Time Management When There’s No Pressure

I’m in sort of an odd situation at the moment. I’m working, to be sure, for which I’m grateful, but there is not a lot of pressure because most of my deadlines have been moved forward by a month or more. Welcome to life in the world of crisis. Rather than stress myself out about going too fast or too slow, I’m trying to maintain a reasonable level of productivity. This post discusses how you might do the same.

What’s Normal?

Everyone’s version of “normal” is a bit different. When I was operating under constant deadline pressure, I would work on specific tasks (document, course, etc.) until they were completed and then slack off until the next item(s) came in the door. This often resulted in random “weekends” or days off when I least expected them. (Did I mention how I love grocery shopping on a Tuesday morning?)

For reasons that elude me (but about which I will not complain because work means a paycheck), I’ve not had much slack time at all between assignments. As a result, I’ve taken the unusual step of taking regular weekends (Saturday/Sunday) off to give myself some free time. Otherwise, I would have spent most of March and April working task after task without a day off. And while some freelancers will say that’s the nature of the business, my experience has been different. I like and appreciate time off.

The current crisis, as I said, has extended my deadlines to the point where work is not due within a week, but more like a month. Taking Parkinson’s Law* into account, I’m stretching out my work schedule and giving myself time to work a little every weekday while still allowing for weekends off. The advantage of having a little work to do five days a week is that it gives me a reason to get up in the morning and be productive. Time off, of course, allows me to relax and recharge.

(*”Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” —C. Northcote Parkinson)

Is This Really Necessary?

Taking this approach is not really necessary. I could stick with my usual work-until-I have-nothing-to-do habits, but that can result in burnout. And in the midst of a worldwide economic and health crisis, there seems little point to adding to my stress by wearing out my mental and emotional energy. As I’m getting older, I’m getting a little more sensible about how I use my time and effort. If things were normal, I’d stick with a more hard-driving schedule because I wouldn’t have other issues worrying me. However, as things stand right now, with everything and everyone a little uncertain, I’m happy to pursue just enough normalcy to make the days pass productively without making myself stressed. File this advice under “work smarter, not harder.”


About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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