Olena Pravylo: “Treat Everything As If It’s An Adventure”

We talked to Olena Pravylo, a co-founder of the Congress of Cultural Activists and an expert in Ukrainian cultural and creative industries, about efficient time management and simple experiments that improve the quality of life.

You once wrote on your Facebook page that you handled 10 projects at once. How did you manage to do this?

That’s certainly not the right thing to do. Practice shows that you can only focus on five projects, give or take two. If there’s more—it’s too many. What saves me is the habit of thoroughly planning my time. And when I want to understand whether I have enough time for everything planned, I literally sketch out my day: an hour for a meeting, half an hour for a report, etc. In fact, this is how I discovered that sometimes we really overestimate our abilities and demand from ourselves more than is physically possible.

To remember all the projects, I organise them using charts and diagrams by stages:

  • Idea
  • Start of implementation (for example, preparation of documents, creating a team, fundraising)
  • Active implementation (planning and organising discussions, conducting research)
  • Finalisation (analysing the results and writing reports, etc)

When you classify projects in this way, you immediately get a picture of the priorities, and you can understand how to plan your work so that projects don’t overlap. However, occasionally it still happens even to me.

Do you delegate work?

This is a sore point. It appears selfish when you don’t delegate projects—you take them on fully and think that it’s better this way. But to delegate, you also need time to at least explain and train the person who wants to help. That is why it very often seems that no, delegation does not work, and if I do it personally it will be quicker. However, you need to look at it as time investment: you explain once, and later, increasingly less interference is required. The person has learned and helps you, makes money, or feels, just like you do, that he or she is doing something worthwhile and changing the world for the better. I only recently came to this and realised that the process of delegating requires some patience.

Do you have time for hobbies in your tight schedule?

I do have a hobby: I like to sew things. Periodically, I get stuck in it, withdraw into it, enter my introverted world. Sometimes I miss it. I also try to do some physical exercise and meditation. I work for long stretches of time without vacations and go on many business trips. It’s always work. In such a mode, you get tired quickly and you start feeling depressed and indifferent to everything. Just recently, I joined a psychology group on Facebook. Every week we get an interesting exercise, like keep a diary, evaluate your day, or make a list of the 100 things that you’ve never done, but you can try this week. I’ve made such a list, and what’s more, all my friends did too! It’s a wonderful thing! It really takes away the fatigue. Why? Because you bring out your inner child.

What have you already managed to get done from the list?

A few days ago, I went to a yoga class and saw a small brochure about Thai massage there. I was once curious to try it, but I didn’t have the time. And that was it. But now I took this brochure and thought, “Okay, when should I plan it for? I’ll find the money, I’ll find the time because I need to do something new.” It’s as though you begin planning to enjoy your life. On any business trip now, I ask the girls about local sports, I start searching for things that I didn’t look for before because work used to come first. This is my way of improving the quality of my life. And it’s not about how much money I’ve got, but about being in the moment. You should have fun in life, even in times of trouble, and treat everything as if it's an adventure.

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