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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)
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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.

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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

More by this author

Timo Kiander

Productivity Author and Founder of Productive Superdad

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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