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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 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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