CAREER


How To Improve Your Schedule and Stop Wasting Time

elle

I’ll be the first to admit (ok, my boyfriend may be the first) that I am an over-scheduler. I don’t account for how long some activities will take, so I add more than I can fit in a day. If you’re guilty of this, you know how unproductive and exhausting this can be.

So how do we stop ourselves from overbooking and actually start getting things done?

Schedule “curation!” We associate the word “curate” with picture-perfect social feeds, but the actual definition is:

To select, organize, and look after the items in (a collection or exhibition).

The definition itself breaks down into three simple steps! If we become more mindful with how we choose to spend our time, imagine the things you could get done (or not get done)! One of my favorite episodes of the Being Boss podcast is “Put Your Money Where Your Happy Is.” The same is true of your energy and time. If having a whole day to lay on your couch and recharge for the week makes you happy – DO IT. Don’t spend your time meeting obligations you don’t enjoy.

A 3-step process to help you maximize your time.

I’ve been cutting down on physical clutter; if every piece of my schedule was an object, I’d run in the opposite direction! If you feel the same, keep reading.

Step 1: Select

We make a million micro-decisions a day, and research says we’re exhausting ourselves. Instead of adding events that will create more decisions (“what will I wear, what route will I take, how long will I stay”) hold each invitation up to your mental microscope. Get into the tiniest grains of it and ask yourself if it’s something you really want to do. Go down three levels of “why.” If any of those answers is:

  • Because I would feel bad.
  • I don’t want to hurt ____’s feelings.
  • I *have* to go.

Then you should skip it. People will get over your absence and so will you.

I’m not encouraging you to flake on things you’ve already agreed to. We all need to stop agreeing to things on the spot. Instead of the immediate “yes” or a false positive (looking at you, “I might be able to make that”), create a buffer with your response. For example, “thanks for the invitation, can I check my schedule and get back to you?”

Step 2: Organize

Write it down somewhere, anywhere! Whether that’s a physical planner or your phone’s calendar, put everything in it. If you’re not sure how long it will take, block off at least an hour for each item, and color code it if you’re feeling spicy. This will give you a visual cue to stop when a day starts to look crowded.

While you’re laying out your days, make sure to group similar tasks together. I like to do this based on location, starting with my furthest destination and working my way back home throughout the course of the day. Or, I group things together based on what I’ll need. If I’m meeting with a design client, I keep that separate from errand days or situations where I’ll be lugging my laptop around all day. One thing I know I can improve on is not scheduling anything on my blog day (Sundays, if you’re curious.) For now, I’m working on cutting down Sunday activities and limiting them to early time slots. Writing is a big motivator for me, so if I get up early and get things out of my way, I can get to it sooner!

This brings me to my next point – it’s critical to build in some time for yourself. Even small breaks, like completely disconnecting for 15 minutes can make a huge difference. When I lived with my family, I had a daily ritual after work of ten completely undisturbed minutes. After stressful days at the office, I needed that transition time. Now, my “me time” has evolved into the 45 minutes I spend sweating it out at the gym. Though I’m surrounded by people, it gives me the chance to clear my head and focus on moving and pushing myself.

Step 3: Look after it.

Back to the concept of a personal museum; Looking at the “collection” of your time, would you rather remember the day you spent in traffic (motivated by FOMO), or the long slow brunch with a loved one? I’ve actually done that drive, and I’ll let you guess what day I enjoyed more.

Looking after your schedule is the most important part of this equation. If I don’t look at my planner a few times a week, I can guarantee that I will forget something. So rewind to step two, and make sure that when you’re organizing your time, you factor in a daily or weekly check-in.

Aside from short-term plans, we also need to factor in our long-term goals. I’ve written about giving your goals deadlines and milestones before. The summary: break those big dreams down into realistic steps. Ask yourself when these steps will get done and schedule them in!

Focusing on one day/week at a time is a great way to get through when you’re in it, but that needs to be balanced with a long-term vision. The easy way to strike this balance is to start with the milestones you want to hit. Then stop worrying about the steps ahead and engage with the step right in front of you. If you need a simple check-in format, I’ve got one right here in the library for you😉

TL;DR

With all the distractions available to us, building a balanced schedule is more important than ever. Being selective with your time is a necessary skill for a Boss Babe Life, and taking charge of your schedule starts with investing in what truly matters to you! Start with filling in your goals, set aside time with the people who matter, and sprinkle in social & professional plans as they come along:

1. You can say “no” to things you don’t want to do.

2. Lay out/keep track of the things you *do* want to do.

3. Check in with those things and keep your planner/calendar up to date.