So much time and so little to do…

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts will be found at www.polymeansmany.com . This month, our topic is “Time Management”. 

Spouse. Landlord. Crafter. Lover. Event Organiser. Employee. Rigger. Student. Dancer. Sibling. Business owner. Musician. Introvert. Partner. Activist. Geek. Yogi. Feminist. Teacher. Historian. Writer.

The words above describe the major commitments in my life, which as you can imagine is extremely busy. We all have various demands on our time, and in varying levels of priority or need. Sometimes those demands can feel overwhelming, competing, impossible.  This post is about sharing how I manage my time, and maybe passing on some helpful hints on how to manage yours.

The irony of circumstance is not lost on me. I write this post early on a Sunday morning, as the rest of my household sleeps. I have a specific time window in which to write this post, before I need to move on to the other commitments for the day, and work down the long to-do list. This is my life, every day, every week.

Whilst your circumstances may not be as extreme as my three jobs, studies and trying to have a life, we do share one thing in common: multiple partners. Having multiple partners is very similar to any of the other of our many commitments in life: we have to try and make time for the things most important to us, but not at the cost of other commitments or burning ourselves out.

  •  Google Calendar is your friend

I know it’s one of those non-monogamous clichés that everyone has a rainbow coloured Google Calendar and it helps us live happily ever after with our loves. Well, sometimes my friend, the fairy stories are true. Google Calendar is my lifeline, not just for scheduling time with partners but also for keeping track of my busy life and making sure I don’t either double book myself, or don’t miss something important. Gone are the days of my impeccable memory for arrangements, appointments and anniversaries. I’ve said before that my Google Calendar is a part of my extended mind1 and it’s not an exaggeration: if someone asks me to do something/meet them/go somewhere, out comes my smartphone and I have to check Google Calendar before I can reply.

I also use Google Calendar to manage my to-do list – and I check it several times daily. I use a colour coding system to tell me which items are meetings, which are things to do, and different colours for outstanding and done. For an OCD control freak like me, there are few things more satisfying than seeing all blue in my task list at the end of the day, or more stressful than a long list of red items that I know I won’t get done that day.

There’s something very useful about having your life’s commitments written down, blocked out in a timetable. You can visualise how busy you are, and if you learn to read it properly, see when you are likely to have some capacity, energy and space to do something, and when you will need to preserve all your energies just to get through the necessary items of the day.

In terms of dating, Google Calendar allows me and my loves to see at a glance when we are busy, and when we have gaps. It allows us to see when we might be needed for support, or when we might be needed to give space. It’s really important to explain your approach to free time with your partners, and how you deal under pressure or in times of stress. Let them know if you’re likely to need support, distraction, or just time with them, or when you’re likely to need space, and support from a distance. That way they can support you how you need, and it avoids people feeling hurt if you’ve gone quiet or needy without talking about it beforehand.

  •  Learn the art of saying ‘no’

One of my non-monogamous mantras is do not promise what you cannot consistently give2 and part of that is knowing how to say no to a request, even when you feel under pressure to agree. Many of us agree to things without really pausing to consider what is being asked, and once we’ve uttered ‘yes’, we feel unable to go back on it, or to let someone down. This can lead to resentment towards the person who asked us – whether they were pushy with the request or not.

This is a topic I struggle with particularly – partly because I feel the need to be the person who is amazing at getting things sorted, but also because I find it difficult to let someone down or leave them without help. I often feel obliged to offer help. I’m the kind of person who ends up babysitting my boss’ baby because she has no childcare, or being up at midnight making cakes for people I don’t really want to make cakes for.

A lot of it is practice, and making yourself actually consider what is being asked rather than automatically replying. It’s absolutely fine to ask for time to to reply to the request being made of you – whether saying you need to check your diary, or just straight needing a bit of time to think it over. Then ask yourself some questions: do you have the time to fit that task in? Do you want to do it? Do you have the spare energy? Once you’ve allowed yourself to mull it over, it can be easier to say no if it’s not something you can or want to do.

There are a ton of self-help articles on how to say no (although often work-focussed situations) but the advice can carry over into all aspects of life – including your relationships and friendships. Don’t agree to a date on a Saturday night if you know you’ll be tired and stressed after a day of work. Think of options round it, or compromises. Sometimes things just aren’t workable if schedules are utterly incompatible – but remember it’s not just you who should be trying to juggle things round.

  • Avoid burnout

Another common poly saying is that we have unlimited love to share but are restricted by how much time we have spare. How true that is! Whilst we can all temporarily run at warp speed in times of need (like big deadlines at work, caring for a loved one who is sick or just a combination of things all at once), we can’t maintain those levels for long and hope to maintain our own physical and mental well-being.

Sometimes that means being honest and realistic about what you can take on. It can also involve compromising, or agreeing to a lower-key type of situation. Finally there are occasions when it means you can’t pursue that connection with someone, because you cannot possibly invest the energy, time or resources it deserves in order to flourish, without bailing on something else, or hurting yourself. Making that decision is hard to do, but sometimes it’s the only thing to do – not just for yourself, but for the other person.

I am as guilty as anyone else of taking too much on, and driving myself into the ground trying to get it all done. Part of that is just the situation I’ve found myself in, there are some things about my life at the moment that I cannot change quickly – jobs, studies, finances. What I can do is look very critically at my list of ‘things’ and see if any can be cut back or rearranged to a more suitable, time efficient way. For a control freak like me, handing back things to others, or saying no can be really, really difficult, but it has to be done. Be wary of what you’re cutting back: if your list of things to get rid of consists of all your hobbies and fun, relaxing things, think again. Part of your primary commitments needs to be yourself and your self care.

Take a look at your calendar and start booking in ‘you’ time. It can be an hour with your favourite book, a walk in the park, whatever you find relaxing and soul-enriching. If you’re an introvert, ensure you book time in alone. If you need to be round people, make sure you find an opportunity to hang out with loved ones. Start booking time in ahead (however far into the diary you need to go) to provide breathing space, such as free weekends or evenings that allow you wiggle room should you fall sick, behind schedule or just plain need a break. Make sure you are building in fun things to do so you aren’t all work work work, otherwise you begin to question exactly what are you working for.

Those are my three biggest tips for time management – not just about getting things done, remembering everything and being a fairy godperson. It’s also about making time for what is important to you outside of primary commitments, and making time to look after the most important person of all: you.

What do you do to help you manage your time? Comment below! As always, we welcome reply posts too.

Ruby x

1. https://msrubyrouge.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/what-poly-has-taught-me/

2. https://msrubyrouge.wordpress.com/2012/10/02/my-internal-dating-rules/