What comes to mind for what ‘schedule’ means to you? There are times that I think of my calendar specifically – those appointments that are concrete and involve other people. Other times it’s broader than just my calendar – where it’s all the various pieces on my agenda. And let’s be honest, we all have an agenda – whether or not we write it down or make consistent progress. When we struggle with our schedules it’s setting us up for crazy-making – we feel guilty, lazy, and head towards being overwhelmed. And no matter what any expert might claim, what will help you is something for you to discover, so let’s consider some approaches that you can experiment with to find out what will help you.
Put Tasks Into Your Calendar-
Most time management experts say that we need to put tasks into our calendar – you choose a block of time and add it directly, making it into a concrete appointment, with you. If you’ve never tried doing this, I would suggest you test it out and see if it helps you. This seems to be one of the most popular and common recommendations – sometimes even part of the foundation of time management approaches. It’s also a prime example of something that works for some people and falls flat with others. Although I play with this from time to time, it’s something that fails to benefit me. Maybe my inner child rebels against that much structure or I’m aware of how negotiable those tasks really are – yet more often than not, any tasks in my calendar end up getting done in other time slot or avoided. The one exception can be errands – where I choose the errands based on time and location, so it’s really the most convenient to do it then.
Identify Your Roles-
This is another popular piece of the foundation for managing your time – identify your values and the life roles you fill. Another way to think about these is what are your big picture goals for your life – those important things that you want to spend time on. I’ll even go a step further and tell you to make sure one of those things on your list needs to be: personal/self-care or some other name that means you’re making yourself a priority in order to have the energy for the other things. If we identify “relationships/family/friendship” as a role we value, we can then make room in our schedule for attending to that. I talk about this in Tasks – Big Picture View, and share my own list of 5 roles. The list of your roles will work more effectively if it’s short (again time is limited) and then you make effort to include fulfilling aspects of it in your schedule. You can use these roles in other experiments – both to help you include them in your schedule and to see if you are living your values the way you’d like to be.
Include Time Estimates with Each Task-
Many experts talk about writing the amount of time you think a task will take right after the item – regardless of what the task is or how time consuming. As I talked about in Take Control of Your Schedule, we all only have so much time to work with and it only helps us if we can avoid over-scheduling ourselves. I’ve talked before about how our perceptions of time can be distorted – in either direction – so writing down your estimate about how long each task will take you helps you to be mindful about what you’re trying to accomplish and whether it’s a task for another day or time. Also by having the time estimate there, you might realize how you need to adjust the allotted time for certain tasks, more or less time – helping you control your schedule in the future. Although I do not write time estimates each week on my to-do list, I use this as needed – whether to remind myself that this or that task will take more time or to clearly show that just because most tasks are “small” the time still adds up. I’ve also noticed that when I am feeling overwhelmed that including the time estimates on my to-do list helps lessen my anxiety and stress, which translates to making the most of my time in smart ways. Of course, if you use a digital calendar and put your tasks directly into your calendar, you are blocking the time – the estimate of the time that task will take you. Even if you don’t physically record your tasks, you can consider the time required when you’re thinking about what’s on your agenda.
These 3 approaches to handling your schedule more effectively are probably the most well known, although I’ve got several more on my list of options for scheduling experiments for another time. None of these are the end-all be-all that will solve any schedule challenges. They can all be used together or not – although knowing these approaches, even if you don’t actively use any of them, can be important as you work with your schedule. If you haven’t tried any of these, test them out for yourself and your life. Do they add any benefit for your schedule? Is there a particular time or context that they could help you? Remember, it’s all about finding ways to help make your life easier.