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Time management for career changers - 6 ways to FINALLY make it happen

Updated: Aug 7, 2023

Imagine this scenario.

You're busy. When you're back from holiday you fall straight into another emergency at work. And before you know it that holiday is LONG forgotten.

You work long hours. You're conscientious. You're a high-achiever. You don't like to let people down. So you make sure that your To Do list is done. Every day. Even if that means that you regularly don't get home until late into the evening.

After work you're full of good intentions. You'll do something for yourself this weekend, is what you promise yourself. But instead you do the million-and-one-things that are on your HOME To Do list.

Some of you even think that - by working part-time - you'll create time for yourself. Only to find that, somehow, that time ALSO gets eaten up with chores, and To Do lists.

And so, every week, it's Sunday afternoon again before you know it, and you're starting to dread the week ahead.


Are YOU too busy to make your career change happen?


Well, that stops now. OK?

Because, if 80% of your time is taken up with work that is only giving you 20% of your fulfilment then there's something not right. Right?

First of all, let's establish one thing.

Your To Do list will never - NEVER - be done.


Like Oliver Burkeman says in his EXCELLENT book Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, if you do more there will only be more to do. Once your To Do list is finished, there will be another one. A vacuum tends to fill itself up fairly quickly.

And also, the most effective time management technique is not 'eating frogs' or doing something ridiculous with stones and pebbles and sand.

No, your most effective time management techniques are prioritisation and boundaries.

THAT's precisely what we'll be talking about today. And we'll kick off with:

1. Your To Do list

First of all, I want to talk a little bit about your To Do list.

Or rather, your To Do LISTS. Because you've got more than one.

One for work. But also one for all the chores at home. One for your family. One mental To Do list for your partner (that you may or may not have told them about), one for the things you SHOULD do if you were a good human being, one for the things you WOULD do if you weren't so BUSY!

Some of them you've written. But more likely they are singing around in the back of your head.

Am I right?

When I ask my clients to write these lists down - all of them - they sometimes use a big A3 piece of paper. And fill it to the brim.

Are you busy? Well, your HEAD certainly is!

So, let's start there. Let's look at that list.

What activities have been on that list for more than a year?

You see, my mum has this rule. Any clothes that have not been worn in the last year are going to the charity shop. I'd like to apply the same rule here.

Which of your tasks will NEVER make it to the top of the list? In fact, which tasks are only there because you THINK you've got to do them (but secretly know you never will). Which one has been there for more than a year?

Scrap them.

What activities can be delegated?

Who is in your support team? Your partner? Kids? Family? Friends?

Can you delegate activities to them? Yes, you can. And you WILL.

What activities do you REALLY need to do yourself?

Go and do them. Plan them in and do them. Do not STOP to think about them. Do them.

2. Your LOVE list

What you haven't prioritised up until now is what you actually LOVE doing. Do you have a list for that?

I'd LOVE for you to have a - what my clients call - LOVE list.

With all the things you LOVE doing. All the things you will do - you know - one day.

Places to visit. Things you'd like to pick up as a hobby. Books to read. Films to watch. People to talk to. Articles to write. Journals to start. Pictures to paint.

Write it all down. And go and do one this week.

3. Create time

Yes, that was easier said than done, wasn't it?

Go and do one this week. Ha! As if you have time for that!

Well, what if I said that you do?

You see, first of all, things don't take as long as you think they do.

Sometimes my clients say 'well, no, for me to do that thing I have to clear AT LEAST half a day a week in my calendar'.

To which I say 'Do you?'

You see, what with all your To Do lists and all the things you do during your working day you tend to forget that you're ALREADY the Queen of Efficiency.

Things don't take as long as you think they do.

Doing something you love. Doing something to prioritise things other than work. It doesn't have to take half a day. You can chunk it up in bitesize chunks.

Do you want to write in your journal? Take 10 minutes every morning to do so.

Do you want to do something creative? Make sure you've got it close by so that you can spend a 'spare' 20 minutes doing something with your hands. Do you want to read a book (about career change)? Read a chapter every day.

Do you want to listen to a TED talk, put it on whilst you're cooking. Or in a train.

There IS time. You've just not applied your own time management techniques to the things you LOVE.

4. De-prioritise things

I used to have LOADS of rules for myself. If I'm honest, I still do.

But at one point I realised I had them.

That sounds funny, I know.

But just KNOWING the rules you are imposing on yourself is the first step to letting things go.

Small example: I used to feel guilty if I prioritised myself over, say, cleaning my house.

I would be staring at dust or my dirty windows and would be halfway up to go and sort them out.

I don't anymore.

I prioritised my well-being. I prioritised creative projects. I prioritised my career change.

Yes, it's still reasonably clean in my house. But I never feel guilty if it isn't. If I've done more important things first.

So, what can easily drop down YOUR priority list? What self-imposed 'rules' have YOU got? What are YOU going to STOP feeling guilty about?

5. Set your boundaries

Remember what I said about the 80/20 rule?

Yes, it is my (informed) guess that you're FEELING as if you're spending 80% of your time doing things that only make you feel 20% fulfilled.

Until such time that you're clear on 'what's next' in your career you're going to have to re-dress that balance.

First of all by making sure that your work is not 'leaking into' YOUR time. Go for that lunchtime walk. Make sure you leave at 5 (or whatever time you set for yourself).

In other words, set your boundaries. And stick with them.

6. And a little bit on job crafting

OK, so you're STILL in that job. You've not yet decided on what's next (and if you want help with that, just click this link).

And you're spending 8 hours a day doing something that gives you limited joy.

What if you could bring more of what you love into your job?

You love drawing? Can you doodle during meetings? Do visual facilitation?

Do you LOVE psychology and are fascinated about how people tick? Can you use your meetings to learn more?

Do you get totally frustrated by the lack of efficiency? Can you offer to help?

You get my drift. Bring more of what you love into your job. So that the 80% feels at least a bit more bearable. Until you're ready to figure out what it is that you REALLY want to do.

At which point I'm there for you!


Tineke Tammes is an ICF credentialed Career Coach, who supports professional women in making successful transitions to careers of Freedom, Flexibility and Fulfilment! Besides that she is also a lifelong feminist, part-time portrait artist, never-only-read-one-book-at-any-time reader, and obsessive doodler. Oh, and she knows a bit about change management too.

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