I was chatting about the Time Management Mystery with some creative friends the other day
Actually, we were whining about how we have so much to do, and not enough time to do it in. And speculating how some of the creatives we’re inspired by manage their time.
For the most part, all of us (men and women), have some kind of gig/freelance job working from home. Plus we’re responsible for the lion’s share of the housekeeping.
Naturally, we theorised our inspirations have wives or cleaners to take care of the domestic situation. And certainly many of the men who wrote or painted classics weren’t cleaning toilets or doing the laundry in-between times.
This was, of course, the situation that made me write Minimally Viable Housekeeping. When I am Stephen King famous, I will probably hire someone to do the housekeeping.
In the meantime, like everyone else, I have to try and figure it out as I go.
My Planning Cycle
I have an annual planning cycle. Or more correctly I have two because I business plan for the fiscal year, and personal plan the calendar year. So in practice, I have two six-monthly cycles because they leak into each other.
It kind of works like a spiral.
It starts out with a 10-year plan, which is the Vision, Mission, Virtues I describe in Holistic Personal Finance. This is supplemented with long term reminders, like replacing the hot water system in 2026 and central heating in 2027.
Medium-term is the three to five plan. And the easiest way to describe that is comparing it to studying for my Bachelor’s degree part-time. With eight years permitted, I calculated the minimum number of units required each year to complete it in time.
Short term is more or less your annual goals. For example, three university units, and which ones. And whether you wanted to add more for a stretch target.
From here, I take a Project Management approach. I break the big goals into work packages and attempt to schedule them throughout the year.
Annual work can be split into quarterly or seasonal work. Which can be split into months, then into weeks, and into days. Even hours if you want or need to.
For the days, I attempt an “Ideal Day” framework, as developed by Alec Mackenzie in the third edition of The Time Trap (3rd edition).
An Ideal Day is a perfect day. You take the best possible advantage of your high and low energy periods. You have uninterrupted time to get stuff done. And at the end of a productive day, you still have enough energy left for some high-quality leisure time.
Of course, you will never experience an Ideal Day but that’s not the point. The point is to have a kind of “here’s one I prepared earlier” to slide into your schedule.
Solving the Time Management Mystery
Planning is all very well, but you will always fail at time management. You can’t adequately predict how long a given task will take. You can make your best guess, but you already know that’s not going to work.
The way around this is two-fold:
- Don’t plan more than you can realistically do.
- Allow time for things to go wrong.
Still not perfect, but some days the best you can do is get out of bed.
Everything else is a bonus.