The importance of time management

Ever since I started working, planning and organizing has been a major part of my life. I always find it important to plan ahead and to be well-organized. When I began working for myself three years ago, this has become even more essential to keeping my sanity. I’ve seen many people around me burn out, be late for things and complain that they can’t get their work done so they work overtime, often without getting paid for it. That’s partially your own fault, is what I tell them.

Why you have to say no

Sure, I’ve had times where I was overworked. I had too much on my plate and tasks were coming in faster than I was able to finish. And I am a relatively fast worker. When I took a step back, I realized that I was the problem, not the people that kept asking me to do things. I was the one who said “yes, sure,” whenever they asked me to do something. Even though I knew I didn’t have time, I would make sure to fit it in somewhere, or to move my schedule around. I didn’t want to say no because I thought I would make people upset or I would seem like I didn’t want to help. Well. Let me tell you, that that is never the case. We underestimate how little insight other people have in our agendas. You know very well the pressure and what your schedule looks like. Other people do not. So if you keep saying “yes” to things, they will keep coming back to you. Not because they want to take advantage of you, but often because they know you will do a good job and they believe that you have time to do them, as long as you keep saying yes.

The first time I said “no”, I said it with hesitation and I think I gave a million explanations and apologies. The more I started to say no, the easier it became. I started staying on top of my calendar and if someone asked me for help, I would look at my calendar and see if I could fit it in. If not, I would look at when the next available free space was and I would say “I can get started on it in 2 weeks.” If it wasn’t fast enough for them, I’d tell them no. But usually it was OK.

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Time buffers

When it comes to keeping a calendar, time buffers are one of the most important things in my work and personal life. I used to estimate how long it would take me to work on a task and that’s the time I would plan for it. But as we all know, it usually always takes longer than you think, because problems come up. Little alterations need to be done, unforeseen circumstances will happen. Now, I always plan my tasks with a good buffer. If I think it’ll take me 10 minutes, I plan 30 minutes for it. If I think it’ll take me 2 hours, I plan 2,5 or even 3 hours for it. It is better to plan too much time than too little. You will end up rushing to get it finished and in the process make mistakes. Not only that, you will become stressed and lose joy in your work. I promise you, you rather have time left to work on other things than not have enough time to finish a job.

This also goes for my personal life. I never understand people that are always late. If Google Maps tells you it will take 30 minutes, it never takes you 30 minutes. It doesn’t take into account traffic lights, other cars, traffic jams or any other hiccups. It is better to have some time to spare than to sit in traffic stressing over whether or not you will be on time. Trust and believe.

Plan some extra time for personal appointments, commute, cleaning, your morning routine or your hobbies. It will force you to slow down and enjoy life more!

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How working from home has changed my mental health

It’s been close to three years since I started as a freelancer. I graduated university quite late; I was 28 (this is a topic for another time). During my studies of International Business I did a 7-month internship at a company specialized in measuring and improving service. I won’t say which company, it doesn’t matter. But I really enjoyed my internship. When I ended my internship in 2013, I didn’t know I would end up there again to write my Bachelor thesis. And I kind of stuck around. They hired me as a project manager. I loved the work I did, I really liked my coworkers and I was happy to have a job. I worked 40 hours a week, give or take.

Heading towards a burnout

Things changed, and like many companies that want to grow, there was a lot of reorganization. It eventually meant I had to travel an hour each way, which in reality was more like 1,5 hours, because traffic on the highway is no joke here in the Netherlands. Now my boss at the time would let us drive during work hours, but of course this wasn’t ideal, because it would mean we would have 3 hours a day less time to finish our work. Where other people had 40 hours, we had 30. Now, I do work at quite a high pace, but it meant that I could never rest. And let’s be honest, sitting in traffic for hours every week is no fun either.

After two years I noticed that my mental health was suffering from the stress. I had some health related issues and I decided that enough was enough. I’d seen many people around me burn out and I knew that if I didn’t do something, I’d be next.

The choice to become self-employed

I quit my job and I had two options: go work for another company closer to home or become self-employed. I’d always had this dream of working for myself. It never came of it because I got a job straight out of university; a job that I loved.  I did the calculations and thought about the pros and cons. I talked to my husband and I realized it’s now or never. We were in a very good financial position for me to try it out and if it didn’t work out, I could go back and find another job.

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One thing led to another and here I am, three years later, just happier than ever. I still work, I still make a good income, but here are the things that changed my life.

Recharging

As a highly sensitive person I get sensory overload. A lot. Much quicker and worse than the average person. So this means I need longer to recharge my battery for a shorter amount of time being exposed to “noise” and tension. I get to set my own work hours/days, so I immediately gave myself a three day weekend to recharge and this has made a world of difference. Fridays I get the house all by myself and I can recharge for three days over the weekend. This means that on Monday my battery is full and I happily start my workweek!

Productivity

This is actually twofold. I can’t really function very well in an environment where I’m surrounded by people who are talking. Even if they’re not talking to me. It really messes with my concentration. If I am home, I just have silence or music on and this is the way I concentrate best. So I can do my work much better. But also, I am a total morning person. My regular work hours used to 9am till 6pm. My brain always got foggy around 4pm. I would find myself staring at the clock and not be productive, whatsoever. Now, I usually start work at 7am and usually work until about 1pm or 2pm. This is when I am most productive and get most done. After that I close my laptop, forget about work and do other things that require less brainpower.

Diversity

I always loved my job, but what I love most about being self-employed is that I get to do a lot of different things. All things that I enjoy doing. I may be working on a translation, do some project coordination and write a blog in one day, and the next I will do some transcription or other types of content creation. I love every second of it because I can do more of what I enjoy.

Stress-Free days

Another amazing pro of being self-employed is that there is no more stress around when you start working. I do have set times but I don’t always stick to it and that’s okay. There’s nobody to tell me off if I start an hour later because my body needed some extra sleep that day. It also means no more sitting in traffic, which is the mother of all sensory overload! And if I do sit in traffic, I don’t stress about being late for work. If I have another appointment, I will move my work hours around so I can go to that appointment without too much hassle.

I never realized how big of an effect these little moments of stress can have on your health and happiness. So I’m extremely thankful and glad that I get to live out my dream in the best way possible!

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