10/18/2013 06:01 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

How To Master Time Management


Time management could be more aptly named "the art of juggling." It's a buzzword that has been bandied about since you entered middle school. A concept that, for all the attention it gets, we still fail at.

List the many millions of things you have to do in a day. How often do you actually get all of those things done? How many of them are never completed because you never got to them the day before? Time management is never properly addressed. No one teaches you how to be good at taking your day apart so you get to everything you want to get done. We learn through trial and error, and use it with varying degrees of efficiency. For some people this isn't a problem. Their lives are easily structured. But for those of us out there juggling multiple careers and interests, being beyond proficient at time management is just as necessary as breathing.

Just like real juggling, some people are better at this than others with seemingly little effort. The truth is, juggling well is a matter of focus and coordination, and managing your life is no different. Focus and coordination are skills developed over time, and the more they're honed, the better you are at their application. The people out there who seem to manage their lives effortlessly have actually perfected time management, so it has become second nature.

My experience juggling my career as an actor with what I have to do to make ends meets serves as an example of how crucial this skill is. I pursue a career in acting. I work nights and weekends regularly when I am in theater, 15-hour days when I am doing films or commercials, and am in pure heaven when I'm doing both. When the above doesn't pay the bills, I employ other skills to make ends meet. Currently, I am a writer and a part-time analyst, but I have also been a lifeguard, a swim instructor and even a high-end knife salesman (don't judge -- it's a lucrative business). In the meantime, I take classes and audition like my life depends on it. It's not quite second nature yet, but I would have lost my mind years ago had I not found a way to make it work. Setting micro and macro goals is the first step to managing your life. These could be daily goals, weekly goals or even yearly goals you work steadily toward. Setting goals for what must get done, what should get done and what can definitively wait makes it easier to prioritize. That way you don't lose your mind when something lower on the list is still pending.

Next, you have to be constantly aware of your schedule. There's no slacking allowed here, not even to sleep. Yes, you should schedule sleep. How you do it is up to you, whether that's a calendar, committing it to memory, your phone or a good old-fashioned appointment book. You don't want to be forced to fold dress shirts at 2 a.m. or be reminded of the doctor's appointment you missed via a $50 no-show fee. Also, being on time to appointments and accountable for your responsibilities is important for your reputation. Losing awareness of your needs and wants is a surefire way to shoot yourself in the foot early.

You also have to be consistent. Consistency is the key to building up the focus necessary so that being aware of your schedule becomes second nature. Keep in mind that it's not just your career(s) that need to be coordinated. When you have so much to do that too little structure is a problem, everything needs to be taken into account. This includes your family's birthdays, your doctor's appointments, and whether or not you can squeeze laundry in between your workout and that dinner date.

No matter the tool, all this is nigh impossible to keep up without a sense of purpose. How much you want it ties directly into how well you can coordinate it all. It is a stressful endeavour to juggle multiple careers, your finances, your relationships and all your other interests. If your heart isn't in it any more, drop something. Without a driving force, you will end up pulling your hair out and make everyone you know miserable. Lastly, remember that you are not a machine. If you have not slept for three days, waking up to work out is probably not worth your time, especially if you have three appointments, have to work for eight hours and then chauffeur your kids around. Take that extra day of rest and come back at it tomorrow.

Now if you will excuse me, it's 11:30 p.m. and I'm going on a run. Off to bed in 90 minutes.

17 Shortcuts To Get You Out The Door Faster