Often we start a new year with a vision for what we want to accomplish. As day-to-day life goes on, we can lose sight of that vision. If you’re frustrated by the feeling that weeks go by with no progress on the things that matter to you, or you don’t seem to have enough time in a week to get the things done that you need and want to do, creating a schedule can help. (And check below for the link to a free printable template for planning your weekly schedule!)
Using a weekly schedule to be your most productive and efficient
What is a schedule? It is a plan we can create for carrying out the tasks and projects that we need to do throughout the week, making lists of intended events and times. Schedule can also be a verb: we can take the action of scheduling things that are important to us.
- Noun: a plan for carrying out a process or procedure, giving lists of intended events and times.
- Verb: arrange or plan (an event) to take place at a particular time.
Why would you need a schedule?
- Predictability can reduce anxiety and stress. It allows us to know what’s going to happen and when. We can also let go of stress over things you’re not doing at any given moment because you know you’ve allocated time for it.
- Routines and habits use less mental energy, which you can instead use for creative thinking and problem solving.
- Doing things regularly, at reasonable planned intervals, can prevent things piling up into an intimidatingly big project, such as housecleaning projects or paperwork related to our business.
- If things are falling through the cracks because you are not remembering to do them, scheduling them can prevent them from getting overlooked.
- If one week after another goes by with no progress on your most important projects or most treasured goals, having a schedule that includes time to work on things can help you make progress.
Some tips for creating a weekly schedule that works for you
1. Write it down.
Even if you have a schedule in your mind (and even if it’s working for you), there is still value in seeing it on paper. Being able to look at it objectively and really think about it helps you decide if you want to do certain things, or even have to do them.
2. Schedule time for your priority projects.
Do you know your prime time, like when you have the most energy and it’s easiest to focus? Can you set aside–and protect–that time for the work that needs your energy and attention? Instead of fitting projects in around the day-to-day, try scheduling time for them first, even if it’s only small amounts of time. You can make a lot of progress one small step at a time if those small steps are taken consistently.
3. Build in white space.
“In design, ‘white space’ is negative space. It’s not blank space because it has a purpose. It is balancing the rest of the design by throwing what is on the page (or the screen) into relief. The white space helps focus your visual attention.” [from Why You Need “White Space” in Your Daily Routine]
This article goes on to discuss how white space in our schedule serves the same purpose:
“If we want to create an environment that nourishes innovation and imagination, we need to build quiet counterpoints into our daily rhythm. These small moments of ‘white space’— where we have time to pause and reflect, or go for a walk, or just breathe deeply for a few moments — are what give balance and flow and comprehension to our lives as a larger whole.”
White space isn’t time to process emails or plan or watch TV. It’s time where you’re not committed to doing anything in particular, and you can give your brain time to . . . breathe. Jocelyn, in her article, suggests some good uses of white space:
- Sitting quietly and letting your mind wander
- Free drawing with no specific objective
- Going for a walk around the block
- Doing a mini-workout
- Taking a power nap
- Automatic writing
- People watching
4. Schedule time for self-care.
This includes movement, sleep, and meals. Write these into your ideal schedule. These should be non-negotiable, but if we don’t make time for them on purpose, they won’t happen.
5. Block in time for batch processing.
You can batch tasks such as email, errands, or even recording podcast episodes.
Batching similar tasks saves you time. If the tasks require one set-up/tear-down, you can save time by having less shifting back and forth because we lose some amount of time whenever we switch tasks or focus. For example, if it takes you 10 minutes to set up, by doing several at the same time, you save that 10 minutes multiplied by the number of times you would have had to set up if you had done each of those similar tasks separately. Batching allows us to settle in to one mode and stay there, which is more efficient and often more effective.
6. Establish boundaries for time sucks.
Think about the things that use up time and energy (things that need to get done but aren’t necessarily the key productive tasks) and decide how much time you will allow for them. Email, social media, TV, . . . what are your time sucks?
7. Use timers and alarms.
Both timers and alarms can be used to remind you to start and to remind you to stop.
8. Create a master schedule.
Print out your master schedule and post it somewhere visible until it becomes habitual.
***Get your free printable template (and an example of my weekly schedule) here!**
9. Share your schedule with the other people in your life.
When it comes to your home things, get your spouse and kids to buy in, or at least be aware of what you’re trying to do. Same with your work schedule–maybe you can’t control everything, but find those things you can control and build your schedule around them. Share your schedule with your assistant, colleagues, and supervisor where appropriate.
10. Be flexible and have a backup plan.
The “ideal” schedule is just aspirational, not prescriptive. The schedule should serve you, not the other way around. Try experimenting; set up a schedule and follow it for a month, then adjust it as needed.
What do you think?
Do you have a schedule for your week? If not, could you create one and see if following it for a couple of weeks makes a difference? Please share your questions or thoughts in the comments section below this post or on The Productive Woman’s Facebook page, or send me an email.
Resources and Links
- Creating “White Space:” The Key to Increased Creativity and Productivity | by Regan Bach | Noteworthy – The Journal Blog
- Why You Need “White Space” in Your Daily Routine • Jocelyn K. Glei
- The Power of “White Space” to Increase Your Productivity – Time Management Ninja
- What are the biggest time-sucks at the workplace & everyday
- Free “ideal week” planning template
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