You may have heard the expression that when somebody says they’ll do something “whenever” that often translates into “When? Never.” In recent months I’ve taken this idea to heart and started scheduling things more. I do this in a number of ways.
People often place deadlines on goals, which I do as well, but I take it a step further and place deadlines on the actions I need to take to reach those goals. For example, I’m working on a novel and I’ve set a goal to have a first draft done within a year. That’s all well and good, but I’m also setting weekly and monthly word-count goals around this to make sure that I move it forward. If I’m going to make those weekly goals then I need to schedule when I’m going to work to reach those goals, which ends up on my daily calendar. This is important to me so I’m scheduling it.
I’ve taken to blocking time on my calendar to work on other important projects, including those at work. I treat these the same way that I would meetings with others. They are meetings with myself to move these projects forward.
I plan my days around this, and when I do so and follow that schedule, things get done. I’m still practicing and learning how to make this best work to move forward on what matters to me and I recognize that I still have some work to do to get this right. There are two things that I need to improve on:
First, I do a really good job of block scheduling my projects during my work day, but I haven’t made this a consistent habit outside of my work day so my evenings and weekends are prone to trying to get a “to-do” list done “whenever” I can fit it in. While the idea of structuring my time on weekends may sound painfully anal, trying to squeeze in the important stuff that I want to get done at the end of the weekend often leads to a lot of stress, plus it nags at me throughout the weekend, making the whole weekend less relaxing.
Some people may have read the previous paragraph and thought, “well you’re probably spending time with your family so other things can wait”. I want to make sure that I not only get that time with my family, but I also want to be able to focus on my family and not have that “to-do” list rolling around in my head.
Second, and this is probably even more important, I need to keep working on establishing what things really matter to me. I shouldn’t be blocking two hours to work on something that isn’t that important to me, or to my work overall (even if that particular project really doesn’t matter to me). Establishing what is important will help me to better schedule time for those things, and help me in saying “no” to taking on things that aren’t important and will take time away from those things that are.
Again, scheduling may sound anal or at least boring, but I’ve seen evidence of it really working. When I schedule important things and get them done, I feel a sense of satisfaction that doesn’t come with ticking items off of a general to-do list or spending a lot of time on things that I don’t see a purpose to. Finding what matters and then making (not finding) time to do them are key to moving forward on living the life I want.