How To "Stay On Top Of It All"

I went to an interview once where I explained to the interviewer that I worked part time, studied two degrees full time, and I ran a small business on the side. He looked at me confused and asked, “how do you manage having so much on your plate all the time”, in which I struggled coming up with an answer and eventually said, “I guess I’m just really passionate about it all and I have just learnt to time manage.”
Was that the truth? Well it wasn’t far from it but it wasn’t exactly true. You see, I don’t always manage to stay on top of it all, my lifestyle does lead to burnout and a whole lot of stress. However, it got me thinking, I was in someway trying to manage it all despite how hard it may be. So, after the interview I got my pen to paper and wrote, what are some ways I do try to manage it all? Turns out there are many little techniques I was doing throughout my week that did help me manage my stress and stay on top of things. I would love to share with you some ways I manage my busy schedule and hopefully there may be some useful tips and tricks that you can also use to help with your busy schedule!

1. List after list after list

If you know me well, you will know I am a massive fan of making lists. In fact, if you were to go on my phone notes you would find list after list on so many different and random things. Lists not only help to put your thoughts out of your head and onto paper but helps you see the tasks ahead of you and essentially do them. Lists are a fantastic way to plan ahead and organise your life when you’ve got a million and one things going around in your head. 

2. Pre-plan

This fits in with making lists because after you have written down every task that needs to get done you can then prioritize and plan. Pre planning not only means prioritizing and assigning times to tasks but also means doing everything before the task/event. If you are going to work tomorrow, set out the clothes you are going to wear on your bed. If you need to pack lunch tomorrow for uni, make lunch the night before so you can grab it on the way out of the door the next day. If you have a big exam coming and you need to study all week, pre plan what days and times you are going to study and what you will study on that day. I am a big fan of doing this as I am somehow who loves to plan out exactly what is going to happen, I am a bit of a perfectionist that way. If your plan fails and doesn’t work out, which happens more often than not for me, then that is okay because we are only human. Instead of using pre planning to put more stress on myself and giving myself deadlines, I use it as more of a guide and it helps to reduce my stress by laying it all out… Tasks seem more manageable that way.

3. Give yourself rewards

In psychology we learn the effects of operant conditioning which is basically the way we encourage certain behaviours through positive and negative reinforcement and/or punishment. In this instance we want to use reinforcement to motivate us to do certain tasks. Get creative with this one, it doesn’t always have to be a chocolate every time you write 10 palm cards, and we also want to try refrain from unhealthy habits/rewards. Some examples could be simply taking a shower after you finish a task, after this then go onto the next task and instead watch an episode of your favourite show. The trick to this though is trying to get back into the mind frame to get back to your tasks after showering or watching a show.

4. De-clutter

Sometimes I find I am stressed out and agitated, then I clean the space around me and all of a sudden, I feel a lot calmer and bigger tasks seem a lot more manageable. De-cluttering doesn’t even have to be a big spring clean; it is simply making your space lighter with more space. Sometimes I even clean my desk by taking things off of it and moving it onto bed to deal with later…. And if that’s how you want to de-clutter your workspace than go for it! A clean and organized area is an area where your mind is clean and organized too. The word ‘de-clutter’ makes me shiver too but at least try it once, you may feel ten times better than before!

5. Diaries/calendars

I struggled with diaries and calendars my whole teenage years until I got to University and I realised the only way I was going to pass my units and have a social life was to know what the heck is going on and when (and yes that involves knowing what date it is too). Unfortunately, this step isn’t always as easy as picking up a diary or calendar and writing in it. One, because you must stay consistent with it and two, because you must find the diary and calendar that works for you. There are so many different templates out there and it can get hard to know which one to use, especially since it does make a difference in whether you will be able to read it and stick with it on a daily basis. It took me years of trial and error to find a template and routine that worked for me, and I wish I was exaggerating. But it was fully worth it, because without my diary now, I wouldn’t know which way was up or down, haha!

6. Relax 

I don’t know about you but any advice that involves the word ‘relax’ always makes me roll my eyes and think, if only it were that easy. But hear me out!! Because this is word is big umbrella for many things that can help you manage you busy lifestyle and it’s more about putting your mind on ice. This means remembering to take breaks, taking care of yourself, doing things you love like hobbies, leaving work at work, getting enough sleep, meditating/yoga, reading…. I could go on but you catch my drift, right? Just remember, you are only human and our bodies need rest to continue on.

7. Find your passion

The one thing I always tell people when they ask me how I balance my busy lifestyle is, “well I guess I am just passionate about health science and accounting and that is enough to keep me motivated”. Quickly I learnt that above everything you do to stay organised, being passionate and motivated is the most important and efficient way. However, I understand I am very lucky that I am in a job doing my passion accounting and studying another passion of mine, health science. Not everyone is in jobs they are passionate about and I totally get this because I have been there! The key is to find the passion within your work or better yet, find the passion outside of you work as well. Find little things you enjoy in your work and focus on them, when you wake up in the morning remember these little things, write them down, create little affirmations with them. When you get home from work, find your passion there, whether that is sitting around watching TV or doing a puzzle, whatever brings you joy, get passionate about it! Bringing passion into a highly routine based lifestyle makes all the difference in being motivated for the little things in life.

8. Eat healthy

I know I know, how clique coming from the who studies health science! But what we put in our bodies is our fuel! If we put the cheap fuel in our cars they don’t run as well as they could, and similarly if we put crappy food in our bodies we won’t function as well as we could too. Our macronutrients and micronutrients play a big role in our metabolism, energy levels and even brain function… everything we need to function and stay on top of our lives. I could go on and on about the biology of how eating healthy effects our stress levels and motivation but that would take a blog post and I think everyone knows the importance what we eat and how it contributes to our daily functioning.

9. Don’t procrastinate

I know, we are only human and part of that is procrastinating but sometimes you just have to push through it… for yourself. I don’t know about you but procrastination stresses me out even more! And although I pre plan, sometimes it does fall through and I end up procrastinating but when I don’t and I push through it, I find a big weight lifts off my shoulder once the task is done and I am so glad I did not procrastinate. I am sure we all know this, however sometimes we just need a little reminding that while self-care is important, sometimes procrastination ends up stresses us even more to the point where self-care is beyond helpful. No more running away from your tasks and stress!

10. Find out what works for YOU

I believe that the key to managing stress and a busy lifestyle is finding out what works for YOU. While reading this blog and other peoples tip and tricks is helpful in finding out what works for you, you do have to remember that everyone is different and maybe you are someone who finds making lists don’t work for you however de-cluttering does and that is okay. Do not feel like you have to make lists or do meditation to de-stress if its something that may make not help you or may even stress you out more. Don’t give up on yourself and remember: Balancing work, university and a social life is all about trial and error! 
Although I am no professional in time management I am always here to listen and help if you ever need someone to talk to.
Love always,
Ashlyn Ann