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?

Where do you find the time?

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 running a fee-only financial planning service. Toss in a busy family (two kids ages 6 and 9), plus a new running hobby, 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. People often ask me, where do you find the time? Here’s how I do it:

I’m a morning person, so I get up at 5:30 a.m. and have about 90 minutes 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. Oh, and I try to sneak in a run on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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 shuttling 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 7:30 p.m. and then I’ll usually spend another 1-2 hours writing or reading 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 requires a bit more work, even though it’s just one post every two weeks. That’s because I have 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’s back and forth with my editor a few times until we’re happy with the final product.

On the fee-only planning side, business seems to come in spurts. I get lots of inquiries and consultations during RRSP and tax season. Then I’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 working on a bigger project.

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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10 Comments

  1. Jan on May 25, 2018 at 12:47 pm

    Or, let something go…but not your family!

  2. Valerie on May 25, 2018 at 2:14 pm

    Dear Rob, I love your website, being a senior everything you write makes sense and I think that it is your family background that has given you a very sound grounding. Please,please take time to slow down and smell the roses. Life is so precious and your wife and kids are much more than the value of MONEY. I once was just like you and have lived to regret that I did not spend more time with my family.

    From a senior who cares.

    • Echo on May 25, 2018 at 3:23 pm

      Hi Valerie, thanks for this. Perhaps I gave the wrong impression with this post. To be clear, I come home for lunch with my wife every week day, and I’m home before 5pm every weekday, and I’m there to read my kids a story and tuck them in every night. My wife and I enjoy wine and Netflix every Friday night. We take the kids to soccer every week. My side gig is done from the comfort of my own home.

      My “hustle” takes place when most people are sleeping in or watching mindless television. Of course, I’d love to be even more efficient with my time, hence the idea of an organizer to keep tabs on all my activities.

  3. Valerie on May 25, 2018 at 3:30 pm

    Lovely to hear those things Robb, i was being kind, I love that you do all those things with your family, keep it up 🙂 and of course keep doing your web site. 🙂 Sometimes we all need to ‘surrender’ and let things unfold naturally. All the very best!

  4. Frances on May 26, 2018 at 9:14 am

    Wow, you are incredibly lucky! Short work hours, a very short commute, good health, no loved ones with health issues to look after, no yard work? No house or car repairs to work on? Seems like your spouse is able to do all the housework, errands, and major childcare. No IT issues to resolve? Seems like you also have a secure job and don’t need to network or spend personal time on professional development. I really hope you realize how incredibly lucky you are, and I wish you continued success with your plan!

    • Robb Engen on June 10, 2018 at 8:30 pm

      Hi Frances, I am very lucky but I worked hard to get where I’m at which allowed me to make the kinds of lifestyle decisions that afford me this flexibility and freedom.

      I could have stayed in the hospitality industry and worked my way up the corporate ladder through gruelling hours and travel. I also spent most of my twenties networking like crazy; joining Rotary, becoming a board member at Economic Development Lethbridge, joining the board of the local airshow association and serving as president for one year, not to mention various committees throughout the community. Then my wife was diagnosed with MS at age 26 and our world was turned upside down. I changed careers, we had two kids, and I started this blog in hopes of earning an extra income in case my wife wasn’t able to continue working.

      Don’t be too quick to judge a book by its cover.

  5. Liz on May 27, 2018 at 10:49 am

    You sound pretty organized to me!

  6. Owen @ PlanEasy.ca on May 28, 2018 at 7:16 am

    I always thought that Parkinson’s law also works in reverse.

    Parkinson’s law is the adage that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”

    So if you do it in reverse you add more work/activities/family time and things just seems to “shrink” to make everything fit. You naturally become more efficient and you become much more deliberate with your time & effort.

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