I've been a very productive person, especially recently. I didn't quite know the extent of what I could do, but now I've found that a high working output is actually not impossible in any way, and it's even quite easy to manage everything else as well.
What?! You mean I can have a life, do the things I want and also be productive and work well? That sounds crazy. Yes, it does. Allow me to explain...
Firstly, one thing to realise is what you actually want to achieve. Do you want to write books, do blogs, make art, just be self-employed in some way? Do you want to learn a new skill or find the time to study at university on the side as well as work and all the rest? It is possible, all of it. A funny thing is we have twenty-four hours in a day, and that can actually contain a great deal, if you're inspired enough to do what you fancy doing.
As for myself, as I wrote H2elp, I was working full-time, studying full-time, starting up two companies, writing a book and maintaining a healthy relationship all at the same time. When I think about it, I feel like I managed to accomplish quite a lot. Especially when I compare that to when I was a bit younger and just decided to play video-games all day and work part-time and generally not do anything. I feel as though that time I spent doing nothing ought be won back somehow, and I don't want to be as sedentary ever again. It's like a looming threat for if I ever become too complacent and lazy.
I want to get the most out of my life and do things like all this writing stuff, I want to learn more, see more and do more in the brief time I have, instead of wasting it all because I'm too indifferent or uninspired to really get going.
Once you figure out what you want though, things can get easier. You may not know exactly what you want, but there are so many things you could do. Learn to make bread or something. Do something you once saw on Instagram and thought was cool. Learn an instrument (classic cliché example of something you could do). If you get going, you might like it, or you might be able to move onto something entirely different because you actually hate bread.
The next step is the most important; it's how you regulate your day. I once looked up "how to make a schedule" and was very dissatisfied with the results. It made me create my own scheduling strategy, and it actually works very well.
Make a list of things you want to do, and try to be inclusive of the routine things like "eat," "shower," etc, and also any obligations you may have like "take the kids to school," for instance. Start with waking up. When do you want to wake up? Try to be realistic in order to actually be able to follow it properly. There's not much point in trying to wake up at four in the morning every day if you sleep through all your alarms. That being said, using this kind of schedule is a great way of learning new habits like waking up early, if that's what you want.
For instance, you can have:
0600-Wake up and eat breakfast
0630-Exercise and shower
0800-Put out bins
0810-Write e-mail to <person(s)>
That seems like a good way to start the day, and you've gotten a lot done before most people are even awake. Of course, you may not want to wake up this early, so do whatever suits you.
If you study as well, you can include that:
0900-Revise for exam
0930-Finish next assignment question
1300-Learn more about painting
1400-Write more book content
This day is already quite full and productive, and also has an afternoon snooze and a break. Once you realise all the things you can cram into a day, you might be surprised at the outcome. You can definitely feel as though you've accomplished something when you look back on it.
Occasionally, I find myself dismayed that I didn't do enough in a day, because I didn't struggle to get my schedule completed, almost as if it were too easy. When I look back at it, however, I remember that I've actually done more than I used to do in an entire week. It just turns out that doing all this is rather easy once you plan it properly.
And of course, this is just half of the day. Imagine what you could do with a full one, if you have any projects or ideas or anything of the sort. It's staggering, when you get to grips with this form of planning, because you start making time for things when you may have never even known how much time you even had.
It's important to keep it realistic. If you don't think you can maintain this kind of day, add more breaks or rests or maybe include watching a film or something. It's entirely up to you. It's also important to understand that this doesn't legally bind you to doing anything. If you only manage to do half of these things for whatever reason, that's fine. Try and tailor it to you better the next day so that you can follow it more accurately. After all, it's your day and you can do whatever you want with it.
You might find that the more you practice this, the more you end up inserting into your day, just because you can. Especially if, like myself, you want to be as efficient and productive as possible. A great deal of time is lost just wandering around aimlessly or going to the fridge and opening it only to return to do the same thing a moment later. Scheduling helps you overcome bad habits such as snacking unnecessarily too; and miraculously, it can help you develop new ones which can be extremely beneficial, such as exercising or writing or anything like that you may want to do.
Habits form with time, and once you schedule your days this way for long enough, you'll be able to pick up new habits easily and drop the old ones too. For example, if you smoke twenty cigarettes a day because you have nothing better to do, then by keeping busy like this and planning in breaks, you may find yourself cutting down quite rapidly, being occupied by everything else you're doing. Many such cravings stem from a lack of stimulation, which is interesting to bear in mind.
It's worthwhile giving it a go, even for just a couple of weeks. Try planning in a few days a week and see what happens. Remember to plan days that won't leave you completely drained and reluctant to ever use a schedule again. Plan for the day you want to have which will leave you feeling good about it.
A good trick I use is I always plan a day before it's started, usually one or two days in advance. That way, if I want to do something that I don't find enjoyable, I'm not tempted to put it off and not pencil it into my day. I plan it for the next day, and when it comes to doing it, I (perhaps reluctantly) force myself to do it out of schedule compliance. It prevents me from not being bothered to perform uninspiring tasks if I need to do them.
You may find, as I have, that in order to be efficient, there are certain things you might want to avoid. I've cut out many things from my days such as watching online videos endlessly, most social media and there was a time I stopped watching any films or TV completely, which was certainly a good thing. Depending on how much you're willing to do more with your time, you may want to consider doing this too. Perhaps, at least, leave it for your breaks and rests in order to not be distracted too greatly.
The next step is a bit more advanced, so feel free to end it here for now and come back to this bit later...
I benefit greatly from scheduling, however I felt as though I wasn't able to do enough with my days as I wanted. I had weekly expectations as well as daily ones for myself, and I simply couldn't find the hours in the week somehow. I gave it a lot of thought, and came up with my own weekly plan as well.
The weekly plan is a simple concept and doesn't take very long to make, but it does involve a bit of logistical technique.
It consists of figuring out how much time per week you want to spend doing things. For me, at the time, it was about thirty hours of study, forty to fifty hours of working, ten hours of writing, five hours exercising, some hours on other projects and things like that. It was a bit packed, for sure. I divvied up these hours into days, usually five days of my week were devoted to each thing. I didn't want to plan seven days of learning if I didn't think I could manage it every single day, so I gave myself the opportunity to have a couple of days where I didn't have to do it.
From this, I figured out a pattern which would fit around my working times which gave me enough time to fit in all this in the week. I figured I only really needed six hours of sleep, personally, which helps grant me more time for other things, and although certain days were really packed and tight, I was able to make myself a rota for everything I wanted and needed to do. I made sure to include time for eating, showering, driving to and from places and getting dressed. All the little things which take time but which are ultimately necessary to remember.
I used this weekly plan as a reference for when I planned my days; I would simply look at it in order to figure out how many slots in my day I needed to take up with different activities, and managed to fit in everything I wanted.
Like I mentioned before, it's a bit challenging, but if you feel like you're drowining under a million different deadlines and tasks, it might provide some form of salvation.
In any case, good luck; I hope you find the same benefit from all of this as I did. Just keep going and you'll get somewhere. Probably.