You start a project at work, and get interrupted by the phone. You realize you forgot to email a client back yesterday, so reply before you forget again. Scrambling to prepare for a meeting, you suddenly remember you forgot to pack a lunch. After feeling behind all day and rushing from meeting to meeting, you finally climb into your car to head home. As you drive, you wrack your brain for a meal idea, knowing you have 4 hungry mouths to feed in just a few short minutes. After dinner there's soccer practice, dishes, wrapping a birthday gift, and a load of laundry before watching an hour of TV and then falling into bed exhausted.
Have you ever experienced any of these challenges? Or even all of them in one day?
One of the best ways to deal with these challenges is to create a schedule that works for you.
I define a schedule as “an intentional plan that gives each hour of the day a job — based on priorities, commitments, and desires”.
1. A Schedule creates Structure
An intentional plan helps make sure that your priorities are getting done. We have a much higher chance of completing tasks when they are in our calendar and assigned a specific time. Rather than needing to decide what to do every 30 minutes, we simply follow the plan, and are able to save our brain power for big decisions and necessary problem-solving.
When your intentional plan for the day is repeated regularly, say every weekday morning, or every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, you being to create structure. As you repeat the same tasks at a similar time every day, you start building habits and muscle memory that bring feelings of safety and calm.
2. A Schedule refines focus
When you follow a plan for your day, you are giving yourself permission to be focused. As you create your plan, it is important to review your projects, prior meetings and commitments already in your calendar, and any deadlines that might be coming up. Then, review all of those items and prioritize them based on when they are due or what time the meetings are. Create a list for your day of activities and meetings in order of priority. Schedule time for checking your emails, returning calls and try to eliminate distractions when you are working on a task. Stay focused and work through them in the order of importance.
3. A schedule holds you Accountable
When there is a plan set in place, you automatically become accountable to yourself. You know if you are doing the activity that is currently in your calendar or not. The more we are able to be internally motivated, the less we will need external motivation. You become even more accountable with a schedule if you have a shared calendar with someone else.
4. A Schedule improves effectiveness
The more comfortable you get with your schedule and how you best work at various times of the day, the more you are able to use your time efficiently. Knowing when you are most awake to do more creative projects, or when you are best for meeting people in person, allows you to develop and adjust your schedule for optimal efficiency.
A great way to use your time wisely is to batch similar activities. Setting aside 30 minutes in the morning and afternoon to reply to emails and return phone calls, having a half day block for large projects, or even creating quick bursts for tying up loose ends and completing paper work — all help save time.
5. A Schedule brings Freedom
As we become more comfortable giving every hour a job, and start getting caught up on life, the schedule starts to bring freedom. Sometimes the hour’s job can be scheduled ‘me’ time, for whatever activity truly fills your energy tank. Or we are able to schedule a whole day or weekend to be truly spontaneous because we have prepared and caught up on all of our other responsibilities ahead of time. As Gudjon Bergmann says “The most powerful word in time management is no”. Learning to say no to certain activities so we can say yes to others is truly freeing.
True freedom comes when we are able to acknowledge that we are the only one who is ultimately in control of our time.
Is this something you struggle with? If you constantly feel behind and overwhelmed with your to-do list, then my 5-day free email course might be helpful.
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