Most people say something like this constantly:
If only there were more hours in the day…
I would be able to do so much if I had more time…
I never seem to be able to get ahead…
I wish there were two of me so I could get everything done…
I feel so overwhelmed by everything I have to do…
Do any of these sound familiar? I hear these things frequently when I work with someone on creating and organizing a schedule. When a client talks about being overwhelmed with the amount of work that needs to be done, or feels like there is a lack of productivity going on, or quantity far outweighs quality – we get to work on creating a schedule that incorporates the wants with the needs.
Creating schedules is one of my most favorite things to do. I send my clients a questionnaire, asking about daily activities – what has to be done on a daily basis (work, classes, commuting, etc.), what needs to be done on a weekly basis, and also what they want to be doing. I receive a giant to do/wish list, accompanied by comments that apologize for the seemingly impossible task ahead of me. After a round of clarifying questions, I go to work, putting that impossible list of needs and wants into a manageable schedule. And while there is usually a small adjustment or two that needs to be made, I can almost always fit everything in that a client has requested. Everything.
Does that sound like a pleasant dream to you? I’ll tell you exactly how to do it:
1. Make an inventory of what you have to do, what you are doing, and what you want to do. Include everything. The musts, as well as the things you wish you had more time for, and the things you wish you were doing and just aren’t because “you don’t have any time.”
2. Look through the list and see if there are any things you are doing that are a waste of time. Ask yourself, “Is doing this moving me toward my goals?” Keep in mind, of course, that some things that seem like they are wasting time are not, really – down time is important and productive in its own way.
3. Start making your schedule. There are the things you have to do – like work. Put those in first, and only include the things that are inflexible. Then fill in the things you want to have time for – this ensures that you are balancing some quality time with your life duties. This is important! Anyone not doing this probably knows all too well the feeling of potential burnout (or maybe you’re already there). Lastly, fill in things that need to be done but can be flexible in your schedule.
4. Break tasks up into smaller chunks of time if you don’t have time to do something all at once. Maybe you don’t have two hours to clean once a week. But you can probably find 15 minutes a day.
5. Put tasks together that maximize productivity and efficiency. For example, if you want to practice and you would also like to be able to have some time to read, schedule your practice time close to a time when you will need to be in the same location, leaving a half hour in between. Take your reading material with you, and use that time in between to find a quiet place and enjoy some leisure reading time.
6. Pad the schedule. This is the #1 mistake people make – they don’t factor in time padding for each task. You have to get from one place to another, whether you walk, drive, or take public transportation. Some things may take a little longer because the commute took longer, or you couldn’t find something, etc. – a tight schedule is usually a recipe for disaster. With padded time, you lessen the risk of feeling like you’ve gotten off track (and you may even have some extra free time – yay!)
7. Schedule free time. Time where you don’t actually plan anything, where you can do whatever. A schedule without free time can feel stifling, and it can also feel overwhelming, regardless of whether it is productive. It also allows you time to make up missed tasks from earlier in the day or week if your schedule didn’t work out as planned that day.
8. Stick to the schedule. Not in a crazy soccer mom kind of way…life happens. There are times when it’s not going to go as planned. But at the same time, there are almost always opportunities to get off track – we’re a society of distraction, and most people lose track of time unless it’s set for them. Set your phone with a nice sounding alarm tone scheduled to go off when it’s time to change tasks. For most things, I recommend setting a timer or alarm when you start the task, not all at once for specific times throughout the day. If one task moves you off schedule, that can get messy. The schedule is to help you stay on track, and it must always be treated with some flexibility, because of the whole life thing…
9. That being said, make sure you aren’t using life as an excuse. Yes, things are going to get in the way sometimes, and you will have to adjust. But if you find this to be the norm, it’s time to take a look at what might be going on that is constantly distracting you. If someone is always calling you and getting you off track, turn your phone off while you are doing certain things (or only allow calls to come through for certain people, like a child’s school or a partner/spouse).
10. Carry your schedule with you. If you like paper, write it down/type it out, print it, fold it up and put it in your wallet or purse. If you’re happier with digital versions, save it on your phone in an email you can access or in a note. Consult it throughout the day. Like any new routine, you’ll have to check in with it and make adjustments until it becomes the new norm.
Are you ready to make your master plan? Now you know what to do! Like many things, though, knowing what to do and being able to do it can be two different things. So if you need help, feel free to reach out and contact me. I’ll be happy to discuss your needs and see if I can be of service. And if you know you’re ready to rock and roll, you can access my schedule special here – good through the end of this month. Happy Organizing! 🙂
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