How to Balance a Busy Schedule

[488 words | 3 minute read]

Treading Water

I feel like a performer on 1950s television: constantly spinning plates to keep them balanced on spears. My life has often been hectic—even when I’m overloaded, I still constantly seek new opportunities to “be productive.” This has manifested itself over the years in freelance writing, fill-in TV news reading, and even a stint as a copywriter for adult dating websites. I’ve always needed something to do.

Working in broadcasting means I have weird hours, especially now that I’m employed as a swing announcer. That means I fill in whenever someone takes vacation or leaves the station. Right now, I’m filling in for middays and afternoon drive—eight hours, five days a week. Plus six hours Saturday and Sunday.

On top of that, I’m also the Senior Editor at a magazine. I’m responsible for interviewing subjects, writing features, and editing copy.

Oh, and I write here, too.

Plus, I have a wife, family, and friends. And I’m constantly trying to network.

It can be overwhelming.

plate spinning
It can be a lot to handle.

Being Accountable To Yourself

A month ago, I began keeping track of where I chose to spend my time. The reality is I can do anything I want, I just need to budget for it in my calendar. Although this is not indicative of an average week, here’s what my current Monday-Friday looks like:

4:30am wake, coffee, writing (magazine)

7:00am gym

8:00am shower, breakfast

8:30am prepping radio show

10:00am on-air

6:30pm dinner, writing (personal)

8:00pm wife time

9:30pm bed

Assortment of organization tools: laptop, calendar, clock, phone.
Find a system that works for you.

The Cold Truth

There’s a lot going on, but mostly everything is accounted for. “Wife time” may seem oddly clinical, but the reality is we’re both busy people and need to align our schedules. In the past, we’ve sacrificed time together for the sake of our careers and not only was it fruitless (we were both miserable and I was fired), it also defeated the purpose of working so hard: to have more time and resources for each other. We also go to the gym together every day, which is a huge part of our routine: it gives us more time together and keeps us accountable with our health and fitness.

Creating boundaries was also a huge part of scheduling my time. Although there are some exceptions, I aim for as little overlap as possible. It allows me to focus on one project at a time and give my full attention to it. Trying to manage five tasks at once—with constant email, Facebook, and WhatsApp notifications—is counterproductive and will usually result in sloppier work. You’ll also waste a lot more time switching back and forth between projects.

woman working on laptop
Focus on one thing at a time.

Being Adaptable

I still haven’t fine-tuned everything—my schedule is bound to change from week to week—but I’m much happier knowing that I have deliberately budgeted my time. I can also get a lot more work done, because I’m not being distracted by ongoing, unfinished projects. This is only a starting point and I’m excited to push time management to its full potential.

How to Balance a Busy Schedule

People On The Internet Hate Me

everyone’s got an opinion

Somebody wrote something mean about me on the Internet. And it hurt a little bit. I felt small and insecure and suddenly jumped to conclusions: nobody likes me; I’m bad at my craft; and I’m probably getting fired.

The reality is, this individual doesn’t know me. Even if he or she does, why bother giving credence to an opinion which belongs to someone who clearly doesn’t respect me? If it was truly something constructive, the individual would have contacted me privately by phone, email, or social media. Instead, the comment was made publicly on an industry message board.

Man at computer, holding coffee by candle in restaurant.
It was probably this guy.

Taking some responsibility

To be honest, it’s partially my fault—I went looking for it. My career is in a period of transition and I’m taking on new responsibilities in my job. My brand of radio is being exposed to a new audience that may or may not like what I have to say or how I say it. And as an autonomous human being, that is his or her right. I have opinions, too—we all do. It comes down to a matter of how we express them.

In broadcasting we have the term “beige” and most personalities avoid it like the plague. Positive feedback is best and negative is a close second. Beige means indifference. Beige means nobody cares. So in that sense, I should be elated: at least somebody’s talking about me.

bad news travels fast

The problem, however, is that negative feedback travels far faster than its opposite. And if that seed is planted early in the minds of my superiors—the people who can have a lasting impact, good or bad, on my career—I’m suddenly swimming upstream.

There’s also the issue of letting it impact my performance. Even though a bad review is better than no review, it can be difficult to take it for what it is and simply move on. You may find yourself second-guessing decisions based on a single person’s bad mood. It can have a domino effect and leave you emotionally and mentally out of commission for a while. You become obsessed with what this individual might think of nearly everything you do.

Woman at desk, stressed, looking at phone.
Don’t let negative opinions adversely affect decision-making; this can lead to a domino effect.

seek validation from within

Instead, become obsessed with what you think. Let good and bad feedback represent maybe 20% of your decision-making when it comes to performing your tasks. Sometimes, my boss will text me “good job” after a show—it’s awesome to hear that! But if I start to rely on that as validation, as opposed to how I feel I’ve performed, I won’t be able to accurately judge in the future how I’m doing. I’ll be hooked on external input.

Let the judgements of others add some seasoning to your decisions, but realize that your opinion of yourself is the ribeye in the grand scheme of things. There is something to be learned from peoples’ opinions, but take mean comments on the Internet for what they are: mean comments on the Internet.

Man in blue shirt and sweater smiling.
Want better feedback? Ask YOURSELF how you’re doing.
People On The Internet Hate Me

Stop Feeling Nervous at Networking Events

Tell me if you’ve been here before: there’s a terrific networking opportunity and you’re scared witless of attending. After all, you don’t know anybody there. And if it’s a collection of your industry peers, they’re all smarter and more successful than you. Funnier, too. Why bother going—what could you possibly add? You’ll end up standing alone, nursing an overpriced beer all night.

Guess what? Nearly everyone else there is thinking the same thing. Industry power players—men and women who have dominated in their careers—are just as nervous as those down the food chain. They may know more attendees than you do, but they may also fear replacement by younger, hungrier professionals. People in the same room, cozying up, just to overtake.

Don’t believe me? If you’re at the intermediate level in your field, you’ve probably felt the same way about beginners. I certainly have. I’m five years into my professional career and have huge respect for a lot of people with half my experience. I’m also worried a few are campaigning for my job. So I can empathize with people who have twice my experience—some of them are probably thinking the same thing about me.

crowd at bar enjoying drinks
A large group of your peers can seem intimidating.

You’re not alone

We like to think we’re alone in our insecurities, but the reality is it’s one of the things that connects us. Think back to an event you’ve previously attended. If you’re honest with yourself, you probably saw some people just like you: standing alone, looking lost, and trying not to seem nervous despite being overwhelmingly so. It’s likely you didn’t approach any of these people because, even though you were in the exact same position, you didn’t think you were worth their time. The entire evening, you prayed for someone to approach you and strike up conversation. Yet, you weren’t willing to do the same thing for anyone else.

This is something I’ve always struggled with. As a broadcaster, I’m able to maintain a conversation with just about anyone. I’m an engaging speaker and a genuine listener. But incorporating myself within a group makes me incredibly nervous. I’m afraid I’ll say something stupid or make a fool of myself. And I may. But I may also make lasting personal or professional relationships.

antisocial couple texting
Strike up a conversation with someone–you’ll both be glad you did.

positive reinforcement

Here’s a perfect example. During Canadian Music Week, the radio industry descends upon Toronto and the bulk of the events are within a twenty minute walk from my apartment. Every year, there’s a giant party with nearly all attending radio professionals. It would be incredible for my career to meet some executives and fellow announcers—people who can help me improve my craft and provide future opportunities. But I’m petrified of going; I have a positive feedback loop telling me the following:

  1. Some people think you suck, and it’ll be embarrassing when you meet;
  2. Other attendees will think you’re a self-serving ladder-climber; and
  3. What could partygoers possibly gain from you?

Read “Managing Toxic Relationships

These points are constantly running through my head and I’m subconsciously—and purposefully—looking for any excuse not to attend: I have to get up early for work the next day or my apartment is a mess and I really need to clean up. Those are poor excuses given the importance of this event. And the positive feedback loop is just as foolish—the above can be reframed to be as follows:

  1. If some people—who have never met me, by the way—have negative opinions of me, here’s my chance to correct the story;
  2. The purpose of a networking event is to network: everyone in attendance wants to improve his or her future; and
  3. I have a number of unique experiences—like working for a radio station in Dubai—that people will find interesting.
people sitting at a networking event
Have a goal and then execute it–make the event work for you.

expect more of yourself

Whatever your apprehension is about being in a large group of people, remember this: they want to be accepted and engaged just like you do. If they didn’t, they would be at home. It’s the same with you—you’re there because you have a goal to achieve. Maybe it’s chatting with perspective employers, meeting industry peers with whom you have online relationships, or getting a better understanding of your field and where within you fit. Know that you’ll get from the experience whatever you’re willing to take. So make it something positive.

Stop Feeling Nervous at Networking Events

Being Honest with Yourself

[706 words | 3 minute read]

You can lie to other people but you should never to yourself. That’s not to say you can’t—most of us do everyday. And by denying you’re guilty of this, you’re lying to yourself right now. Personal honesty is the only way to move forward and fulfill your potential.

What are the lies we tell ourselves? Let’s take a look at a few of the popular ones:

There’s no way I can do that.

Imagine you’re at the gym. It’s leg day. You’re in the middle of an six-rep set of barbell squats. The pain in your ass and thighs is incredible—but are you manufacturing some of it, mentally? The reality is, you could likely finish the set and even tack on a few extra reps. But because by nature we chase comfort, we seek—sometimes unconsciously—any excuse to eliminate discomfort. Even if we deliberately put ourselves in a given situation in the first place. You won’t be able to finish the set because you’ve already made up your mind about it.

I can’t do anything right.

Really? Anything? So you can’t calculate Pi to the sixteenth digit on your first try, but maybe you’re a fabulous writer. You were probably pretty lousy at the latter when you started, too. But you persevered. You stuck with it. And at some point, you got a better. It’s the same with everything else. When I first met my wife, she barely cooked and when she did it was awful. The woman could burn a glass of water. But eventually, after fighting through the frustration, she got better. It was through realizing the same principles of effort and perseverance applied to proficiency at cooking as they did to the rest of her acquired skillset.

Couple surfing
Maybe you’re not great at something. Yet.

Finally, here’s my favourite:

I don’t have enough time.

You’ve probably read the oft-reposted quote that you have as many hours in the day as Beyonce. I think you can even buy it on a T-shirt. And while it’s true no human has more hours in a given day than any other, that’s a poor example. Beyonce is a near-billionaire with a staff that would rival most medium-sized cities. She’s able to accomplish much more than the average person, because she has offloaded most or all of the daily tasks—including the offloading of daily tasks—with which many of us are saddled. She has also experienced exponentially greater success because of decades of hard work. You could get there, too. But you’ll need to put in the same twenty years she did.

See, it’s easy to become despondent. You may work eight hours a day and spend another two hours commuting. Maybe you have kids or take care of your parents. You feel exhausted all the time. And yet you still find time to waste. Don’t believe me? According to a Nielsen report, the average North American spends nearly eleven hours on screen time. Out of 168 hours in a week, over fifty are spent on mobile devices. You have more than enough time to spend chasing your dreams or simply finishing a half-read novel. Instead, you’re choosing to spend it scrolling through social media. One use of your time is not necessarily objectively better than another—it’s up to you to define your priorities.

Woman scrolling on iPad.
You already have the time you want. You’re just spending it on something else.

Lying to yourself puts you at a disadvantage, because you intentionally blind yourself to reality. This isn’t a directive to self-abuse and nitpick every single one of your faults, but rather to realize that your capacity for achievement is far greater than most are willing to admit. Why? Because by accepting the reality of vast potential, you’re also accepting the possibility of wasted potential.

In each of the above examples, there is a desire to avoid trying or to quickly give up. Both are deeply rooted in a fear of failure. By first admitting you fear failure and doing everything in your power to succeed—every time you want or need to attempt something—you can feel confident knowing, whatever the outcome, you were honest with yourself. And if you do fail, know that eventually you won’t.

 

Being Honest with Yourself