Do you ever feel like there is never enough time in the day? Despite the fact that time is perhaps the most sought-after resource available for our use, most of us are dreadful at spending it wisely.
If you control your time, you control your life.
Time is a precious commodity; everyone gets an equal share but we use it very differently. We all have to fit many time-consuming tasks into schedules that are also full of learning, socializing and of course working. For this reason, good time management - or more appropriately self-management (as it is oneself that is actually managed) is critical.
A major part of time management and scheduling is that you feel great achievement in getting things done. An instant feel-good hit that you have taken control and taken care of business.
The basic key to time-management (self-management) is to schedule your time. This isn't hard. Even a busy person has free time - the key to successful time management is to know what tasks are important, and ensure that these things are done first instead of watching TV etc.
It is important to note that good time management doesn't mean that you are going to turn into a robot, stuck into a rigid schedule, incapable of being spontaneous or enjoying life. Rather, good time-management allows you to get more done without getting stressed out.
The Importance of Scheduling
Scheduling is the learned art of planning your activities so that you can achieve your goals and priorities in the time you have available. When it's done effectively, it helps you:
Achieve a good work-life balance.
Avoid taking on more than you can handle.
Understand what you can realistically achieve with your time.
Make sure you have enough time for essential tasks.
Add contingency time for "the unexpected" thus avoiding overwhelm.
Have enough time and actively making time for family and friends, exercise and hobbies.
Work steadily toward your personal and career goals.
Time is the one resource that we can't buy, but we often waste it or use it ineffectively. Scheduling helps you think about what you want to achieve in a day, week or month, and it keeps you on track to accomplish your goals.
Learn to make your daily schedule realistic, which means you schedule what can and needs to be done and you actually do those things. You have to be flexible; new things will come up each day that require attention. Don't waste time when confronted with a hard or large task. Procrastination never helps anyone. If you are avoiding an unpleasant task, perhaps you can get started by telling yourself "The quicker I get this done then the sooner I don’t have to worry about it." It might not be as bad as you imagined. Recognize that putting off an inevitable chore just generates more stress.
Being organized and productive in the areas that are important to you will be rewarding, but you need more rewards. Consider these suggestions: build into your schedule a great mix of pleasure and work, make sure there is something to look forward to each day and at the end of the day take time to review with pride what you have done.
Don’t pack your schedule. There is no faster way to feel as though your day is not your own, and that you are no longer in control, than scheduling tasks back to back. Not only is it not fun to feel this way, it's not sustainable. I've felt the effects of this and burn-out is always on the horizon.
The solution, as simple as it sounds, is to schedule regular downtime. Use this time to think big, catch up on the latest news, get out from under that pile of unread emails, or just take a walk. Whatever you do, just make sure you make that time for yourself -- every day and in a systematic way.
Downtime is the best investment you can make in yourself.
You need to rest your mind in order for it to work well on a long-term basis. Many people need to schedule these rest periods, and even lay down rules for what can and cannot be done during those times.
If you’re not naturally inclined to slowing down and taking a break, the best thing you can do is schedule downtime.
How much downtime you need to schedule is a personal matter that depends on several factors. It’s tempting to schedule less time than you need, but don’t succumb to that temptation.
Think about how much you need as opposed to how much you can get by with.
Set Rules for Your Downtime
For example, restrict what you can and cannot use a computer for. Researching your dream trip to Hawaii is acceptable, paying bills online is not. No sneaking emails whilst playing with the kids or cleaning the kitchen when you were going to watch a movie.
It’s important, though, to gauge how effective your downtime is and how successful you’ve been at including downtime in your schedule.
How much downtime did you take in the last week?
How does that compare to the amount you scheduled?
Downtime is important. Realize that relaxing isn’t a total waste of time, even if the lack of action makes it feel that way.
How to prepare your schedule:
1. Identify the block of time you are going to schedule. A day, week or month.
2. Write in your essential tasks, your non-negotiable must do’s.
3. Schedule "housekeeping" activities. Appointments, tasks and social dates.
4. Block in appropriate downtime to recoup and relax to maintain a healthy mindset. This one is exceptionally important to a healthy happy lifestyle.
5. Schedule the activities that address your priorities, personal goals or passions. This could be time allocated to exercise, hobbies or aspirations.
6. Review your schedule to identify tasks that can be delegated, outsourced or cut altogether.
At the end of each week review your schedule. Celebrate the wins and modify the schedule for the following week where things didn’t work. Be gentle on yourself and remember this is not a task to add pressure to your life. Scheduling will give you back control of your time.
In an excerpt from her new book, best-selling author Gretchen Rubin explains how to schedule habit change into your daily routine. A great resource for improving your lifestyle further through scheduling and we just couldn’t resist sharing with you.
One Of The Most Important Strategies For Changing Your Habits- By Gretchen Rubin
The Strategy of Scheduling, of setting a specific, regular time for an activity to recur, is one of the most familiar and powerful strategies of habit formation. Scheduling makes us far more likely to convert an activity into a habit.
Habits grow strongest and fastest when they're repeated in predictable ways, and for most of us putting an activity on the schedule tends to lock us into doing it.
To apply the Strategy of Scheduling, we must decide when, and how often, a habit should occur. Generally, advice about habit formation focuses on fixed habits—that is, habits that always happen in the same way, without conscious thought. Every day I’m up and brushing my teeth before I know it; I put on my seat belt; I meditate after I get dressed.
However, I’ve noticed that I have both fixed habits and unfixed habits. An unfixed habit requires more decision making and adjustment: I’m in the habit of going to the gym on Mondays, and I write every day, but every Monday I must decide when to go to the gym, and I must decide when and where I’ll do my daily writing. I try to make my good habits as fixed as possible, because the more consistently I perform an action, the more automatic it becomes, and the fewer decisions it requires; but given the complexities of life, many habits can’t be made completely automatic.
I’d given up the idea that I can create a habit simply by scheduling an action a certain number of times. Although many people believe that habits form in twenty-one days, when researchers at University College London examined how long people took to adopt a daily habit, such as drinking water or doing sit-ups, they found that, on average, a habit took sixty-six days to form. An average number isn’t very useful, however, because—as we all know from experience—some people adopt habits more easily than others, and some habits form more quickly than others. Bad habits can be easy to create, though they make life harder, while good habits can be hard to create, though they make life easier.
If you do something once it’s exciting, and if you do it every day it’s exciting. But if you do it, say, twice or just almost every day, it’s not good any more.
We may not be able to form a habit in twenty-one days, but in many situations, we do benefit from scheduling a habit every day. The things we do every day take on a certain beauty, and funnily enough, two very unconventional geniuses wrote about the power of daily repetition. Andy Warhol said, "Either once only, or every day. If you do something once it’s exciting, and if you do it every day it’s exciting. But if you do it, say, twice or just almost every day, it’s not good anymore." Gertrude Stein made a related point: "Anything one does every day is important and imposing."
One of my most helpful Secrets of Adulthood is "What I do every day matters more than what I do once in a while." Perhaps surprisingly, I’ve found that it’s actually easier to do something every day than some days. For me, the more regular and frequent the work, the more creative and productive I am—and the more I enjoy it—so I write every single day, including weekends, holidays, and vacations.
What I do every day matters more than what I do once in a while.
Similarly, it’s easier for me to post to my blog six days a week, instead of four days a week, because if I do it four days a week, I spend a lot of time arguing with myself about whether today is the day. Did the week start on Sunday or Monday? Do I deserve a break? Did yesterday "count"? When I post six days a week, I don’t have to make any decisions.
Along with meditation, I identified two new habits to follow every day. First, I wanted to email more often with my sister. I don’t get to spend nearly enough time with Elizabeth, and it’s hard even to find time to talk by phone. I could at least schedule a daily email—even if I only wrote a few words in the subject line.
Also, I decided to take a daily photo of something beautiful or interesting. I hoped this exercise would sharpen my sensibilities by requiring that I watch, throughout the day, for a subject worthy of photographing.
Doing a habit every day is helpful; does time of day matter?
For most people, whenever possible, important habits should be scheduled for the morning. Mornings tend to unfold in a predictable way, and as the day goes on, more complications arise—whether real or invented—which is one reason why I’d scheduled my new meditation habit in the morning. Also, self-control is strongest then; I heard about one corporate dining room that encourages healthier eating habits by requiring people to place their lunch orders by 9:30 a.m., no changes permitted.
By contrast, self-control wanes as the day wears on, which helps explain why sexual indiscretions, excessive gambling, overconsumption of alcohol, and impulsive crimes usually happen at night.
To clear time to schedule a new morning habit, many people try waking up a bit earlier, but this can be tough. One trick? Use the autumn end to daylight saving time as a painless way to add an hour to the morning. Most people relish the extra hour of sleep when time "falls back" (fewer car accidents occur on the Monday after the time change, because people are better rested). The time change, however, offers an easy opportunity to change daily habits. We can start waking up an hour early, and we can do a lot with that hour.
This coming week prepare how you will spend your time. Feel the freedom, achievement and control that scheduling can give back to you. Don’t forget to have a look in the MeManagement Shop for our Weekly Planner to assist your scheduling. Magnetised for the fridge so the whole family can be on board with your new found organisational abilities.
Leave a comment below if this post has given you scheduling inspiration. What you are going to do differently?
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