Managing Priorities #1: Project Managing Yourself

This is Part 1 of the Managing Priorities Series. The other parts can be found here: #2, #3, #4, #5

Put down the chips and
step away from the couch.

September’s a busy month for a lot of people, and it also carries a scent in the air that hasn’t yet been monetized for lattes: the start of a new year. Not like January; I mean, no one really feels energized in January. We’re all trying to sleep off the effects of Christmas. But September? For a long time, September meant a new beginning. New classes, new grades, new friends/trees to read under. And I think even as adults long away from schooling, we still feel that energy. August is about vacations; September is about starting fresh, ready to accomplish.

I think it’s safe to say that many people have things that they’d like to do that they don’t have time for.

Who has time? But be honest: you’re reading this blog because you’re procrastinating, aren’t you? You found it on social media while browsing on your phone while feeling guilty that you should be doing other things. You. The one with the ideas that you never have the time for because, you know, stuff? Life. Things?

You want to write a novel. Start a side business. Practice your art. But there’s never any time in a day. And it’s haaaaard.

And yet. While you’re at your 9-to-5 you get PILES of stuff done. You are the office superhero. The fixer. You stay late, you make the hard calls, you do all the cliches and still have time to take coffee breaks with that cutie one department over. You leave work tired, yes, but accomplished.

So what is the difference?

Project managing.

Workplaces have dedicated managers who figure out the priorities as a whole and delegate. Chances are, unless you’re in a toxic work environment (which is a whole different kettle of blog posts), you have at least one person nearby during the day whose responsibility it is to make sure every one knows what needs to be done, what doesn’t, and when. Personal projects don’t have that. And it’s not a skill that gets taught.

It’s very easy to look over at so-and-so who manages to hold down a job and then go home to accomplish everything else like Wonder Woman and just assume that they have more willpower, or a set of mystical incantations, or, you know, a baggie of speed. But really, they are probably just better at managing their own time and priorities. They learned to do it, either consciously or tacitly; you can too.

I did.

I hate Work. I hate having my time dictated by someone else; chasing other people’s requests and requirements; being told when and where to be and what to wear and how to sell toothpaste. But you know, bills. I chose to freelance; it’s not for everyone. But I like working from home.

Even in my pyjamas, deadlines still loomed and I could use them and/or guilt about disappointing clients to force me into my chair. I thought I learned how to manage my time without someone else’s oversight. But instead I just leaned on that deadline panic like Tiny Tim’s crutch and when I started working for myself—really for myself, no clients, just me and an idea for a novel—that crutch wasn’t there. So I had to really learn how to buckle down, fasten myself in, cue the montage, etc.

Ha ha! Just kidding!

That’s way too much like work. Look, it’s a gorgeous day outside. I am a lazy, lazy mofo and I don’t want to do work even if it’s work for me when I could be doing something more enjoyable. Right? Neither do you, otherwise you wouldn’t still be reading this far. But let’s be honest: procrastination itself is rarely enjoyable. It’s usually dank and miserable and you don’t spend the time doing something you’re actively enjoying; you spend the time browsing Facebook and feeling guilty. Conversely watching TV all evening because you’re tired from work and then going to bed dissatisfied because you never seem to find the time to do what’s important. Work is hard. Life is hard! Goals and making decisions are hard! You need someone to tell you what to do!

But that’s a whole separate paycheque, isn’t it.

I taught myself to think like a project manager instead (free is the best price!!), and figured out how to make working on my goals smarter, and easier, so that I could put my butt in the chair even when I didn’t feel like it. And you can too.

And then after you can binge Netflix oh-so-smugly because YOU EARNED IT. LIKE A GODDAMNED CHAMPION. (Repeat after me: ‘Netflix is for closers’.)

You need to get your shit in order. You need to get over the hassle-hurdle and get your butt in the chair (for this series I am assuming you already have a chair). But above all you need to figure out what your priorities are and how to trick your brain into letting you accomplish them without opening up Twitter. Once you get your focus trained at home like you do at work, you can crunch a list in however long you choose, evening or weekend; and as you cross items off you’ll get that much closer to achieving a goal, not a dream.

At the end of the day, all this is, is my system, honed by me through my experience to combat my lazy inclinations, over many years. Mileage will of course vary. It might not work for you at all. But that’s okay; because then it becomes simply the first draft to finding out what does work for you. And once you find that out? Oh the freedom it unlocks.

But first we need to figure out what it is that you want and why you’re not already doing it. We’re going declutter your to-do list and teach you how to prioritize when there’s no one standing over your shoulder with a deadline or a stick to beat you with. The week after I’ll talk about tricking your brain into letting you focus; and then we’ll wrap it up with how to make your workspace the best it can be.

We can do this. I’m right here with you.


The Complete Managing Priorities Series:

Project Managing Yourself | Decluttering Your To-Do List | Time Units and Science! | Work Smarter, Not Harder | Location, Location, Location

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