If you’re anything like me, sometimes it feels like you have way too much to pack into one day. You never actually feel productive and/or accomplished. The solution to this problem is not to work harder! Instead, you should intentionally design your workload around when you work best. Here’s how you can create a schedule that works for you.
Create a Schedule that works for YOU
I have definitely fallen victim to trying to cram all of my tasks into one day, only to barely finish one of them. I found myself unable to find my “flow” and feeling resistance around what I was trying to accomplish. After much frustration and trying to figure out why I was barely making it through my to-do lists, I realized that I needed to be more intentional about planning my days and weeks. Each of us are unique human beings who each have a very specific work style! We need to learn what our style is and design a schedule that complements that. Stop working against the grain – let’s create a schedule that works for YOU!
So what’s the secret?
After some exploration, I created a simple process to help me design my daily and weekly schedule to fit my lifestyle and account for my commitments and routines. This step by step process asks the right questions to get you thinking about how you operate to create a schedule that works for you.
Step-by-Step Guide to Create a Schedule that Works for You
Step 1: List all commitments
The best first step in any sort of problem-solving activity is a brain dump. I want you to list every commitment that you have (or want to have) that is floating around in your brain or on your calendar. These commitments can include work, childcare, weekly errands, classes, etc. Essentially, anything that you have scheduled that is static, and cannot really be moved or changed.
Along with this list, also include any morning or evening routines that you incorporate into your schedule. Also add any hobbies (such as reading before bed) that you have or want to make time to do.
Step 2: Categorize your tasks
Now that you have this list of all of your commitments, the next step is to categorize them into two-three different groups. I have categorized my list into appointments and “nice to haves.” The “nice to have” tasks are hobbies and routines that I am working to incorporate into my life, but that do not take precedence over my appointments (work time, calls, meetings, therapy). You can have your own categories like “work,” “family,” or “social commitments” as well.
Step 3: Workshop what to do when
Step 3 takes a little bit of exploration and trial and error, which in my opinion, is the most important part! We have to be patient and experiment with what works best for us.
Take some time to reflect and workshop the following questions:
- Do you take more time to wake up in the morning?
- What time of day do you feel the most energized?
- At what point do you feel as though you are crashing?
- Do you find yourself getting a second wind when doing a certain activity?
- What do you look forward to doing the most?
- Do you need some time to wind down at night?
Getting a feel for how you operate during the day is key to creating a schedule that works best for you! If you are a morning person, this is when you may do your most impactful tasks such as deep brainstorming and/or strategy work. If you are slow to wake up in the morning like myself, you may use that time to bring the dog for a walk, make a breakfast that you look forward to eating, and go through some emails. It’s all about YOU and what makes you feel the most productive.
Step 4: Put it to paper
Now’s the time to set some standards for yourself. First, start with a blank piece of paper, a blank weekly agenda page, your favorite notes app, etc. Then, begin to populate items from step two in order of importance. For example, if you have weekly therapy, daily pickups and drop offs, or standard work hours, add these to your schedule first.
Now think back to what you learned about your working style in step three. Begin to schedule tasks at specific times when you work best for optimal results. Your time scheduling will always need tweaking, but eventually you will notice that you are in more of a “groove” than you have been before!
As you continue to workshop your schedule, keep a running list of other “nice to have” tasks along with the estimated amount of time you need to complete them. If you notice that you have some pockets of free time, you can add them in. For example, if you realize you have 20 minutes before your next task, you can refer to your list. If “Read NY Times article – 20 min” is on your list, you can automatically shift gears without wasting a second.
Last but not least, always make sure you have a cut off time before bed! If you don’t learn how to unplug at the end of the day, you will not be at your best.
A go-to schedule creation system that works for you is something that you can refer to whenever you need it. We are ever-evolving humans and we need to realize that our schedules, goals, and priorities are ever-evolving as well. Instead of working against what feels natural to you, learn to work with all of your strengths!