That saying that it sometimes feels like “there aren't enough hours in the day” is so true, unless you learn to manage your time more wisely. We all spend time loafing around on Facebook or watching “Scandal” on our DVR, but we can make time for leisurely activities and prioritize our jobs, family and hobbies with these tips from a woman who juggles more than most: Javacia Harris Bowser of Birmingham, Alabama.
Tell us about your occupation, hobbies and other activities. What do you typically juggle in a given week?
I run a membership organization for female writers, bloggers, and entrepreneurs called See Jane Write. Through that organization I host workshops, panel discussions, networking events and an annual conference and also maintain a regularly updated website and send out a weekly e-newsletter. I maintain a personal blog at Writeous Babe. I freelance for several local media outlets. And none of that is my day job! I am a teacher at a performing arts high school (the same school actress LaVerne Cox graduated from!). I’m also involved in my church, I exercise nearly every day, and I have a husband who would like to see me sometimes.
How do you choose what to prioritize in your day?
When writing out my to-do list I write the things that must get done in ALL CAPS and if possible try to do those first. An ALL CAPS task is either one that must be completed because of a pressing deadline or because it is something I highly value. For example, my husband and I have date night twice a month. And when we set our date nights there is no negotiation, no rain checks. We will make that time for each other no matter what.
Do you juggle many tasks at once, or choose one to complete and then move on?
Multitasking is of the devil. But seriously, multitasking is the fast track to mediocrity and actually wastes more time than it saves. You can get more done in a shorter period of time and do a better job if you perform one task at a time. Don’t believe me? Try the Pomodoro Technique for just one busy day and see the difference it makes. The Pomodoro Technique, developed by Francesco Cirillo, is simple, yet brilliant. You break down your work in 25-minute intervals, taking five-minute breaks after each one. After four work periods you take a longer break of about 20 minutes. Whenever I recommend this to my students, they always come to me the next day saying, “Mrs. Bowser! I finished all my homework in half the time it normally takes me! I had enough time to watch all my favorite TV shows!” Try it. It works.
In 2014, you worked out every single day. How did you make time for that?
I had to decide that exercise would be like brushing my teeth. You’d never say you’re too tired to brush your teeth or don’t have time to brush [them]. No matter how busy or tired you are, you brush your teeth! For 365 days I looked at exercise the same way. Another thing that helped was each night when I was working on my to-do list for the next day, I would figure out exactly when I would exercise and what activity I would do. It’s sort of like meal planning but for exercise.
Did that workout goal end up being harder or easier than you originally expected?
It was actually easier than I expected because I made it fun. I didn’t just spend 30 minutes on an elliptical every day, because if that had been the case I wouldn’t have made it through the first month. But I did a variety of exercises such as spinning, boxing, dance aerobics, running, walking, weight lifting, and an assortment of Jillian Michaels DVDs. It quickly just became a part of my day (like brushing my teeth).
How have you learned to say no to things you don’t want to do or don’t have time for?
This is a lesson that has been very hard for me, but I’m finally there. Marie Forleo [a life coach] says, “If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a hell no.” That’s what I try to live by. When I’m tempted to take on something out of guilt or fear of missing out, even though it’s not something I really want to do, I just think of all the things I actually want to do and how this could take away from those opportunities. Also, it’s important to know your values and your vision. If something doesn’t align with your values or your vision for your life, move on.
Anything else you’d like to add about time management?
Check out my e-course on time management called How to Write and Have a Life.