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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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Last Updated on August 16, 2018

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they?

How about a unique spin on things?

These 16 productivity secrets of successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives. Learn from these highly successful people, turn these little things they do into your daily habits and you’ll get closer to success.

1. Empty your mind.

It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks.

Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

Here’s a guide to help you empty your mind and think sharper:

How to Declutter Your Mind to Sharpen Your Brain and Fall Asleep Faster

2. Keep certain days clear.

Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings.

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This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

3. Prioritize your work.

Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time.

Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

Lifehack’s CEO has a unique way to prioritize works, take a look at it here:

How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

4. Chop up your time.

Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

5. Have a thinking position.

Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

What works for others may not work for you. Try to find a spot and position that is perfect for you to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

6. Pick three to five things you must do that day.

To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things.

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Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

7. Don’t try to do too much.

OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew. Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

8. Have a daily action plan.

Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a daily action plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished.

Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

9. Do your most dreaded project first.

Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else. This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

10. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule.”

The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then. Putting it off just adds to your to-do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

11. Have a place devoted to work.

If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day.

But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch.

Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

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Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work. Maybe it’s a cafe downstairs, the library, or a meeting room. Whenever and wherever works for you, do your works there.

12. Find your golden hour.

You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule!

Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your to-do list.

Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

13. Pretend you’re on an airplane.

It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions.

By pretending you’re on an airplane, you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls.

Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

14. Never stop.

Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress.

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Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break. It’s just a momentum that will push you go further./

15. Be in tune with your body.

Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it. Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

16. Try different methods.

Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around.

It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

Same for you, don’t give up and think that it’s impossible for you to be productive when one method fails. Try different methods until you find what works perfectly for you.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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