As a college student, you’ve likely learned the importance of this skill. How else can you manage to juggle a work schedule, family/social obligations, school activities, and all of your classes and homework assignments?
You might think that time management will become less of an issue when you’ve graduated and have started working full time. During my senior year of college, and then again in graduate school, that thought crossed my mind often. I thought that if I could only manage it all until I finished graduate school, then I would only have my job to worry about and things would get much calmer.
I’m here to tell you that I was wrong.
You see, I work three jobs. One is a full time job, and the other two are part time jobs. And I’m not the only one. It’s quite common for professionals, particularly millennials, to work one or two other jobs (or, in millennial speak, side hustles) in addition to their primary work.
I don’t work my side hustles for money (although that is nice too). Instead, I work them to build my professional reputation. It allows me to hone skills that I don’t have the chance to build in my full time work, expands my network, and gives me a sense of accomplishment.
In order to work all of these jobs and manage all of the responsibilities and deadlines, time management is extremely important. Here are some things that I’ve found are necessary to making this work:
Get a planner.
Seriously, buy one. Or download a scheduling/calendar app on your phone that you know you’ll utilize. For me, I found that an old fashioned, written on paper planner works best. Something else might work best for you. But without keeping track of a schedule, it’s really easy to accidentally double book yourself – or find that you’ve planned a really fun weekend when you had a big project to complete.
I not only put my work schedules in my planner, but social and family obligations too. If Sporting Kansas City has a game, it’s written in my planner (we have season tickets). If the class that I’m teaching has a major assignment due, it’s in my calendar, along with a specific time block that I’ve set aside to grade those assignments.
Of course, this goes along with buying a planner. But buying a planner (or using some other scheduling tool) is useless if you don’t plan accordingly.
Earlier this year, I had to attend a conference for my full time job over the same weekend that final grades were due in a course that I teach. Because I didn’t control the dates of the conference, and was required to attend for my full time employer, I was forced to find a way to make this difficult situation work. Knowing this well in advance allowed me to plan ahead. I checked the conference schedule, and blocked out a portion of time that would be free to complete those grades. While that meant skipping drinks with my colleagues after the last session of the day, it had to get done. And yes, I wrote it all down in my planner.
Again, this strategy is in close alignment with scheduling and planning. But it’s absolutely key when juggling multiple responsibilities. Because I work a full time job, that is always my first priority. Between 8:00am-5:00pm during the week, my focus is on the work that I’m being paid to do during those hours.
Because teaching a course requires frequently checking of email and several hours of grading each week, I schedule times in which those tasks are the priority. For example, I get into my office at 7:15am each morning. For 45 minutes, I respond to student emails, participate in discussions, and complete any other miscellaneous tasks before I begin my work day. During this time, my role as adjunct instructor is my priority. I also set aside one hour in the evenings and a block of time on Sunday afternoons for teaching related tasks. During these blocks, I go into my home office and shut the door. Or I go to a local coffee shop and put in headphones. I remove the distractions and find that I can get work done much more quickly when I engage in this kind of focused work.
Sometimes, my full time work requires extra hours to complete big projects, or during a particularly busy time of the year. When this happens, I cut back on my side hustles. I might not teach a class that term or I might find someone to cover a few shifts for me at my Saturday morning job. When I am unable to make those side hustles a priority, I plan accordingly.
Engage in Deep Work
You might think that I spend all of my free time working on my side hustles. Nope. I still have surprising amount of free time for someone that works multiple jobs (more on that in my last strategy).
Well, it’s quite amazing what you can get done in a short amount of time if you’re willing to engage in dedicated and focused work. In his book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, Cal Newport discussed this concept at great length.
There’s a reason that I come to work at 7:15am to complete work for a different job. It’s quiet – no one is around before 8:00am. I can drink my coffee and fully concentrate. Not only is it quiet, but because I’m in a work environment, I can really focus. And I don’t dare open up an internet browser (except to enter the online classroom), lest I become distracted by social media. And I don’t open my email inbox – that occurs at 8:00am when it’s time to begin my work day.
You’d be surprised at how much work can get done in 45 minutes if you’re willing to focus solely on the tasks at hand.
Think you aren’t spending much time on mindless activities? Try downloading an app like Instant or Moment, which will track your smart phone use and provide you with hard data about how you’re spending your time.
Despite working three jobs, I’ve found that I am less productive when I’m constantly engaged in work. To really be effective, I need to disengage to refocus and recharge. That means taking time for myself.
On an evening that I’m at home, if I haven’t already done so, I stop working by 8:00pm. If I have an event to attend that evening, like a family gathering or a sporting event, I don’t work at all. I will attend to anything that comes up in the morning, when I get into my office at 7:15am.
I got to my weekly yoga class. I run marathons (and put in the training that requires). I spend time with my friends and family. Taking time for these things are important to me, and help to keep me energized and engaged in order to avoid burnout. It is possible to remain accessible while still setting boundaries. We weren’t meant to be working constantly.
I’ll admit that it took some time to discover and establish a routine that worked well for me. It might take some time for you to figure it out too. And that’s okay. If you schedule well, plan ahead, engaged in focused work free from distraction, you can work those side hustles (or juggle college courses and working) and have a life too.