Lunchtime Poll

Lunchtime Poll: Time Management

I may have over-committed myself recently.

I’m getting married in 5 months, I’m working full time and just had all of my job responsibilities increased and reorganized, I am mother to one dog and primary keeper of the house, I took on a pro bono copywriting job last weekend, am editing a friend’s full-length playscript (which he’s been working on for the entire decade I’ve known him), and it only occurred to me 12 hours ago that I was writing the Lunchtime Poll for today.

Hi, guys, I’m Meghan, and I’m addicted to responsibility.

Anyway, this got me thinking that while, most of the time, I’m actually quite good at time management, the times when my time management gets out of hand tend to be really bad. So my question for you is not “what are your best time management tips?” but rather, “How do you fix it when you fuck up your time management?”

By Meghan Young Krogh

Meghan had a number of quality writing mentors over the course of her education, which just goes to show that you can't blame the teacher for the way the student turns out. Team Oxford Comma represent.

22 replies on “Lunchtime Poll: Time Management”

I’m in the same spot right right now! Getting married in 4 months, 3 weeks; I have a major rewrite due at the end of the week; there’s only 6 more weeks left in the semester so that means a lit review, an annotated bibliography, and another article for publication are on my heels; I have an almost insane amount of projects in the air at work/my lab and only last week realized that I was missing nearly 100 samples that I accidentally left at another lab which I now have to finish working up before adding them to my previous results and rerunning the entire analysis; and that analysis right there, yeah, it’s on work that I’m fairly new to (microsatellite genetic structures!) and everyone tells me that my initial results were amazing- but it’s still so new to me that I DON’T KNOW WHAT IT MEANS! Plus I’m the main home-will-not-fall-apart-on-my-watch person, it’s time to put in the garden so we can continue eating cheaply this summer, there’s a baby gift for my neighbor that is still unfinished even though the kid is going on 10 weeks old, I work another 20-ish hour/wk job on the weekends so I can pay bills, and I have (luckily) managed to remember to feed the goldfish often enough that it is not dead yet (although I can tell it’s glaring at me sometimes…). Oh, and my parents are coming to visit over Easter weekend.

I have nearly constant, multitudinous, sundry lists of things that need to get done, so that’s more of a necessity than a solution.
My usual cycle of overload goes roughly in order: sacrifice cleaning time (I’m pretty sure there is nothing in my bureau or closet right now, it’s all on the floor between the bed and the door), sacrifice food prep time (cereal for ALL THE MEALS), sacrifice conversation with Fiance (“uh-huh…”), realize that even with doing nothing else but work I will never get everything done as well as I want it to be (fuck you, perfectionism), cry and rant about it for a little (check: last night), make a list of things that Fiance has to do now if he wants to ever see me outside of my office again (groceries, laundry, make the goldfish stop glaring at me), then take a day off of work to do everything that actually *NEEDS* to get done NOW-est (usually a combination of house things and school things so I can see some tangible change) all the while cooking maddening amounts of everything so I have lunches for many days.

Note: I will never sacrifice large amounts of sleep, nor sexy times. I’m pretty sure I could compromise everything else around me but still survive as long as I have sleep and sexy times.

If I have fucked something up because I’ve taken on too much, I try and apologise as soon as possible. People are generally forgiving if they know what’s gone wrong as soon as possible and you tell them what you are going to do to fix it.

I hear ya at the moment Meghan. I work, currently have 2 hands on volunteer roles, possibly about to pick up a governance role with another community organisation and I’m about to start roller derby. I think somewhere in there I agreed to baby sit some very cute ginger children as well… Hmmm this could be interesting.

I make a list with things accomplished and things yet to be done (it helps if I have a few things already crossed off so I can see my work is going somewhere), and I make sure the list also includes little steps that need to be done first for big projects to be completed. When my list is done, I start crossing off little things or I focus on the most important thing and work flat-out until I can finish it. Sometimes I also rearrange my deadlines as necessary if there’s no way I can get it all done at once. Dropping something all together is my last resort but I’ll do it if I have to.

Since I’m not a very organized person who tends to just wing her way through life, fucking up my time management becomes the time when I have a meltdown, then I square my shoulders and apply logic and start delegating tasks. A lot of times, I get stressed about the house falling into disrepair while I’m off saving the world, so I ask Mr. Dormouse to pitch in more–he’s always willing–and set him off on doing dishes or cleaning the litter box do those things are still being taken care of and not buzzing around my brain. And lists. Lists are awesome.r

I cut and edit and sometimes go without sleep.

I’ll reduce my workload to the essentials, the requirements, the required pages. Sometimes I dream big but budget less so things have to get cut. If I still am pressed – I sacrifice the time needed to make meals, sleep, clean, do basic life chores. This is only in cases where a deadline is near. I do not like fast food and only eat it when there is no time to get other, better nutrients and calories in my body.

I have managed to survive three days on a total of 6 hours of sleep during Finals Week so I keep that in mind as well. I can always recoup that time later. (like last week when I was up for 23 hours, slept for 6, went to work for 6 hours and then came home and found myself sleeping for 12 hours – my body makes time when necessary)

And then there are days where I let my obsessive thinking take over (I try to keep it corralled normally) and I just FOCUS on one thing and only that thing. Everything revolved around that one thing. Like right now, every other thought is a certification exam I take on April 17th that I am not prepared for. Seriously, every other thought. I decided yesterday to let myself do this. Hopefully I don’t crash and burn. We’ll see. On April 18th.

When I’ve messed up time management, I sort of pretend someone else has messed up all the jobs and I’m the competent person who’s come in to put everything to rights.

I’m sure that’s not crazy at all.

Just today I tried out the pomodoro technique, where you set a timer for 25 minutes and concentrate on doing just one task or job for that time, etc. (There’s a website about it if you’re curious…) I think it works pretty well and I’m going to continue it this afternoon (on my lunch break now!)

Oh my gosh, that’s what I do! It actually scares me how often it works. I don’t know if most people are just willing to give you a pass, or if people are really paying so little attention that it’s easy to pretend you aren’t to blame for things you’ve totally let slide. Sometimes I think it’s bad and sometimes I’m really glad that life can work out this way because for the last five years I’ve been working two jobs, one unpaid, in order to get relevant experience in my field and I’m usually exhausted and feel like I should get a couple of lucky breaks once in awhile. (I’m a bad person, I think. Or have developed an awful sense of entitlement. Eek.)

Hahaha, I meant that I pretend that in my head. …But I don’t see any problem with behaving that way to others, like, “well, my goodness, this is a mess,” since you’re not blaming anyone else for it!

I think the main thing is, wallowing in feelings of terribleness about not getting something done just impedes you from getting it done. And sometimes when you make a huuge deal about being a little late, it’s just more annoying, because now you’re giving someone else the job of reassuring you that it’s OK. If that makes sense :)

Usually, I try to figure out what I need to prioritize. Then, I work like hell to get those done, but the other things, I see if I can get some sort of “extension” on them.

And if I can’t…then I don’t get a lot of rest or sleep for a little bit.

But once the promised things are done, I make sure to cut back my schedule a little bit.

“How do you fix it when you fuck up your time management?”

Oh, I think it says something that I read this and my gut reaction was: call my Mum. Whenever I fuck up something, I’m prone to calling my mother and seeing if there are any pearls of wisdom she had, per chance, not already passed on.

Depends what wsa needing done. Sometimes I’m able to fix things by doing my best to be a Grown Up, and do things like make calls or send emails and say I simply can’t do XYZ. Otherwise, I prioritise as quickly as I can. If I fuck up my time management, there’s usually something that can wait. If it’s the evening and I realise there are things needing done the next day, I tend to say, “It can wait ’til morning.” I’ll be quicker getting everything done if I get a good nights sleep, rather than if I try and do some things that evening.



I am at my best, time management-wise, when I have waaaay too much to do. I’ll wing it until things get into crisis mode, at which point I make a list and a schedule, with time limits for how long I have to finish something and lunch breaks penciled in. It is the most organized I ever get.

I have to physically write down a To-Do list with a pen and paper, give myself a time frame to finish the things I need to do (usually a short time frame so that I’m not tempted to waste time), and bust my butt to finish those things within that time. If I manage to mess that up as well, I usually get overwhelmed in my brain so I cut everything that can be finished later, and I work on one project at full speed at a time. That way at the end of the day, I can still say  “Well, at least I got fill in the blank done for the day.”

Sleep, wake up, start over again.

Run for the hills and pretend that there is no such thing as responsibility.

No, my real answer is much more boring. I make a new list with biggest priorities, deadlines and pick up where I jumped off. Everything else can wait/is told to wait/people I’m sharing the responsibility with are updated that things changed a bit.

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