When There Is No Time

I’ve had numerous troubles with procrastination, but lately I’ve experienced situations in which, instead of eating my own time, I find other things eating my time.  Things like school, assigned writing and reading, college searches, and all that truly fun, exciting, invigorating work.  There’s nothing to get you into the mood for fiction writing like the SAT, right?

We all know it’s not true.  However, as Mary Robinette Kowal says, high school is meant to teach you how to fulfill all your requirements while still finding time for your hobbies.  But how to do that when there’s no time?

Prioritize.  Obviously, if you’re spending an hour doing something unnecessary, you could easily rehabilitate that time for another purpose.  Perhaps watching a TV show or checking email will have to wait for a day or two, until it becomes necessary.  (If you’re in desperate need of creative rejuvenation, for instance, watch the TV show.)  I had to take a break from blogging for (gasp!) a whole week while my life was crazy.  Of course, if your unnecessary activity happens to be your hobby, don’t prioritize that much.  The point is to free up time for you to have fun, not to remove all fun from your life.

Along with this, track your time.  Figure out what you can do in a certain period.  Time yourself mentally, or mechanically, whatever works.  Knowing what you can accomplish in a small period of time– the time it takes for the word document to open, or the time your food is cooking– really helps you maximize your tiny pockets of free time in a packed day.

Focus.  There are times when I find myself all over the place, worrying about yesterday, tomorrow, and whether I’ll still have time to write today.  It isn’t just me.  School seems overwhelming to you, you’re ill-prepared for your assignments, and your to-read pile would reach to the moon and back (and you don’t want to read any of them).  The Headache Guild just awarded you a free migraine for your troubles, yet you find yourself staying up until midnight each night trying to fit everything in.  None of that is fun.  But think about it: the real point of doing all this work is so you’ll have time to have fun.  But once you find time for your hobby, you find yourself unable to enjoy it.  What’s the solution?

Take thirty seconds.  Focus on your breathing and nothing else.  It sounds corny, but it works.  Your breathing feeds the fire of your emotion– keep it in check and you calm down.  Once, when I was panicking about time, I watched a clock and focused on breathing.  The second hand seemed to slow down in response.  It didn’t, of course, but controlled breathing kept me from feeling like time was flying away from me.

And above all, Think.  Thinking takes less time than it takes to regulate your breathing, and it can be done simultaneously with anything else.  Make sure you’re focused on the task at hand, but let yourself think about other things while you’re doing mechanical tasks.  Brainstorm.  Solve problems.  Plan.  Do something useful with your mind.

It’s too easy to panic when you have no time.  You lose control of your thoughts, which forces you to wrench your thoughts back violently, and that only adds to your panic.  (It’s like trying to write quickly and constantly spelling panic with an extra K, as I keep doing.)  It only frustrates you more.  Instead of panicking, make sure you’re using your time wisely.  Remember to breath.  Remember to think.  You’re awake for a big part of every day– maximize it.

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48 thoughts on “When There Is No Time

  1. Very good post.
    I’ll take some stress relieve. I’ll also take a clock with a second hand… or a second hand clock. Both would be good.

  2. Focus? Think? *gasps* What do those words mean?

    *sigh* My life = school, school, and more school. Did I mention school? I’m not even sure how to prioritize anything anymore. “Hmm, should I do the math I’m trying to double up in, the chemistry I’m behind in, or the history I’m definitely behind in first?” Yet even if I’m just doing those three things, I’m still doing it all day and by the time I’m done, I’m too tired to even do anything fun. Not reading, not writing, not drawing…. ugh. Heh, I guess there really isn’t much to prioritize there.

    Sometimes, I wish days were longer than 24 hours so I could get more done in one day. Especially since I sleep for about ten to eleven hours each day… so much wasted time.

    Anyway, ’tis a good post. Thank you for posting it.

  3. SAT, college prep… Dear me, you have been busy. Is it going well, at least? Crazy busy and terrifying perhaps, but not holy-beans-this-is-horrid-I-need-chocolate?

    Good post, and one I shall put to use presently. I’m not as busy as you, I don’t think, but I could still use these tips.

  4. *groan* I need to prioritize and quickly. But the thing is I do, and then I never follow that. Heh. And I shouldn’t be on wordpress of all things at the moment. Talk about procrastination and losing focus. Man, on top of all that, to think! Gah.

    Good post, whatsoever. And helpful.

  5. Thanks for this post. For the last year and a half I’ve really been under the pump, and I don’t foresee any sign of it letting up until I finish school in November. But these are some good tips for doing better with what I’ve got. I won’t ditch the hobbies (running 4-5 times a week or reading books at night) but there is plenty of room to prioritise on checking email / Facebook / whatever-else and to multitask by listening to podcasts while washing dishes or whatever. And focus. Apparently I’m not the only one whose level of focus seems inversely proportional to the level of pressure I’m under!

  6. I find making a to do list of small, doable tasks that make up a larger project help me focus. I can check off “wrote scene x” far more easily than staring at the ominous “write entire novel”. This makes me feel more accomplished, and tasks more manageable.

  7. I have all the time in the world right now. The problem is, my literary skills have decided to go on holiday to celebrate the summer break.

    1. Thank you so much! Unfortunately, I can’t accept this. It’s become almost impossible for me to do award posts– thank you, though! Congratulations on your own award.

  8. Well, hi from a complete and total stranger. I’m about 20,000 posts behind and I shall have to prioritize that.

    But thanks. I certainly can use some work on prioritizing and such. At least I’ve been writing instead of staring at a wall all day. But school is irritating when it comes to having lots to get done. “What? All this and you expect me to do school, too? But that’s everyday stuff! Who’s got time for that?”

    Okay, so maybe not quite like that. But anyway.

      1. I must add, though–congratulations on finishing your first draft of that odd book you’ve been writing. (The draft is finished, right?)

      2. I’m glad too.

        …That is, I will be once I get caught up. For now I’m just…staring at how many post-emails I have. Not that it’s a bad thing, just…a lot.

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