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I have a full-time job, I run an online business on the side which I'm trying to expand, and I'm starting a graduate course in a few months which I need to study for. On top of that, it's very important to me to stay physically fit and train in martial arts, which requires time in the gym as well as time in the kitchen cooking healthy meals.

I've spend a lot of time thinking about how to fit all of this in my schedule. (Part of the solution is that within the next month or two I will quit my job as I'll have enough cash to last a year or so; however this will not solve everything.)

In order to manage the tasks, I have devised a general scheme in which I separate my endeavors, and from there it's just a matter of assigning the hours of the day to different tasks/projects.

This works fine on paper, but the system is far too fragile. For example, if I don't go to bed on time one day, it throws off most of the rest of the week, as I simply can't keep up with a precise schedule when all I want to do is sleep, and I have to make a decision between staying up late again to catch up with my work, or sleeping half the day and losing more time. Or, if I choose to go out and meet a friend/girlfriend one evening, I have to skip the gym, or skip working on my business, or cut from my sleep, or skip cooking and have to eat an unhealthy sandwich at work the next day, etc.

The resultant problem is that I've reached a point where the time devoted to most of my endeavors is too fragmented to be beneficial. e.g. I go to the gym a couple times this week but then I don't make it to the gym at all next week. Now with exercise you can't just train one week and skip the next week, it makes the entire process useless, which is incredibly frustrating. So frustrating that the next time you go to the gym it's hard to be motivated to train because experience shows you might not make it next week anyway.

Same with my business; I have work that I started months ago that still hasn't been finished. The interruptions make it hard to focus on any task, as soon as I get started on something I have to get to bed to go to work in the morning, or I have to go get to the gym, etc.

I took a break from everything the last 2 weeks to think about it, and I can't really think of a good solution.

Is it the case that people are not meant to multitask? Or am I doing something seriously wrong?

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2 Answers 2

You sound a lot like me. As an academic, I always have piles and piles of work to do (it never ends, of course, as solving problems and publishing them is not a job that can ever be completed). Working out is also very important to me, both cardio (I enjoy long bike rides) and weight training. I like to eat healthy foods, and that involves lots of shopping and cooking (though to be fair, going out to eat for every meal is not exactly a time-saver if you have to commute any sort of distance, deal with parking, etc.).

While I do definitely get frustrated when my scheduling gets out of whack, which inevitably happens when work gets really busy (meetings that I can't avoid during times when I would have worked out, for example), I lose sleep (in which case I can't really work out or do much significant work), or I have a social thing to do that interrupts my normal schedule, it sounds like it bothers you even more than it bothers me. I think you are trying to control life too much. Life is unexpected and you can't plan for everything.

A couple points:

Now with exercise you can't just train one week and skip the next week, it makes the entire process useless, which is incredibly frustrating.

You do know that this is not true right? I mean, I work out 4-5x a week, so I definitely have high standards in this regard, but it's not a complete waste if you miss a week. It happens. Even if you only work out 50% of the weeks in the year it's still much better than not working out at all.

Or, if I choose to go out and meet a friend/girlfriend one evening

Again, I sympathize. Even when I'm having a good time with my friends or my wife, if the night drags on and we're out super late, such that my next day gets affected, I get a little irritated. And I can't go out socially too often, as then I feel that I'm just wasting my time and getting nothing productive done. But spending time with friends and with your girlfriend is probably an important part of your life, no? If it's not, then don't spend time with them. If it is, then give them a portion of your weekly scheduling time and then it won't feel as if you're off your schedule if they are also on the schedule as well.

I think you need to be more robust to life's ups and downs, because they are going to come (and likely come more often and hit harder as you age). Personally, I too have a lot to work on in this regard. Rather than manage your time down to the minute and get upset when you don't follow your schedule, perhaps just living life with the understanding that you will work out, eat right, do you graduate studies, work on your business, be with friends, as productively and enjoyably as possible with the time you have. And if life throws you a curve ball, don't get upset that it happened, just acknowledge that everything doesn't work out your way and continue trying to live life like you want to.

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Yes, you're doing something seriously wrong. You're trying to micromanage your schedule, which typically isn't productive (neither in a corporate setting nor in your private life), because it generally leads to the kind of problems that you describe.

Instead, you should look at agile ways of handling your backlog of tasks to do. Personal Kanban is a standardized and well-known technique that I believe should work well for you. GTD (Get Things Done) may also be of interest to you. In a corporate setting, techniques such as Scrum are very popular and to be recommended. And generally, you should try to minimize switching between tasks. Multitasking should always be avoided.

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