Here is the plain truth: Your schedule is just too tight.

You feel panicked as you move from one appointment to another and your calendar is so full of notes for the day you can hardly read them. At the same time, you are trying to make it to the appointments in time, because you want to give people an impression of you as a trustworthy and punctual person. Eventually you are starting to be overwhelmed by the stress that’s a result of your manic schedule. You also know that you have to find a solution quickly, because you can’t live like this any longer.

Were you too optimistic with your scheduling?

If there is one scheduling “sin” that most people commit, it’s planning a timetable that is too tight. It’s very easy to be overly optimistic of your capabilities to adhere to your schedule, until you’re actually in it. That’s usually when you realize that your plan was not realistic.

So what are the reasons behind making scheduled that are too tight?

First, it could be that you put too much action into one day, because you genuinely think you can do it. Putting appointments and tasks one right after another may doable in the planning phase, but reality will eventually show that this wasn’t necessarily the best thing to do.

Many of us don’t consider building in  transition times between tasks. When you schedule too many tasks or appointments for the one day with the lack of understanding of the transition times you need, you’ll most likely experience the domino effect: When you are running late for one appointment, you will be running late for the rest of the appointments as well.

How can we fix this?

The blueprint for solid scheduling

With these steps, you can have schedules that are more realistic in your everyday life:

1. Dedicate time for planning. Don’t rush through the planning phase. Instead, make sure that you allow enough time for the planning process.

Instead of planning just 5 minutes, decide to plan 15 to 30 minutes where you really go through your day and plan it out well.

In addition, if you feel that even 30 minutes is not enough, then take all the time you need! The idea is to have a plan that you can rely on the next day.

2. Choose the right environment. Pay close attention to where and when you make the plan.

If you’re planning your schedule at home, choose a time when it is quiet enough for this activity. For instance, you could wake up earlier than the rest of the family and do the planning then.

You could also decide to do your planning somewhere else, like in a library or perhaps outside in nature, if there is too much distraction at home.

3. Cut down the appointments. If possible, try to cut down the number of appointments you have. That way you are not overwhelmed by having too much activity packed into one day.

The fewer appointments you have, the easier it is to keep your schedule.

4. Add a buffer. Add at least 15-20 minutes buffer between your appointments. The time will of course depend on your situation, but understand that often more time is needed to accomplish a task than you actually think and a buffer allows for that.

For instance, if you have a meeting with your client, you’ll have to consider the whole picture:

  • the time it takes to go to your client
  • the time you are spending with him/her
  • the time it takes to get back from your client

As you can see, the actual appointment is just one part of the whole situation and you should include those other parts (transition times) in your planning as well.

5. Analyze. Sometimes – even with proper planning – your schedules may fall apart for some reason or another. That’s why it’s important to analyze what happened afterwards, so that the same thing can be prevented in the future.

6. Time your recurring tasks. If you have a repeating task or appointment, you might want to time it. That makes it so much easier for you to plan your future appointments or tasks with that information.

For instance, I know that it takes approximately 1 hour to complete a workout in the gym. This includes not only the workout part, but also going to the gym, putting my gym gear on, taking a shower after the workout, and getting back home.

With this information, it’s possible to be more realistic with my schedule, since I know the actual time it takes to accomplish a task.

In conclusion

It’s tempting to plan schedules that are too tight.

However, with some focus on the planning phase, your schedules will be more realistic and you will not be burning yourself out unnecessarily.

Over to you: How do you make sure your schedules aren’t too tight and you make your appointments on time?

Featured photo credit:  Frantic, unorganized businessman via Shutterstock

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