Make Your Schedule Your Sidekick
There are two dueling spirits living inside of me. One has to schedule and plan everything. Vacations come with itineraries. Grocery trips come with detailed meal plans and coupons. The other is the procrastinator who loves to do things based on how she’s feeling. An overflowing to-do list gets trumped by a nap. Who needs yoga when you're craving ice cream anyway?
The point is, on any given day there’s no telling who’ll win. While I’d love to leave it up to chance, I’ve realized that I had to find a way to appease both parts of me. It's a dilemma that all of us face. No one wants to feel so scheduled that they can't just take a minute to relax. Without some structure there's no real way to make a dent in all the things that need to get done on a daily basis; the grind stops for no one.
So, how do we balance it all?
Create a schedule that's your sidekick and not your oppressor. Time and energy are you most valuable resources. You can always generate more money, but you can't generate more time.
You can always generate more money, but you can't generate more time.
One of the first steps to getting focused is creating a schedule that makes intentional use of your time. Here are 6 ways to create a schedule that works for you, not the other way around.
Plan in gaps of time
First, fill in your schedule with all the things that have set times, like work and your weekly gym class. Once you have the non-negotiables out of the way, plan for the rest of your day in gaps of time.
I like to choose a few things to get done each day in 3 hour periods (9-12, 1-3, etc.) so that I have the structure of a time frame without sacrificing my agency. I still get to decide which task goes first or how I'll break it down. It makes being on a schedule feel less constricting. Plus, as long as I get each task done, I don't feel guilt about choosing what works for my mood on any given day.
Accept that No Two Weeks Are Made the Same
Your schedule should be as fluid as your life is. No two weeks are ever made the same. This means you'll have to make allowance for that when planning your schedule each week. You have to be willing to give yourself grace in the moments when you weren't able to tick as many check boxes off of your to-do list, but were able to attend a few great events. Remember that life happens and you don't need an excuse to slow down if you need one. Every week when planning out your schedule, prioritize your tasks by deadline, but don't overwhelm yourself.
The ultimate goal here is to try to maintain some semblance of consistency For me, this means things like still waking up early on the weekends so that I’m not completely thrown off. The rhythm of routine is not to be taken for granted -- you don’t want to throw yourself off whack every week. It takes longer to get back into the swing of things than to remain consistent.
Give Your Time Slots Categories
Although you can't predict what will happen from week to week, you can give your time slots themes to maintain consistency. This can apply to everything from your side hustle to your weekly chores. Let's say Monday and Wednesday nights are for chores. Tuesdays are for your hobby. Thursdays are for grocery shopping, etc. Choose a family of tasks for your time so that you can focus more.
One of the most beneficial things about doing this is to help with focus. My mind is an endless reel of all of the things I have to get done. Thinking about so many things all the time makes it very easy to get sidetracked. I'll be writing a blog post and thinking about social strategy. So I'll open a new tab really quickly and hours later I look up and realize I've fallen down the rabbit hole.
It helps to have a day or time dedicated to each specific genre of tasks because it lets me know everything is covered. When social strategy pops up during writing time, I know when I'll be working on it. That way, I can focus on the task at hand.
Another pro trip? Keep a notepad with you in your work space and when random ideas pop into your head jot them down and keep going.
If You Can Do It fast Do It Now
Oftentimes we put off for “later” what we could just get out of the way right now. The beauty with scheduling like this is that it leaves room for this very thing. As you journey along your day, small tasks will come up. You’ll be tempted to push it off, but follow this rule of thumb; if you can do it quickly, do it now. Take the trash out on the way out of the door. Put your jacket back in the closet. Take the chicken out of the freezer. The list goes on.
FACTOR IN a Break
Yes, even your down time gets a place on your schedule. This is the freeing part of scheduling. It’s one thing to relax. It’s a whole ‘nother thing to relax knowing all your business is handled as well. Know that free time, down time, is just as important as handling your responsibilities. It’s truly what keeps you sane. Even if it’s just an hour for reading, make sure you schedule some enjoyment into your days.
be real with yourself
Your schedule won't work if it's really a wish list of who you wish you were. If you’re not a morning person, planning the bulk of your tasks in the morning is counter productive. At some point you’re just going to have to own your strengths and weaknesses. If you feel most creative at night, then that’s when you should be doing creative work. The key is maximum productivity; keep that at the forefront.
Planning for who you are means following the rhythm of your beat and going along with that when making expectations of your time. Don’t set yourself up to fail by trying to force an ideal schedule into your life. You’ll hate it and feel guilty when it doesn’t work.
How do you schedule your time? Share in the comments below!