My wife keeps an organizer and admits to feeling stressed if she can’t tick items off her list by the end of each day. She craves routine and finds that by writing things down she’s able to be more productive throughout the day – particularly when it comes to tasks she dislikes.

I don’t have a day planner and never remember to write down a to-do list to help keep my life organized. Even though I’m extremely laid back and calm about most things I can start to feel overwhelmed when there’s too much on my plate.

Where do you find the time, anyway?

As many of you know, in addition to my day job, which runs 8:30am – 4:30pm Monday through Friday, I also juggle a number of side projects which includes writing for two blogs, plus the odd freelance assignment. I’m also studying to earn my CFP designation and running a fee-only financial planning service. Toss in a busy family (two kids under 6) and you start to see the need for some effective time management.

Related: How a career change improved my life

To compensate for my scatterbrained tendencies I try to be as efficient as possible during certain times of the day.

I’m a morning person, so I get up at 6:00am and have about an hour before my wife and kids get out of bed and I have to get ready for work. That’s when I take care of all the administrative and promotional work for my blogs, which means answering emails, promoting articles on Facebook and Twitter, responding to comments, and scheduling interviews with sources for upcoming assignments. I also try to catch up on my favourite blogs and websites to see what’s new, and save any interesting articles for our weekly round-up.

I’m fortunate to have a short commute. It takes me less than ten minutes to get to and from work. After work is family time – which can mean anything from running our kids around to various activities to just hanging out while we chat about our day and get supper ready. Our kids go to bed around 7:30pm and then I’ll usually spend another 1-2 hours writing or studying at night. I put the laptop away on Friday and Saturday nights.

We’ve kept a fairly consistent posting schedule on Boomer & Echo for the past five years so Sunday night and Thursday night have always been dedicated to writing for this blog. Rewards Cards Canada doesn’t have a regular posting schedule, but I’ll try and publish something at least once every week or two.

Related: Why taking a career break can be a great investment

Writing for the Toronto Star required a bit more work, even though it was just one post every two weeks. That’s because I had to come up with a topic and research it, and then find one or two sources – experts who could support or refute the main thesis of the article. Then it was back and forth with my editor a few times until we were happy with the final product.

The Star pulled the plug on my bi-weekly column last year when it changed up its business and personal finance sections, but they’ve just reached out to me with an idea for their new tablet edition and so I might be back writing there every two weeks starting this fall.

Taking the CFP courses online has definitely challenged my time management skills. You get three months to complete each of the four units, but since I tend to procrastinate I would cram all of the work into the last 3-4 weeks and then spend an hour or two every day finishing the material and studying for the final exam. So far, so good.

On the fee-only planning side, business seems to come in spurts. We get lots of inquiries and consultations during RRSP and tax season. Then we’ll go stretches without many solid leads. On average, I’m still accepting one or two new clients per month. It’s great to be able to make this work on evenings and weekends, over the phone and by email. I even had a nice FaceTime chat with a client the other day.

Related: How’s the fee-only planning business going?

I enjoy reading and talking about personal finance and investing, so it’s often hard to separate what is work and what is hobby. I’d guess that I spend an average of 15 hours per week on my side business. That may creep up to 20 hours per week when I’m cramming for a test.

Final thoughts

I know the demands on my time are only going to increase as our kids get older and my career becomes more challenging. If I want to grow my side business and take on more clients with my fee-only financial planning service then I need to be more efficient with my time and find ways to save an hour or two every week.

Maybe it means that I need to quit reading so much, stop doing tasks that don’t add any value to my life, or just learn how to say no every once in a while.

Or maybe I should listen to my wife and just use a damn organizer.

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