We’ve all been there. We’ve all felt that paralyzing feeling that comes with having a ton of different ideas and not enough time to work on them all. You prioritize one thing, but your mind keeps nagging at you and telling you to work on something else. After a little while, you jump to that other thing, and suddenly you start thinking about something else you long to do. You jump around and around, till you become overwhelmed and give up for the day.
This is a sure fire way of accomplishing nothing.
If you’re like me, you probably have a bunch of different projects on the go. You may also have work, social, or family obligations to attend to, not to mention everyday errands, such as grocery shopping, cleaning, and paying the bills. With all these things on your plate, it can be difficult to follow through with all of your passion projects.
Here are 3 simple steps I have used to ensure that I make progress on each of my projects throughout the week.
1. Uncover Your Personal Productivity Rhythm
Each of us has our own personal productivity rhythm. What I mean is that there are certain times in the day when your mind is sharpest. We’ll call this your magic time. This is the time when you should be working on the things that really matter to you.
Next, each person has those hours during the day when they can’t get anything done at all. We’ll call this your utterly useless time. For most people, this period of complete uselessness occurs in the late afternoon or at night. During this time you may feel tired or grumpy, and you certainly have no interest in being creative. This is when you should be taking a break and not working at all.
Pay attention to your body. How do you feel throughout the day? Start taking note of patterns. When do you feel most inspired? This is your magic time. When do you want to collapse on the couch with a box of pringles? Behold your utterly useless time.
2. Make a Personal Schedule that Compliments your Rhythm
Write up a schedule for yourself and block out your magic time(s) and your utterly useless time(s). Type it up and hang it on your wall if that helps.
Each day pick a personal project you really care about and assign that to your magic time block.
Similarly, make sure you do not work at all during your utterly useless time. Go for a walk or a bike ride. Is there a DVD or book you’ve been meaning to get to? Want to catch up on your online television streaming? Your down time is the perfect time to do this. You can even take a nap! Don’t feel guilty about being unproductive during this time. That is precisely what you are supposed to be doing here. We need down time to refresh us and keep us productive throughout the rest of the day.
The remaining hours of the day are when you should schedule your other tasks. Pay attention once again to productivity patterns. Are there times when you are more productive? Do more important work during these times and leave the errands and grocery shopping for the hours in which your mind is less sharp. Try to get a real sense of your daily rhythm and tweak your schedule till it matches up.
3. Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself
Plan out your schedule and try to stick to it as much as possible, but if you have a bad day and don’t manage to follow it 100%, that is perfectly fine. The key is to not get down on yourself if you don’t adhere to your schedule perfectly. Just let it go and try again the following day. The schedule is meant as a guide. Even if you hit the mark 50-80% of the time, you’re still better off than you were before using any schedule at all.
Note: While I wrote this with the part-time employee, self-employed person and student in mind, you can also make this schedule work with a traditional 9-5 job. Maybe you can shift around your work tasks slightly to do the more inspiring things during your magic time? Maybe you have productive times that are not during work hours? Grab these and schedule in your personal projects. Do it! Or you’ll end up feeling terrible later. Pursuing our passions and being creative is important to our souls, so we must make sure to consciously schedule that time into our days.
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Give this a try and let me know in the comments how it goes for you. Do you have any other tricks you have used to get your projects done without feeling overwhelmed?