tool for me to get more done. There is a Japanese saying that springs to mind; one who chases after two hares won’t even catch one. Doing two things at once means you’ll fail at both. Sometimes, that’s a small failing. I often leave the tea-bag in my tea because I’ve been distracted by Twitter in the middle of making it. That’s bad enough. But sometimes it can be much bigger – not making progress on projects because I’m too busy ‘researching’ (looking at pretty things on Pinterest) or ‘planning’ (doodling random words in a notebook) and I am driving myself to distraction with this self-sabotage. I know that time spent enjoying yourself isn’t time wasted. But actually, getting a spike of envy by looking at the perfect home/holiday/lifestyle on Pinterest sometimes isn’t terribly enjoyable anyway!

Alongside thinking about the Pomodoro technique, I’m  re-reading the ultimate guidebook for scanners and having a look through some life-hacking and time management blogs.

But I’d also really like your tips for getting things done. What do you do to make things happen? How to do you manage your time effectively? And how on earth do I decide what to concentrate my time on?

September 30, 2013

Time for Myself.

Saturday began with an argument. My children’s ‘whimsical’ approach to getting ready to leave the house, combined with a once-an-hour train schedule left me feeling exhausted and combative. I often find myself saying ‘put your shoes on, put your shoes on, put your shoes on’ like a stuck record (ah, vinyl) and it feels as though the mere idea of wearing shoes to leave the house has never entered their mind before, such is the response I get.

Anyway, suffice to say, we caught the train (which helped me out by being delayed) and by the time we’d reached the station, the kids had completely forgotten about our argument and were giddy about the journey. I left them in town with their daddy and returned to an empty house.

Once I got home, I immediately started on my never-ending, relentless ‘to-do’ list. I put some laundry on, sorted out a cupboard of kitchen stuff, tidied all the toys away, and was in the middle of unloading the dishwasher when I realised I had an enormous headache. And so, I sat down. And exhaled, for what felt like the first time all day. I stayed sitting in that kitchen chair for twenty minutes, listening to the quiet and taking a breath.  Gradually, other noises came back. The birds in the hedge outside. The cars on the motorway in the distance. The tap dripping into the kitchen sink.

At that moment, I decided not to do one single thing more from my list. Instead I spent the whole afternoon and evening just taking some time for myself.

I started with tea and the latest issue of Kinfolk, which is a beautiful, uplifting and inspiring read.

Kinfolk magazine, Emma Bridgewater mug

Then, I filled the bath with hot water and bubbles and took a cup of tea and a frothy novel (The Misinterpretation of Tara Jupp) into the bathroom for a leisurely soak. There are few things that feel quite as decadent to me as mid-afternoon bathing. After slow, almost languid ablutions and the application of a coat of Chanel ‘Dragon’ red nail polish on my toenails, I then spent a bit of time reading through my RHS study notes, with yet more tea, followed by an easy, uplifting film – Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day – and noodles.  At about 9pm, I took myself off to bed with cheesecake, more tea and yet another book. It was simply a lovely afternoon.

As a gardener, I know that the first rule of all gardening is this: Look after your soil.

Gardeners, especially those of us who grow fruit and vegetables, know that we cannot keep taking, taking, taking from the soil and expecting the same results. We must put something back. The right nutrients. A bit of TLC. And, in some cases, we can give the earth a fallow year and a bit of a rest. And I do this. I make sure the soil on my allotment is well cared for. I add nutrients, change crops each year, and allow the soil to rest from producing. But, I don’t give myself the same attention. I expect myself to do all the time. To produce, create, deliver, and run about constantly. Without putting anything back into myself.

If I want to be healthy and have the energy to run around after my children and not be so exhausted, then I need to eat healthily. I need to get enough rest and sleep. I need to exercise to keep myself in decent health.

If I want to be creative, and to write better, then I need to read. If I want to become more accomplished in my chosen subjects, then I need to study and to find the space to learn and take on new ideas. Not just to produce all the time. In fallow periods, I need to slow down and make better use of that breathing space, so that when I do have inspiration, then I know what to do with it.

And, I need to take care of myself so that I can take care of those I love.  An afternoon off might not sound like much. But it’s given me a bit of peace and re-charged my batteries ready for when I need to be able to keep busy, to look after my children, do my job and, yes, to tackle that damn to-do list as well…

June 27, 2012

Finding Time

I had a really busy week last week. So much so, that I missed two blog posts. It doesn’t take much for my ‘carefully planned’ schedule to go completely to pot. In some attempt to regain control of my time, I made a little table and populated it on hourly basis with what I was doing. I thought it would be a useful way of seeing where there was time I wasn’t making the most of.

Of course, there are huge chunks of time that are given over to work or parenting so they’re easily written off, as they are non-negotiable, obviously. But what I’ve discovered is that I claim to be busy, when actually what I’m doing is:

1) Playing Moshi Monsters. I set myself an account up so I could play with Eve, and now I’m playing it all the time. Even when she’s in bed. What’s wrong with me? I just need to complete my Moshling zoo and then I’ll be sane again. Honest. So much for not liking computer games…

2) Compiling the Net-A-Porter wishlist of my dreams, complete with evening dresses costing as much as a round-the-world cruise. For when I win the Lottery, obviously. And then get invited to the Met Ball. Which is a fairly improbable set of possibilities. It’s good to be prepared for all eventualities though, and it’s a bit like shopping without spending anything.

3) Searching for Antarctic voyages. Which, if you sail from Australia like Scott, are roughly 25 thousand pounds per head. It’s the travel equivalent of my Net-A-Porter wish-list.

4) Reading Grazia. Every Tuesday, I spent a couple of hours with this little addiction.

5) Spending time on Twitter. Ah, Twitter. I love Twitter, really I do. It changed my life. The eclectic group of people I follow means that I can be simultaneously immersed in conversations about politics, shoes, zombies and allotment gardening at any given moment. It’s utterly and completely amazing, but it steals time like nothing else.

There is obviously nothing wrong with any of these things. After all, time spent enjoying yourself isn’t time wasted, and after a day of working and parenting, it’s necessary for my brain to decompress a bit with something light and fun. The problem only comes when I think I’m too busy to work on any of the bigger things I want to do. If I fail to make some of them happen, because I’ve spent the whole year building a Moshling zoo and an imaginary wardrobe, how am I going to feel? Recording how I’m spending my time has been a bit of an eye opener. Although there is also the possibility that I need to get up earlier in the morning (like my writer friend who starts writing at 5.20am) if I reduce the amount of time I spend on these things, I might actually make progress on the things I really want to do!

So, I plan to spend no more than fifteen minutes on any of my ‘timewasters’ for every spare hour I’ve got, before putting them to one side and using that time more productively. We’ll see if it makes any difference in a month or so. For really good time-management-ninja help, I recommend you spend some time with the fabulous Marie Forleo. I’ve learnt a lot from her site.

How do you like to ‘waste’ time? And how do you stop yourself from letting those things take over? I’d love to know…

March 29, 2012

The Half Hour Allotment: making the most of every visit.

The worst has happened. I have new allotment neighbours. Ok, that’s not the worst that could happen. Far from it. In fact, it’s perfectly fine. I just have one tiny problem with new allotment neighbours, and that is their sheer bloody enthusiasm. They all turn up with bags and bags of the stuff. Not to mention, in this case, a small army of people who turn up to dig. Now, I’m all in favour of calling in a few extra hands when the plot requires it – such as ‘Dig In Day’ when we brought our whole family to help build some new raised beds. But my new neighbours seem to have an endless supply of people. On Sunday, we had a lovely family time pottering about in the peaceful sunny afternoon, when up trooped about ten people to start work on the plot next door. Bringing all their noise and chat and capable manual labour with them. We left them to it shortly afterwards.

I’m all too aware that this is making me sound like a horrible person. I’m sorry about that, but there is worse to come.

The other thing that new allotment neighbours do is bring out my competitive nature. I’m not hugely competitive (pub quizzes excepted) but there is something about a new, enthusiastic allotment holder to bring out the worst in me. I hate the thought of someone new having a better plot than mine, when I’ve had mine for years! Since the start of Spring when they arrived and did all their digging and raised bed building, I’ve been on the allotment almost every day. Every day. I’m aware that this is ridiculous, because firstly, its not an actual competition, and secondly, even if it was, there is no way that we (with our helpful five and two year old diggers) could compete.

Thankfully, in order to make the best use of this new found competitive spirit, I’ve been reading a book called ‘The Half Hour Allotment’ by Lia Leendertz  which I recommend for anyone with an allotment and a busy life on top.

A few pointers from the book:

  • Grow the fancy, expensive crops you love to eat – so you get more for your money and work.
  • Buy plants and seedlings where it makes sense to do so,  instead of trying to produce everything by seed yourself – something I’ve already started to do.
  • At the end of every half hour session on the plot, take a couple of minutes to work out what job is the next on your list – then, when you arrive the next day for your half hour stint, do that job, instead of spending loads of time procrastinating! This continues day after day, obviously.
  • Invest in some perennial crops (such as fruit bushes) that take less looking after.
  • Prioritise and plan your time – certain times of year you might only be able to water and harvest your crops in half an hour, so the plot might be untidier than you’d like, but some jobs have to stay at the top of the list. There is no point having a pretty plot if you’re not harvesting the food you have grown.

All of this means that you can get some great results from working just for half an hour each day (for five days a week) leaving you the weekends to bask in the glory of your achievements – or, more likely, dash about with an endless list of other things to do, but safe in the knowledge that your plot is fabulous!

Now, I just need to invest in some heavy duty hand cream. All this extra digging has given me blisters…