You might have noticed it's been a little quiet around here lately.
This week, I started my Diploma in Professional Marketing, which I'm doing through online distance learning, which means I suddenly need to find 4-8 extra hours per week, on top of working full time, running, this blog, managing a home, trying to maintain a semblance of a social life and being in a choir.
It's early days, but I'm already a little concerned about how I'm going to make it work without completely burning myself out and without having to give too much up.
I've mentioned hundreds of time how bad I am at relaxing, and how I really struggle to have down time, but at the same time I also need to have some unscheduled time in my week otherwise I feel like I'm drowning. Even if I end up filling that time with unexpected productivity, I need to have that time to ensure I don't get utterly overwhelmed with everything I have to do.
So, of course, I made a list.
These are the ways I'm currently trying, or planning to try, to make more time in my life.
I have to keep reminding myself that this is not forever, and while somethings may have to give, they are only temporary. My course is due to finish next December, so while that's a pretty long time, it's not the longest time in the world. Plus I know once I get into a regular routine, I'll be fine. I just haven't quite figured out my routine yet.
So these are the ways I'm trying make extra time in my life:
Cooking is one of my biggest passions, and I spend an inordinate amount of time reading recipe books, meal planning, writing out ingredient lists and getting excited about what I want to cook, but I'm very aware that this is one of the areas of my life I could make much simpler in order to gain some more time.
I've started planning at least one or two meals a week from the slow cooker, and allowing myself, if possible, one night a week where I can "properly" cook (and on this night, I can prep whatever needs to go in the slow cooker).
I've also started to get double duty from dinners. I usually take leftovers to work and eat those for lunches for a few days, but last week I made a huge batch of slow cooker chilli, which we had for dinner one night on it's own with Greek yoghurt and a few days later as a burrito bowl. I also had it for lunch two days. Admittedly, after eating chilli 3 times in 24 hours you get pretty sick of it, so I'll probably want to mix it up a bit next time, but it was a relief to get home and only have to warm up dinner, not cook for an hour.
I plan to do slow cooker meals on study nights, so I can quickly warm up whatever I've made with a couple of quick accompaniments and be ready to start studying within an hour. I've ordered a couple of new slow cooker books which I hope will get me out of my standard chilli/curry/tagine rut too.
Leaving my phone in another room
I'm terrible for this, and I know I'm not the only one, mindless scrolling! When I went to Spain I had my phone on aeroplane mode for 11 days and you know what, I didn't miss anything, so I'm pretty sure I won't miss anything in 5 minutes! I've started leaving my phone in another room so I can focus on whatever I'm doing without wasting time.
Not running a marathon
I've already talked about my mixed feelings on not getting a London Marathon place, but for once, I currently don't have any races signed up for. I'm still going to run, of course, but right now I'm just running for the pleasure of running, and I'm probably going to mix it up with a few 30 minute workouts during the week and mostly run at weekends. Once I've got my running stuff together, headed out, waited for my watch to find GPS and had a few minutes walk to warm up/cool down, I can easily add 10-15 minutes to a morning run, so I'm going to do more at-home workouts during the week and run at the weekends.
Making more time for myself in the mornings
Recently I've often gone out for a run earlier than necessary and give myself half an hour or so after getting back before I need to get ready for work. I've managed to write quite a few blog posts during this time! I won't be doing this every day, and sometimes I need to prioritise sleep, but I love getting this extra freebie time in the morning to have a cup of tea, read a few pages of my book or write a blog post, and I could easily get 15-20 minutes of studying in before I need to get ready for work.
Not always sticking to a schedule
Okay, this is not always going to work, especially for me, but it's happened a few times this week. On Wednesday, after Bake Off, I decided to do an hour of unplanned studying, which was actually really useful. Then today, I woke up early and rather than going straight for a run, decided to do some work for an hour and a half first, and it really broke up my studying material. I've talked before about my need for structure and routine to control my anxiety, but this week it's really helped to do what I feel like. I had planned to do most of my studying over the weekend, but I've been finding it's much easier to digest an hour at a time (or two Pomodoros - which I'll be blogging about soon). Doing a couple of hours twice a week sounds much less daunting than four hours in one go, so I'm going to try to be more flexible with my time.
Minimising unnecessary fuss
Again, as much as possible. Today I worked for an hour and a half in my pyjamas, and then, after my run, was going to head down to the university library, where I've heard I can fill in a form each time to use their internet. But after getting back, I was cold, and I just didn't want to have to do my hair, makeup and get dressed. So I put leggings and a hoodie on and decided to stay inside. I do work better when I'm in a quiet, distraction-free environment, but I saved the time it would take me to get ready, to walk to the library, to fill in the form, and to get settled, plus saved all fuss about "what should I do with my laptop when I need the toilet?", and just set myself Pomodoros to keep my focus. I never worked at home while I was at uni, and it is difficult when we're both home as our flat is such a small space, but I'm quite relieved that it worked. And I didn't need to brush my hair.
Accepting that something may have to give
Somewhere along the line, there's a good chance something might have to give. Temporarily. I might blog less, take a break from choir, not run a marathon next year. Who knows yet. But I've accepted that I have a year or so to really focus on this course, and I know it's a great step for my career, and everything I do can be put on hold, temporarily, if necessary. I already do a lot, and it doesn't take much for me to burn out, so I need to just try to be aware of any signs that it's getting too much and reassess. Of course, I don't want to give up all the things I do, because of course, I enjoy them, but I have to accept that I've taken on something new when I was already stretched, and that at some point along the line, I might need to make changes.
And if it goes a bit quiet around here, I apologise. I imagine I will be blogging less over the next few months as my brain is pretty tired after a full day of work and studying on top, but after 7 years, I promise this blog isn't going anywhere.