The day has only just begun and you’re already wishing it would end. Home, work, friends – the list of backlogged to-dos effectively grows longer. There’s not even a chance to meet your own needs. You can’t keep up, you can’t make it… You know the feeling?
Let me share my idea fix. The goal of my every day is to complete the set tasks as quickly and efficiently as possible. I do this so that I can focus on what is most important to me – spending time with my family, passions and interests. Feeling empowered and in control of one’s own time is actually a very accessible and enjoyable skill. So this will not be a text about glorifying work, but a set of principles to help you find meaning in consciously planning your time, closely linked to time-saving. Because, after all, that’s what we’re most concerned about, isn’t it? The home and work spheres are strongly linked, so a system to serve us is worth implementing in both areas. Get to work!
The less stuff you have, the better organised you are
“I never regretted not packing some clothes in my suitcase. I usually felt like I had taken too many again.” I don’t know a person who couldn’t subscribe to this quote. The key is to realise that we have too much of everything – in the wardrobe, in the kitchen, in the garage, on the desk. Everywhere.
Let’s start with the wardrobe. The ‘uniform’ rule is often applied by people in very senior positions. They fill their wardrobe with several or a dozen of the same sets of clothes. Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc. dressed the same way for almost 20 years – a black turtleneck by Japanese designer Issey Miyake, levis model 501 and New Balance shoes. The same principle was followed by Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, who wore one of his many grey shirts every day. Women only seemingly have a more complicated situation. Matilda Kahl, creative director of New York-based Saatchi & Saatchi, had fifteen of the same outfits in her wardrobe, consisting of black trousers and a white shirt with a black ribbon. She completed her look with make-up – expressive lip, eye or nail colour, and hairstyle – loose hair, bun or ponytail. Jewellery and shoes completed the look. But you don’t need such a restrictive method to get more time. Capsule fashion, which is already popular worldwide, is a well-thought-out and effective strategy. For every three months, as many as/only 33 items of clothing are selected. This does not include jewellery, underwear, pyjamas, accessories, exercise items or outerwear (the remaining clothes and accessories are put in a box and locked away for the entire quarter). What we are left with, i.e. a precise selection of 33 wardrobe items, allows us to create around 50 outfits, and unique ones at that. This principle allows for variety and, at the same time, the construction of consistency in the individual dress code.
Those using capsule fashion or the “uniform” principle unanimously claim that their lives have become much easier. This change also led them to know their own style, which was reflected in thoughtful and frugal shopping. The ensembles they came up with were thus precisely chosen and comfortable, plus they were strongly image-enhancing, which had a direct impact on their self-esteem. However, the decisive argument was time-saving. Every morning, it was possible to move smoothly on to more important matters, as the kits used effectively relieved dilemmas such as what to wear today.
Putting space in order is about regaining control
Space and the objects around us are, despite appearances, very engaging. If only at the level of cleaning. Japanese author Marie Kondo’s revolutionary book The Magic of Tidying up has little to do with cleaning in the full sense of the word. It is about a system of sorting that applies to, among other things, clothes, books, cosmetics, accessories or documents, and which transfers seamlessly into other spheres of life. The Kondo system can be boiled down to three principles. The first is to organise and segregate by category, not by room or season. The idea is that each item should have a permanent and logical place in the home. That is, for example, shoes, both winter and summer, should be stored in one place, arranged by size and colour. Once this principle is in place, tidying the home (not to be confused with cleaning) is essentially about putting items back in their place. To save space, Kondo urges people to stack things vertically – she has even created a proprietary folding system for this purpose. That’s the second of her rules – always stack vertically, even if it involves a carrot in the fridge or a laptop on a shelf. And most importantly, the third rule – when tidying up your space, leave only the things that make you happy. And don’t confuse joy with feelings of sentiment or attachment. It’s only about things you genuinely like and enjoy having contact with. And it is impossible to like too many things. We usually find that we are unable to part with things that were expensive or glamorous. So this is the moment when we have to answer the questions: what do I really need? What makes me happy? What should engage me?
A week that has more hours!
If one were to break down all the days of the week into hours and assign corresponding activities to them, one might come to an interesting conclusion. If we assume that it takes us 8 hours a day to sleep, 2 hours to eat, 2 hours for leisure or sport, plus 8 hours for work, commuting to work, shopping and care (an hour each), we are left with 5 hours of free time in the week. If we estimate the weekend hours in a similar way – assuming that we sleep and eat longer then, as well as meet up with friends, do more shopping or clean up – we get 6 more hours to use. If we add up all the free hours of the week, it becomes 11. This simple equation makes us realise how much time we actually have and how, by not setting a framework for certain activities, chaos creeps into our lives. However, the idea is not to start living like a machine, but to set a certain schedule in accordance with one’s nature or biological clock.
Calendar and planning
One of the key rules in keeping a calendar is to plan it equivalently. According to the golden rule 60:40, only 60 per cent of the day, week and month should be planned. It is better to reserve the remaining time for unexpected situations such as illness, unplanned meetings or spontaneous decisions. This will allow you to make a realistic assessment of your time resources and, if you have to modify your daily plan, avoid frustration, which can be demotivating. The proportions are also important. When planning time, it is very important to have an appropriate and balanced distribution of accents. Each area: work – relationships – self, should find its (preferably permanent) place in the calendar. If we are career-focused, this should be the main emphasis, completing the calendar. If relationships are the priority, arrange it according to the rhythm of our meetings with family and friends. The biggest difficulty is usually finding time for oneself. Therefore, start the planning process by setting aside time for your own passions and needs, and only adjust other commitments in relation to these. The safest and easiest time to manage is Friday afternoon.
The Marie Kondo principle also applies during the work planning process. To begin with, make a factual analysis of the previous month/week and exclude tasks that were not efficient or satisfying. The next step is to assign a category to each task and to mark its value and priority. On this basis, a task list is created. But in order to get on with it, we need to develop a consistent and individual rhythm for our work. Creating such a rhythm is like composing a set of clothes for the chosen season. So it is worthwhile to organise our knowledge of ourselves and become aware, for example, of what time of day we like to or can hold meetings, and which time of day is not good for them. And also establish what pattern we like and want to work to. As an example, I will say that as a freelancer I work in series: if I’m editing – in batches, for different clients and different forms. If I’m on the phone: making appointments, contacting colleagues, making medical appointments, making bookings. I work with a list and usually start with small tasks to move on to more complex ones.
Working out my own efficient work system gives a lot of satisfaction and a sense of fulfilment. And just as the rules introduced in the domestic sphere permeate into the professional sphere, getting to know ourselves and our habits in the work sphere influences how we are on a day-to-day basis, including in private. In essence, the most important thing is to be able to focus on what is important.
Author: Bożena Kowalkowska
Graduate of Polish philology at the University of Warsaw. She was the editorial secretary in the magazines: “A4”, “Vice” and “Kikimora”. Journalist for the magazine “Zwykłe Życie”. Founder of the editorial and graphic studio txt publishing, which carries out numerous cultural projects throughout the country. Co-publisher of the annual magazine on Polish printed forms “Print Control”. On a daily basis she is a leading editor at www.ladnebebe.pl. She has been involved in work organisation for many years and conducts workshops on time management.