So much to do, so little time…

Tick, tock…

According to Wikipedia, time management is defined as “the act or process of planning and exercising conscious control over the amount of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency or productivity”. Now, that’s all very neatly summed up, but what does it mean in actual terms?

There’s an old saying that if you want something done, you ask a busy person. Or, put in a simple formula which must have mathematicians and quantum physicists tying their stomachs in knots:

the more you have to do


the less time in which you have to do it


the more you get done

This goes against the laws of nature, and it is counter-intuitive as well. It is also completely true. (At this point the adversary (read: Other Half) wanders in and says that this is only half the picture: the more that gets left undone too. There speaks the Great Procrastinator!)

On a shelf above my desk and my laptop I have a row of old diaries. Not the kind in which you may pour your heart out over the cruel world and how resentful you are that you didn’t get a Malibu Barbie on your 9th birthday. No, these are desk diaries. Simple ones with a week displayed over 2 pages, either from Ryman’s, WH Smith, or similar shops. There’s even a fancy one covered in purple suede which I was given as a present one Christmas.

Each week I write down what I need to do. This includes anything from specific deadlines, appointments, or tasks which need to be met/kept/done on a specific day, to something which I’ll have to do at some point during that week. I write in black or blue ink, then tick each item off with a red pen as I go along. Very urgent/important tasks are also marked with an “NB!” in the margin, then highlighted with a yellow marker pen. My favourite days are the ones with lots of red all over them! (Don’t worry, I am only trying to kid myself so I don’t pull all my hair out). And I keep the weekends as free as I can, to leave room for family life, social life, and things that need doing around the house, like (groan) washing, etc (yup – more lists).

Occasionally I need to “carry over” a task to the following week. I do this by drawing an arrow pointing to the right, indicating that the task has been transferred to the next page turned over, and then I write it down on a suitable (read: realistic) day that week. I try to limit what I carry over, but it’s not always possible. Certifiable? Probably! But it works for me.

How do you manage your time?

About henriettegyland

USA Today bestselling author, published by One More Chapter Also, a translator, cat slave, guinea pig whisperer, knitter & upcycler, and hygge lover.
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22 Responses to So much to do, so little time…

  1. In response to your question, I don’t!! And that’s why this is so short!

    Liz X

  2. joskehan says:

    I make lists too…especially when I go shopping, but invariably leave the darned thing on the kitchen bench!!!

  3. My whole life I’ve liked to be kept busy–have too little to do actually makes me nervous than having too much. It’s so true that when you have more to do you’re forced to stick to your schedule and there’s less room for procrastination. You’d be surprised how much you can take on!

  4. suemoorcroft says:

    I don’t mind how much I have to do so long as people will leave me alone to do it! If not, I glare a lot, and tut.

    • Getting interrupted is an absolute pain. I find that if I manage to tick a task (in red 🙂 ), then I have a bit of emotional space, and people can interrupt me. Trouble is, they don’t always know when that is…

  5. I’m with Liz – I blunder along and dread losing my diary!

    • At least you have a diary. I have a physical calendar in the kitchen, desk diary on my desk (as I mentioned), and we’ve started using Google calendar as a family. Which means I can never get away from what I need to do…

  6. I use a diary which fits in my bag, and like my namesake above, absolutely dread losing it.
    I did try having an A4 desk diary which made me feel very efficent, but it ended up being used to scribble down phone messages, etc. and a general notepad!

  7. Kath says:

    I absolutely loathe to-do lists and try to avoid using them. I work with a colour-coded calendar in my email programme that updates to my phone as well, so I always know what I have to do – and how urgent it is. Of course, should I ever lose my phone… *clutches phone to reassure herself that it’s still there*

    • That sounds like Google Calendar. I;m slowly getting there with calendar software, and I know it’s the way to go for the future, but sadly I’m still very much a pencil and paper sort of gal.

  8. I am pants at any kind of management. I just sort of point myself at the day and try not to stop moving. Things seem to get done, and if they don’t then they probably weren’t that important anyway….

  9. Liv Thomas says:

    I make lists of everything that needs to be done, and cross it off when complete…which isn’t as often as it should be. My problem is, I have a very tidy mind, but the body can’t keep up.

    • Liv – I can really relate to that bit about the body not being able to keep up with the mind. Hence all my lists. I love the feeling of peace once I’ve crossed off as much as I realistically can. However, it’s a very rare day I manage to tick everything off. Over-reaching myself? Probably.

  10. I’ve always been a list person too, Henri – but have somewhat abandoned them recently. I found they were as depressing to read as bank statments so kind of threw them aside … like bank statements LOL. I now only list 2 or 3 things that absolutely, fundamentally HAVE to be done on a given day. Even then, I find they often get carried over. I blame it on writing. I prefer not to plan what I write and I’ve found – as have my familiy, I’m afraid to say – that the more I write, the less I plan LOL. Christmas is going to be fun this year, I’m thinking 🙂 I admire you for being able to keep yourself organised.

    • List-making absolutely must not get in the way of writing!! At the moment I’m in “list mode”, and it does interfere with creative thought, so at some point I’ll have to abandon the list-making and write another book instead. Hate to think what the state of my office is going to be like 😉

  11. Pingback: Five Blogs – 21 November 2012 « 5blogs

  12. suefortin says:

    I work in a very similar way to you, Henri. Can’t beat a good list and nothing more satisfying than crossing it off as ‘done’! Oh, and then admiring all the crossed off tasks afterwards. 🙂

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