With the challenge of there being so many possible solutions for each of our struggles, the prospect of finding our own approach can be daunting. It all to easy to want to find an expert that will tell us what to do – break all the pieces down so we can follow it and poof, our problems will vanish. Even when our experience shows how unlikely this is, we can still get caught up in wanting an easy answer. Instead, when you know some basic ideas and approaches, you can pick and choose the parts that work for you and move forward. It is definitely a process – it’s likely to take time – and here are some ideas to help you find your own solution.
Make a Time Map-
This is what Julie Morgenstern’s refers to as a “budget of your day, week or month that balances your time between the various departments of your life.” I think about it as a chunking of what we need to do and how it relates to our schedule – a combination of the roles we fill and the ways we can shape our schedules to fit our life and style. It’s a visual guideline for how we want to use our time; usually done in broad strokes (though you design it as you want or need) and from here you can see where to add any additional appointments or tasks. Here are some sample time maps to see various ways you can design your own: Time Map Sample Booklet.
Since my schedule varies extensively, creating and using a time map is more challenging. Instead I’ve considered how much time I’d like to spend on the various roles of my life each week – then I can add them in as my schedule allows. The schedules we each have can vary so dramatically – this is where the strength of the time map can shine – you create it for your schedule, both the obligations of your life as well as your personal style. This deserves more attention; so keep your eyes open for a future post on just time maps.
Look for patterns in how you schedule and how you react to your schedule. For instance, when you have an appointment, you find yourself energized or drained after it? It won’t be that simple though, but it can begin to reveal your own style. Do you repeatedly schedule things around other appointments? Do you honor those scheduled tasks? One of the key features of being curious is that you continue the curiosity – things change and evolve all the time. Therefore, even if you think you’ve identified an important piece for yourself and schedule, work with that until it changes and then curiosity is still there to use again.
Experiment with the Variables-
Since there isn’t one right way of doing things, use that curiosity to test different options. One easy thing to test out can be when you run errands – do you do it at the end of a workday or when you have a day off? Or do you do a bit of both? Whatever your approach is, consider changing things for a little while – test how the changes impact your schedule, time, and energy. I’ve discovered that I function better with 1 day a week that has no appointments – even if that means I need to make a couple days longer to run errands. I also use David Allen’s Getting Things Done 2-minute rule in a different way – where I will decide on an amount of time, say 15, 30, 45 minutes and then work on all the 2-minute tasks I can find during that time.
Brainstorm: What will help you to be more mindful of your schedule?-
Between my curiosity and experimenting I figured out how many working hours were realistic. Yet, that didn’t solve how I’d sometimes over-schedule myself. Considering my calendar schedule – I work with the iPad calendar and the week view – I decided to create an “appointment” with the work hours scheduled for that week. This hasn’t eliminated my over-scheduling, though it’s helped tremendously and nothing is perfect. You know your schedule and your challenges, what can help you? The possibilities might not occur to you right way – sometimes they need to marinate. Once you have an idea, try it and see what happens. Each idea you try is a success regardless of whether it is a solution for you – at least if you give it a good trial.
I wish for all of us that an easy solution existed. Once we find the pieces that work, it can seem easy. It’s the process of discovering our own answers that can challenge us. I’m here to tell you it can be done – have hope. Not long ago I wrote 3 Common Scheduling Recommendations, which talks about probably the most common advice from time management experts. It’s a journey – our path to figuring out how to make things work best for ourselves. Good Luck and if you have any questions – you know how to reach me.