time management

Which planning style are you?

Sultan of Morocco, (1845), Musée des Augustins...

Sultan of Morocco, (1845)Photo credit: Wikipedia

As I think about our upcoming honeymoon (we’re going to Morocco for two weeks!) I’m torn between two modes of thinking:

“Only in spontaneity can we be who we truly are.”

“Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

I’ve heard stories of people who fly to another country with no reservations and end up meeting an awesome couple and living with them for a week and seeing the “real” parts of the city. I’ve also heard stories of people not knowing that they needed to get a visa before entering a certain country and having to fly back home. Fortunately I’ve learned to straddle the two conflicting planning styles, and had some pretty rocking adventures! I think the key is researching a few things that you’re dying to see, and then leaving every other day free to wander and stumble on cool things.

Which quote best describes your planning style?

On a side note, any suggestions on must-see activities in Morocco? We’re starting out in Marrakesh,  spending three days in the desert, driving to Essaouira for some beach time, then Fez, and then Casablanca. Even as I write this it sounds very planned, but believe me this is restrained for me!


The Pie of Life

I got another promotion! I’m now an Academic Director! But as Spiderman says, with great power comes great responsibility. And that responsibility has been taking over my life. For the last two weeks I’ve been working till 10 most nights, and that’s really not cool with my HeSo. I’m hoping that all the work I’ve been doing will allow me some breathing room for the upcoming weeks. You may have noticed I’ve dropped off the face of the blogosphere. The last thing I want to do at night is look at a computer screen, but hopefully that will change.

I love my new job. There are so many creative problems to solve, people to console and motivate, and a thousand and one things to balance and manage. If I’m not careful I’ll get sucked into it, and never lead a happy, balanced life.

One excellent tool I’ve learned from Julia Cameron is drawing a life pie every now and then. Draw a big circle and divide it into 6 even pie slices. Give each slice a label: spirituality, exercise, play, work, romance, friends and adventure. Place a dot in the middle of each slice according to how fulfilled you feel in each category (close to the middle of the pie means not at all, the outer rim means you feel very satisfied). The goal is to fill up the entire pie.

It looks like someone’s been eating huge chunks of my pie. It’s a good visual reminder of what I need to work towards.

How full is your pie?


A Lesson From My Dad

One of the best lessons I learned from my dad is pretty simple, but yet so profound. He told me to replace the words “have to” with “want to.”

My mom and dad!

One night he was driving me home from a late night track meet in high school. I started to cry because it was 10pm and I still had to write an essay for class the next day. I was feeling really overwhelmed with SAT prep, the track team, art classes, and homework. I was getting about 4-5 hours of sleep on average.

He asked me why I was beating myself up about an essay when I was choosing to write it.I thought he was crazy. “It’s not a choice, dad. I have to write it.”


“Because I have to get an A.”


“Because I have to get good grades to get into a good college.”


“Because I have to go to go to an Ivy League school to get a good job.”

He shook his head. “You want a good job, so you want to get good grades to get into the school you want. You don’t have to do any of that. The only things you have to do is eat, sleep, and breath. Everything else is a choice. Think about what you really want in the long term, and then decide if it’s worth it to hand that essay in late, or if you really want to work on it tonight.”

I did end up finishing the paper that night, but with a new sense of pride. Recognizing that it was my choice, and that writing the paper was what I wanted to do, not just an obligation, changed my outlook completely.

I constantly remind myself that everything I do is a choice that I want to make. I want to pay my taxes because I want to be a good citizen and I don’t want to go to jail. I want to clean my house because I like the way it looks. I want to clean the kitty litter because I don’t like the smell. I don’t have to do any of that – I want to.

Try switching ‘have to’ with ‘want to’ for one day, and let me know what you think!

30’s the new 20

It seems so many people fear turning 30; feel that they haven’t accomplished everything they wanted by the time they reach that benchmark. But if this is the overwhelming sentiment then maybe we need to start reevaluating what is expected of a 30 year old.

50 or 60 years ago the average worker was not expected to have a masters degree let alone a doctorate. Now it’s almost required. When I was looking for jobs a while back I can’t tell you the number of unpaid internships that require a masters degree. In addition, people no longer stay at a company for 30 years and move up the corporate ladder. Nowadays people move laterally not vertically, therefore our job titles don’t always demonstrate our experience.

50 or 60 years ago, people graduated from school with no debt and many of jobs available. Now students graduate with $100,000-$200,000 in student loans. According to CreditCard.com, the average college grad has $20,000 in credit card debt. The idea of owning a house with a picket fence, let alone supporting 2.5 children seems impossible.

What I see as a positive shift is more people in their 20s are seeing the world, taking gap years, pursuing their interests, and trying many different jobs – It’s all very HeSo! The 20s have become a decade of self-exploration and development, whereas it used to be the years when you start laying down roots, and “making something of yourself.”

Our life expectancy has increased, and we’re aging better, and doing more in our old age. 50’s the new 40 and 40’s the new 30. We would all be better off if we just accepted that 30’s the new 20. Us youngings need to stop holding ourselves up to imaginary expectations for an arbitrary benchmark.

Any thoughts on this?

Time is on Your Side

I don’t know how anyone gets anything done without a to-do list. If I don’t make a list I end up wasting the entire day. If you didn’t think I was nerdy before, I usually keep a macro and micro list. Here are some tips:

1. Start your list for the next day in the afternoon. I have found that writing the list during the day time helps me sleep better. It gives me plenty of time to add the random things I remember so I don’t stay up thinking about what I need to do tomorrow.

2. Keep a weekly to-do list. I don’t like making daily lists because then my days feel to structured. On Sunday I’ll write down all the things I need to do for the following week. Every day I go over the list and pick the things I want to do for that day. If a friend calls and wants to have lunch, I know that the list is still there and I’ll be able to catch up tomorrow. Keeping a weekly list allows for some spontaneity but also ensures that everything gets done.

3. Plan for the future. This tip comes from my dad. This isn’t necessary for most people, but if you have a big goal it’s hard to keep track of your progress if you don’t make a Macro-to-do list. Figure out when you want to accomplish your goal, make a list of everything you need to do to make that goal, and then assign a deadline for each of those tasks. If you don’t do this it’s easy to let things take longer than they need to.  My dad is a big fan of Parkinson’s law : Work expands to fill the time allotted.

4. Write it on paper. I never got into using my phone for to-do lists. First of you have to remember to check your phone for the list. And I guarantee that every time you check your phone you’ll get distracted my a text message, or an email, or low battery. I keep my list right by my computer so it’s visible, and I can easily add things. Plus it’s so rewarding to cross something off my list. When I’m done with my list it looks like a scribbled out mess. If you’re really against pen and paper, I suggest google tasks. It’s simple and easy.

5. Include some fun things. I always include some self indulgent activities on my list. It reminds me that taking care of myself is just as important as filing my tax return.

I hope this helps you get more done!

You will never “find” time for anything. If you want time, you must make it.
Charles Bruxton

A Positive Look at Outsourcing

Outsourcing usually gets a bad rap. But really it’s letting companies stick to what they’re good at. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to focus on your strengths and let someone else handle the busy work?

from hotsocialbuzz.com

Well you can. For years I had been spending approximately three hours a week at the laundry mat. But I got sick of wasting that time. Now I do drop off service. It costs about $10 for a load of laundry (only $6.50 more than if I did it myself ) and I get 3 hours of precious time on earth to do things like write a blog post, do some Christmas shopping, or pick out fabric samples for my baby bed. Plus it comes back folded and smelling better than it ever did when I was in charge.

In this day in age you don’t need to run around like a chicken with your head cut off. If you don’t have enough time to accomplish something important outsource the menial tasks. You might argue that it costs too much to do that, but think about this example:

You don’t have enough time to review your bills,  go to work, clean your house, and go to the gym. Spend $100 on a cleaning service, and spend some of that newly freed up time to pay your bills on time (avoid any late fees) and go on Mint (a great bookkeeping and budgeting service that’s absolutely free and secure) and create a budget for the month. When I started using mint I realized I was wasting about $20 a month on atm fees. Now I make sure to only go to my bank to avoid the extra charges. By spending a little money upfront, you’ll be able to free up time for more useful things that might end up saving you more money in the long run.

So pay a little extra to have the elves wrap your Christmas presents, hire someone to walk your dog when things get a little hectic, let the neighborhood kids shovel your driveway. You’ll be helping the economy and your sanity.