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Dark Puss

There is no "trick" to time-management just the realisation that without doing it your quality of life, and those of your colleagues/friends/family/pets is diminished by your own stress and frustration.

As you know very well I have some of the same traits as you, in particular a desire for perfection and a great deal I have (work) want (not-work) to do. I'll try to get across what worked for me and what didn't in this repsonse; perhaps it will be useful.

First I congratulate you on having made the first and most critical step which is to admit there is a problem to be solved. I wasted about 25% of my first seven years as a professional physicist in procrastination. Secondly is there "a book"? I would love to be able to say that a grimoire is available from your favourite independent bookshop but there isn't. Of course there are hundreds of books on time management and I urge you to read them - there are some useful tips. The act of reading them is actually useful because again it reinforces the fact that you are admitting that there is a problem to be solved.

The really hard bit, and I'm going to guess this will be as hard for you as it was for me, is to change the way you work, the things you do and the way in which you deal with other people's calls on your time.

Give some things up; maybe you won't have to do that if you can dramatically increase your efficiency but I'm not going to bet upon it!

Do some things less than perfectly. This allows you to do more but there will be a tension which you may find difficult to cope with at first.

Manage the things that interrupt your life (people, either physically or via emails); you are going to have to ignore or dissuade here. Get out where you cannot be interupted; be selfish, in the end your increased happiness will compensate you and the people you do interact with.

Think very carefully, and discuss with people whose view you can trust and perhaps from whom you are a little detached (don't ask Bess and Mollie), about what you want to achieve and on what timescale. You now run two weblogs simultaneously posting virtually 365 days each year. I'm extremely grateful as a reader but what did you give up to do that? You have a very productive role in book reviewing, but is that running away from you? You help to run a charity which is I am sure taking up more of your time. You run a house with all the demands that places upon you. Dark Puss's avatar send you emails daily which you try to answer when a million other more important things beckon. If you take on somethng new make sure you give up something equivalent.

You can't go on like this, it nearly did for my sanity many years ago and I bet I find it easier to say no than you do.

Stop (get away for a day) and work out what is really important and give somethings up. It will hurt, you won't want to do it, the rewards are not immediate, some people will be upset but stick with it and your quality life will improve. I did it and I think I would have collapsed by now if I hadn't. I do find myself slipping back into bad ways from time to time so ensure you make some regular sanity checks.

I hope this response helps you; only you can make the tough decisions, tips and tricks from books will help at the edges but the real challenge lies within you.

Grasp that nettle now!


Wise words, I am sure, DP, and much to ponder. Thankyou!

Dark Puss

Hi again, just to give you a couple of more concrete, and non-work examples of things I gave up due to "perfectionism" issues.

At school, and university (first alma mater) I was a keen player of both chess and bridge. For me these games took up really quite a lot of time outside of matches as I read books on openings, played out games from newpapers etc. In the end I found that the effort I required to put in to satisfy my perfectionist instincts outweighed the fun I derived from playing against opponents. Did I compromise? No I stopped playing both and have never done since. I have never regretted that drastic step.


Did you hear Susan Hill on Front Row earlier in the week? She was talking about her new book and also how she has almost given up using the internet as she found it so time consuming. She used to write a blog and gave that up. (I would miss you though!)


I'm touched, Claire!
No, I didn't hear Front Row, but Susan is right about the internet being a big thief of time. I'm just making a list of all my various commitments and the blogs are at the top - I don't plan to cross them off!


Oh good! You can still hear her on i-player but, ironically, you may not have the time!


I have learned to say no recently - which has saved me loads of time but am still wrestling with the guilt over some of these "no"s" (they were volunteer jobs I had mainly).
I am strict with my online time now and only read blogs that I love (Cornflower being one of them ... please don't quit) rather than ones that are ok or I just read from habit. Ravelry is still a problem for me though ...I need to be more strict with time over there.
I have increased my working hours and strangely this has made me more productive in my non working life as I waste less hours just fluffing around like I used to.
I have learned to ask for help from the family more .. with chores, yard work, laundry, cooking etc. Don't know why I did not really do this before as it is working well and we have discovered through this that our elder son is quite the cook.
I have taken up exercise too, and I know it sounds trite, but it really does help clear my head of the whirlwind that often swirled in there. Again, despite spending an hour or so a day doing this ... it has actually freed up more time for me somehow as I am able to think more clearly and manage my time better.


Blast. Just typed a long reply and it got gobbled!
I'll email later.


There are some very interesting and helpful responses here. A long time ago, in my working life, I did one of those "Time Management" courses and I did learn some useful tips, in a working environment I found that meticulous diary keeping really helped, writing out daily goals and ticking them off (yes really, childish I know, but there is something so satisfying about achieving that tick). I have carried my diary keeping into my current life and when things overwhelm I get right back to those lists and ticks.

Carol's comment on exercise is something that helps me too, I try to do something every day, even if it's just a walk, weirdly it doesn't give me less time, quite the opposite as it seems to make me more productive.

For your amusement, check out the Flylady website, following the birth of my second child I discovered Flylady and have been an on/off subscriber ever since. It has caused frequent hilarity at dinner parties and I have converted a few of the amused too. I don't follow it rigidly but learning to deal with housework in 15 minutes bursts and to let go of perfectionism has really helped me get household demands into perspective.

Take some deep breaths Karen, you have a lot to juggle and I'll bet you are your own worst critic, remember that the things that make you happiest are crucial to keep your sanity.

Kelly Seaman

Hello again, Karen - after a long break. Lots of good advice above; I'll concur on one of my favorites: lists where each item is headed by a tiny empty box to tick when you're done (a pocket-sized moleskine with gridded paper is perfect for these) - and you can break a task into the tiniest pieces, for lots of boxes; every tick does mark real progress.

And with the writing/blogging: choose/name your audience - it can be as small as one person - real or imaginary, or even your self - and write to him or her. The need to please everyone vanishes, focus returns, and (here's the magic) your wider audience - and it is wide! - still gets its lovely doses of Cornflower. Peace-Kelly

Mary McCartney

I confess that my heart sank when I started to read this post because I thought it presaged an announcement that you were going to give up the blog. I know you weren't soliciting comments but, like others above have said, your posts are one of the highlights of my day and I am continually impressed that you maintain such a high standard of content and output.

I have no magic shortcuts to time management but I do most sincerely hope you find something that works for you.


I know that this isn't exactly what you're asking, but I don't think there is any secret to it. If you try and do less, you'll feel less stressed; can you give up the things that don't give you much pleasure? Failing that you'll fit more in if you try some/all of:
get a cleaner (even a window-cleaner if such things bother you)
buy everything you can online, but particularly groceries
take the bus or the bike rather than drive (much quicker esp. in Edinburgh despite the tram upheaval)
throw the television away entirely


Loved all these hints and pieces of advice. I've found it necessary to give up some things in order to do other things better. For example, I used to play the piano (badly) and tried to practise a little every day. This was because I'd had lessons as a child and didn't want to lose the skill. But the truth is, it was giving me no real pleasure. It was a duty. I've given the piano away now. No regrets. It's a weight off my back.

Dark Puss

Can I add a word of warning, from personal experience, about the creation of to do lists. The very process can be seductive in its own right. You can spend an hour making a list rather than an hour getting on with things. Generally I no longer use them. Very good advice from many of your commentators, remember however that it is up to you to make what will be a radical change in the way you work and live your life. All we can do is to urge you to take that step, I think there is little we can do to really assist with the journey except to say we feel better for having done it.

This is where blind trust comes into play I think.

Dark Puss

I'm going to disagree with one of your quite sensible suggestions. Buy from real local shops not online from corporate megastores. You can meet real people this way and contribute to a proper community life.


Karen, I so sympathise with your predicament and I'm not sure I have any words of wisdom to add to the wonderful suggestions you've already had.
I think taking stock every so often is a good idea, even if it only means a small tweak here and there. For me it's been about limiting internet time spent reading and commenting on other blogs which saddens me in a way, because I love the sense of community they foster and I am just so grateful to all those people who comment on mine. But I now work as an online HV for 15 hrs a week now and it was just far too much screen time, something had to give.
Walking after I've finished a book has added a new dimension because it gives me time to straighten out my thoughts about so much, not just the book, and suddenly life feels richer for giving myself that time.
I do agree about saying 'no' too, but hopefully not to our new little joint blog venture:-)


I listened over lunch today - must get her book!!


The joint venture is safe, Lynne!


Ditto to almost all that has been written - but, agree with Dark Puss that list-making does takes time, especially if it gets too involved (but, making a note here or there about something you don't want to miss is helpful). I worried about the time involvement when the separate blog was begun and wonder if the original one could still cover everything. (Time-wise) I had to stop reading along with the book blog though I still check in on your posts there.


I love making lists, it doesn't take long and the joy of crossing things off is not to be missed.
I find meditation hard, but when I actually discipline myself to do, perhaps 15 minutes, I find myself refreshed and clearer. Each to his /her own I know.
Thank heavens you don't plan to desert us all, that would be a major blow.


Although my writing should come first, I took up bridge a few years ago, played with friends and at a couple of bridge clubs, so that it was getting to be more than one day a week - also, once it gets known that you are a bridge player, people start asking you to 'fill in' with their groups and it all gets harder and harder. And I used to do as Dark Puss did, read the bridge columns in the papers; PLUS I began to play on the internet. Then I realised what I was doing, and I've stopped. I have to say, I am glad to be out of it! The extra time is wonderful, for writing, reading, gardening, walking and meeting with friends who don't play bridge! (I might go back to it when I have finished my book, but never to that extent again!)
By the way, I like your joint venture with Lynne!


I should have a lot to say about this topic as it may have contributed to my collapsing in a heap one day.In fact I do have a great deal to say as I have been trying to get up from that heap for the past 17 months (heck!).....6 months still to go apparently ......and I am known for having made a "fantastic recovery so far" ! ! ! So if things go wrong it takes an awfully long time to get things right again. The one thing I would say is this: Listen to yourself first. What are you saying to yourself? Pay attention to what you are thinking. Love from Rhys xx

Angela Young

I agree with so much of what has already been said: the chief things that help me are

* Meditation (five minutes a day, just watching your breath, nothing fancy. Five rounds of ten breaths makes about five minutes. Every time you find yourself thinking about something else just bring you mind gently back to your breath.)


* Saying No

I say, 'Sorry, no, I'm writing,' but just plain 'I'm sorry I can't; I would have loved to,' works if you say it with conviction. People always sense when you don't really mean it and then you (I) give in to the smallest pressure. And you have to say it to yourself too. It feels hard and unkind but it isn't ... it is essential for our own sanity.

Good luck.

Alice C

I think that part of the pressure comes from the perception that other people are doing everything that you are doing ...and MORE! It is the MORE that one aspires to and which creates a sense of failure and scrambling to catch up. If you accept that they create time to do those things that you aspire to by NOT doing things that you think are important you can prioritise your own time.

This is demonstrated in your comments above: for some people shopping online creates time - for others shopping locally is crtical to wellbeing.

The important lesson is to make choices and feel in control. I am with PoshYarns - I love making lists - but I have discovered that making a list of things done rather than not done is more motivating.


I found your lovely blog through a link from another blogger and I have to say, I have read this post with great interest.

All your contributors have given very wise words indeed. From a 60 year old standpoint, I would add, find what you love. I juggled children and home and a career for many years, whilst trying to keep tabs on the person inside me struggling to get out. Something inevitably had to give and it was me.

When I took stock of my life, I realised a great saying was really true, that you can do anything but you can't do it all. So find what you truly, truly love (and deep down you will know what that is) and however tempting everything else is, let it go.

You will find great satisfaction in focusing on the thing you really want to do and do it much better because your heart is in it.

You can't manage time; time just is. You can, however, manage how you choose to spend your time, which is just what your other contributors have said.

B MacLeod

Do today's work today; it keeps things from getting on top of you!


I finally had to declare a moratorium on volunteer work. I'd been doing it (in various ways) for 30 years. I convinced myself that I had done my bit and now it was time to let others take up the slack. I've been able to stick to this for the last 5 years.

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Please note

  • Sidebar book cover thumbnail pictures are affiliate links to Amazon, and the storefront links to Blackwell's and The Book Depository are also affiliated; should you purchase a book directly through those links, I will receive a small commission. Older posts may also contain affiliate links to one of those bookshops. I am not paid to produce content and all opinions are my own.


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