Monday, May 29, 2023

Motivation and Time Management When There Are No Deadlines

In my last post, I talked about taking a hiatus from freelancing and my plans to work on my own writing projects.  That was almost three weeks ago, so I thought I'd look at where I've come since then.

Spoiler alert: It's not far.

I'm finding that one of the toughest things to manage is ensuring I make the time to get things done when I don't have deadlines to make me do it.  I'm not even great at meeting deadlines, admittedly, as I tend to do things at the last minute and I don't always leave enough time to complete the work.  But I at least do try to do the work before the deadline.

My habit with my own projects is to push things back to the next day, day after day after day, when it becomes obvious I haven't left enough time in the day to do them.  I'm not great at managing my time, and I have really too many things to do, which makes managing my time even harder.

On the flip side, when I do get motivated to do something, I tend to work on it for hours without losing focus.  I just wish I could harness that motivation and focus the rest of the time.

So as you might imagine from this lead-in, I haven't gotten a lot done on my own projects.  I've worked on some of my writing projects here and there, but a lot of my time lately has been spent procrastinating on a house cleanup and reorganization project that I really want to do, and feel like I can't do anything else until I get it done, but which is also completely and totally overwhelming me to the point where I shut down and browse Facebook instead.  No, I'm not proud of it.  Yes, it happens anyway.

I am reasonably sure that I can do better, but it's going to take some time.  Some things that I'm trying to help with this include:

  • Taking a good, hard look at my to-do list: When I have too much on my plate, it gets extra overwhelming, and makes it harder to focus on any one thing.  When I'm trying to decide what to work on, I get paralyzed by worrying about what I should be doing first, and end up doing nothing at all.  I'm trying to be realistic and eliminate tasks that aren't important or that I know I won't do, instead of rescheduling them each week.
  • Scheduling out tasks (instead of making a to-do list): I've been using my calendar instead of a to-do list, and I find it's more effective as it forces me to be more realistic about how much time I have in a day.  Sometimes I still underestimate how long things will take, but I'm getting better at this.
  • Doing a little instead of doing nothing: When I find it really hard to get started on something, sometimes I'll try to do just a small part of it.  Sometimes this helps me get some small part of it done that was acting as a mental block and preventing me from doing the rest, the idea being that it'll be easier to pick up again later even if I need a brain break after getting it done.  Other times doing a few things gets me motivated and I end up getting more done than just the small part I'd originally set out to do.
The hardest part of all of this is remembering not to be unfair to myself.  I have a tendency to think of myself as lazy and to blame myself for not getting enough done, even when I did get things done.  The reality is that my daily expectations for myself are usually far more optimistic than what I can realistically manage, and then I feel bad for not accomplishing all of it.  Feeling like I'm lazy tends to demotivate me, which exacerbates the problem.  I'm trying to be better about this, but it's still a work in progress.

I think I'm going to start a series of posts tracking what I accomplish each week, both to remind myself of what I am getting done, and to stay accountable for what I want to get done.  Stay tuned!

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