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How to Get Away From Your Tight Schedule (And Still Get Things Done)

How to Get Away From Your Tight Schedule (And Still Get Things Done)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Timo Kiander

Productivity Author and Founder of Productive Superdad

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What to Do in Free Time? 20 Productive Ways to Use the Time

What to Do in Free Time? 20 Productive Ways to Use the Time

If you’ve got a big block of free time, the best way to put that to use is to relax, have fun, decompress from a stressful day, or spend time with a loved one. But if you’ve just got a little chunk — say 5 or 10 minutes — there’s no time to do any of the fun stuff.

So, what to do in free time?

Put those little chunks of time to their most productive use.

Everyone works differently, so the best use of your free time really depends on you, your working style, and what’s on your to-do list. But it’s handy to have a list like this in order to quickly find a way to put that little spare time to work instantly, without any thought. Use the following list as a way to spark ideas for what you can do in a short amount of time.

1. Reading Files

Clip magazine articles or print out good articles or reports for reading later, and keep them in a folder marked “Reading File”. Take this wherever you go, and any time you have a little chunk of time, you can knock off items in your Reading File.

Keep a reading file on your computer (or in your bookmarks), for quick reading while at your desk (or on the road if you’ve got a laptop).

2. Clear out Inbox

Got a meeting in 5 minutes? Use it to get your physical or email inbox to empty.

If you’ve got a lot in your inbox, you’ll have to work quickly, and you may not get everything done; but reducing your pile can be a big help. And having an empty inbox is a wonderful feeling.

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3. Phone Calls

Keep a list of phone calls you need to make, with phone numbers, and carry it everywhere.

Whether you’re at your desk or on the road, you can knock a few calls off your list in a short amount of time.

4. Make Money

This is my favorite productive use of free time. I have a list of articles I need to write, and when I get some spare minutes, I’ll knock off half an article real quick.

If you get 5 to 10 chunks of free time a day, you can make a decent side income. Figure out how you can freelance your skills, and have work lined up that you can knock out quickly — break it up into little chunks, so those chunks can be done in short bursts.

5. File

No one likes to do this. If you’re on top of your game, you’re filing stuff immediately, so it doesn’t pile up.

But if you’ve just come off a really busy spurt, you may have a bunch of documents or files laying around.

Or maybe you have a big stack of stuff to file. Cut into that stack with every little bit of spare time you get, and soon you’ll be in filing Nirvana.

6. Network

Only have 2 minutes? Shoot off a quick email to a colleague. Even just a “touching bases” or follow-up email can do wonders for your working relationship. Or shoot off a quick question, and put it on your follow-up list for later.

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7. Clear out Feeds

If my email inbox is empty, and I have some spare time, I like to go to my Google Reader and clear out my feed inbox.

8. Goal Time

Take 10 minutes to think about your goals — personal and professional.

If you don’t have a list of goals, start on one. If you’ve got a list of goals, review them.

Write down a list of action steps you can take over the next couple of weeks to make these goals a reality. What action step can you do today? The more you focus on these goals, and review them, the more likely they will come true.

9. Update Finances

Many people fall behind with their finances, either in paying bills (they don’t have time), or entering transactions in their financial software, or clearing their checkbook, or reviewing their budget.

Take a few minutes to update these things. It just takes 10 to 15 minutes every now and then.

10. Brainstorm Ideas

Another favorite of mine if I just have 5 minutes — I’ll break out my pocket notebook, and start a brainstorming list for a project or article. Whatever you’ve got coming up in your work or personal life, it can benefit from a brainstorm. And that doesn’t take long.

11. Clear off Desk

Similar to the filing tip above, but this applies to whatever junk you’ve got cluttering up your desk. Or on the floor around your desk.

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Trash stuff, file stuff, put it in its place. A clear desk makes for a more productive you. And it’s oddly satisfying.

12. Exercise

Never have time to exercise? 10 minutes is enough to get off some pushups and crunches. Do that 2 to 3 times a day, and you’ve got a fit new you.

13. Take a Walk

This is another form of exercise that doesn’t take long, and you can do it anywhere. Even more important, it’s a good way to stretch your legs from sitting at your desk too long.

It also gets your creative juices flowing. If you’re ever stuck for ideas, taking a walk is a good way to get unstuck.

14. Follow up

Keep a follow-up list for everything you’re waiting on. Return calls, emails, memos — anything that someone owes you, put on the list.

When you’ve got a spare 10 minutes, do some follow-up calls or emails.

15. Meditate

You don’t need a yoga mat to do this. Just do it at your desk. Focus on your breathing. A quick 5 to 10 minutes of meditation (or even a nap) can be tremendously refreshing.

Take a look at this 5-Minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime

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16. Research

This is a daunting task for me. So I do it in little spurts.

If I’ve only got a few minutes, I’ll do some quick research and take some notes. Do this a few times, and I’m done!

17. Outline

Similar to brainstorming, but more formal. I like to do an outline of a complicated article, report or project, and it helps speed things along when I get to the actual writing. And it only takes a few minutes.

18. Get Prepped

Outlining is one way to prep for longer work, but there’s a lot of other ways you can prep for the next task on your list.

You may not have time to actually start on the task right now, but when you come back from your meeting or lunch, you’ll be all prepped and ready to go.

19. Be Early

Got some spare time before a meeting? Show up for the meeting early.

Sure, you might feel like a chump sitting there alone, but actually people respect those who show up early. It’s better than being late (unless you’re trying to play a power trip or something, but that’s not appreciated in many circles).

20. Log

If you keep a log of anything, a few spare minutes is the perfect time to update the log.

Actually, the perfect time to update the log is right after you do the activity (exercise, eat, crank a widget), but if you didn’t have time to do it before, your 5-minute break is as good a time as any.

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Featured photo credit: Lauren Mancke via unsplash.com

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