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How to Build the Perfect Schedule
Distractions are everywhere. They're unavoidable. You might intend to do your laundry or shop for groceries and the next thing you know, you've spent over four hours on the couch binge-watching episodes of your favorite show, completely immersed in a different world as you procrastinate and put off your responsibilities.
It's human nature, and most people are guilty of wasting time. That said, time is an enormously valuable resource, and it's essential you manage it efficiently. Otherwise, you could end up with a pile of dirty clothes and an empty refrigerator.
To ensure that doesn't happen, we've compiled five smart tips you can use to build a perfect schedule. Though distractions are unavoidable, you'll find you're far less likely to deviate from your daily duties when you have structure.
1. Divide Your Day
You can begin developing your scheduling by dividing each day into three sections for the morning, afternoon and evening.
You'll have more or less energy during different periods of the day, and your schedule should reflect how you're likely to feel. Here's a simple example of what a schedule should look like:
- Exercise routine
- Answering emails
- Grocery shopping
- Doing dishes
- Ironing clothes
Your schedule isn't likely to match the one provided above, but the concept remains the same. As you begin your day, you'll have the willpower and motivation necessary to complete more difficult tasks. Moving into the afternoon, you can attend to your basic responsibilities, and by evening, your final chores are easy.
Whether you'd like to assign timeframes to each item is up to you, but we'd recommend against it outside a business context. A little flexibility is best, and you don't want to place too much pressure on yourself to finish something if you can't do it. As long as you stay productive, you're moving in the right direction.
2. Group Commitments Together
Instead of separating your private and professional calendar, you should place all your commitments in the same space. This will give you a comprehensive picture of what you need to accomplish over the coming week, both in your personal life and at work.
You might have concerns over clutter. It's true your schedule could look a little confusing at first, but you can employ color coding to differentiate your responsibilities. For personal items, use blue, and for work items, use red. Whatever color scheme you decide on, make sure you can easily distinguish between your categories.
The alternative will have you switching back and forth between your private and professional calendars, which is inefficient and disorienting. Through placing all of your color-coded duties in a single space, you'll enjoy convenience and transparency.
3. Assign Less Time to Meetings
Many professionals make the mistake of allotting too much time to their meetings.
They expect a short conversation to last 30 minutes and a long conversation to last an hour, leaving them with too much space in their schedule. This problem has a simple solution, requiring only a small adjustment.
Cut your meetings down to 10 to 15 minutes in length. Tell your business associates that if they need additional time to discuss something in detail, they can request a longer session. Otherwise, you should trust your estimations are realistic and you can handle the matter within your set timeframe.
You should also leave an open time slot at the end of your workday to act as a buffer against surprises. If anything new pops up, you can manage it and still leave at a reasonable hour. It's a small precaution that'll save you from any conflicts that might arise from overlapping responsibilities.
4. Break Down Larger Tasks
Some tasks are more complicated than answering emails or ironing clothes.
If you have a project you need to finish before a set deadline, you should break it into smaller segments for easier schedule management. Here's an example of how that segmentation would appear on your schedule:
- Exercise routine
- Finish research document
- Organize references
- Compose works cited page
- Edit and double-check
- Submit for approval
Without the four steps detailed below Finish Research Document, you'd have an idea of what you needed to do, but not a clear plan. It's far better to write out each component, and research supports this. Vague tasks cause people to procrastinate.
5. Make the Necessary Changes
After you've finished organizing your schedule, try it for 30 days and see how you feel.
It may take a slight adjustment period, so give it more than just a single week. If you find that one of the suggestions mentioned here doesn't work within your set of circumstances, make the necessary changes.
Use the following questions as a checklist to gauge the efficacy of your schedule:
- Am I punctual for appointments and meetings?
- Am I able to accomplish all my daily responsibilities?
- Do I have enough time to drive from place to place?
- Am I making the most efficient use of my free time?
- Where can I free up space for other activities?
As you answer the questions above, edit your schedule to reflect what you've learned. Soon enough, you'll have a perfect schedule that allows for work and recreation, with few areas of compromise.
Scheduling Is Sometimes Difficult
It can feel like you move from one responsibility to the next without stopping, always in perpetual motion. You're picking up your dog from the kennel, preparing lunch for the following workday, raking the leaves and mowing the lawn, or bringing your car to the shop. You're moving from place to place, speaking with person after person as you try to get everything done.
While all these duties can weigh you down, a schedule will provide the support you need. Implement some of these tips, and you'll find that organizing your tasks is simple. Start by dividing your day, and work from there. Before you know it, you'll have a scheduling system that works for you and takes your productivity to another level.
About the Author
Kayla Matthews is a productivity writer and self-improvement blogger. You can find her work on The Huffington Post, MakeUseOf, Tiny Buddha and The Muse. To read more posts by Kayla, subscribe to her newsletter.