Time management is a tricky business, if you ask me. I don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all template that truly works for everyone. I do, however, believe that by sharing our different approaches to time management we can help inspire and motivate each other to carve our own path. In this spirit I thought I would share my current approach to time management with you, including a look at my new weekly schedule. Keep in mind that this schedule is fine-tuned to meet my unique needs. You need to consider your own requirements for a functioning schedule that works for you.
Step 1 – Big Picture Planning
I like to work on goal setting every January. The new year provides a perfect opportunity to reflect on what worked and what didn’t the previous year and make changes keeping these considerations in mind. After contemplating my 2014 objectives (which you can read more about here if you’d like), I had a good grasp of my big picture goals for the year. Using the big picture as a starting off point in goal setting allowed me to not get too flustered by the minutia right off the bat. Scaling down to weekly goals came rather easily to me after I had spent adequate time on the big stuff. Here is what I came up with:
I find that less is more in this stage of the game. Again, getting caught up in the minutia at this point has always derailed me in the past. Listing every single little task ends up feeling overwhelming, especially when it comes time to sort those tasks into a weekly schedule. I chose to split my weekly goals into two main categories, work and personal, and limited myself to just a few bullet points under each. I already know the details that go into making each of these goals happen. By leaving out the little stuff I allowed myself a chance to look at the week in a more manageable way.
FYI – When I refer to “Pack Time” I am referring my family, which is my pack 🙂
Step 2 – Create A Work Schedule
For me, creating a work schedule meant taking my work goals for the week, which require more planning than my personal ones, and placing them into a week at-a-glance timetable. If you work outside of the home or are a student chances are you already have a work schedule provided for you. If you’re mainly at home or do freelance work, creating a work schedule can help add structure to your days. I don’t believe this has to apply only to professionals, but can also be an effective tool for stay at home moms and housewives. I personally find there is a lot of freedom in having structure if it helps you be productive without feeling overwhelmed or burned out. Here is my current work schedule:
I’ve set it up in the simplest way possible, again so as to not overwhelming myself with the details. I already know what goes into making each of those videos and blog posts happen and trying to squeeze those things onto this schedule would disrupt its usefulness. I use my planners and daily to-do lists to manage those sorts of details. My goal is to work mainly on weekdays and ultimately have any given video and blog post finished and scheduled the day before it goes up. Using the schedule above allows me to post new content 4-5 days per week, working on my TBBB post on Monday, my MHWL post on Wednesday, and so on. I think this is a much more realistic and manageable approach to creating content than my structureless, all-consuming methods of the past. I’ve also made space for some of the other important components of my work, including my tumblrs and social media (such as Twitter, Instagram, & Facebook), as well as correspondence. It is important to stay on top of all of these things to maintain my community presence, which is why they warrant being put on the schedule.
Step 3 – Assemble A Functional Weekly Schedule
After working through my big picture planning and creating a working schedule, I had all of the tools I needed to easily and successfully assemble a functional weekly schedule for myself that includes both work and personal pursuits. In fact, I found it took just about fifteen minutes start to finish, since I was going into the process so well equipped with my needs and goals. What a revelation after such a struggle in my previous attempts at time management!
I decided to use a chart (I made this in Microsoft Word), since it visually appeals to me. I allocated a column for each day of the week, with the exception of the weekend days which I lumped into one since I want my weekends to be a bit more flexible in general. Then, I divided my rows by increments of time that accommodate me and my family’s regular schedule. There is definitely an unspoken schedule in the way that our household functions, which I believe may be the case for many others as well if you take the time to observe it. I, for instance, tend to wake up by 7 AM, but don’t usually sit down in my office until 10 AM. This is when I usually exercise, eat breakfast, work on household tasks, and attend to my dog, Winnie. It was natural for me to leave this slot of time as such and set 10 AM as my target work start time. Instead of forcing myself out of my usual habits I’ve worked with them, which makes my schedule functional, not oppressive. I’ve also made space for three weekly standing appointments that are personally important to me right now. Yes, I am treating my weekly yoga class as an appointment. Too often over the last year I skipped my class, because I thought it was less important than using that time for work. I’ve come to realize it is very important to me and to ensure I respect it as such I have scheduled it in and treat it as an appointment, just like my weekly therapy and acupuncture sessions. I also realized that putting a cap on my work day was a critical step in creating boundaries around my work. My husband, Don, and I typically eat dinner between 6 and 6:30 PM, which is why I’ve designated 6 PM as my “clock out” time.
Some might think a schedule like this is too rigid, but I treat it more as a guideline than rigid discipline. Is it the end of the world if I work a little past 6 PM or need to rearrange my day for special circumstances? Absolutely not. One of the reasons I’ve craved a schedule like this, especially in the past couple of years, is to create better balance in my life. I’m a bit of an overachiever, an admitted perfectionist, and have major workaholic tendencies that make it all too easy for me to slip into a very one-sided, imbalanced pattern. I’ve only just begun to follow my schedule, but I already see a big difference. Making a weekly schedule is a powerful tool in time management, which ultimately leads to more balance in my life.
I discuss this entire process in detail in the video below:
I hope I have helped or inspired you in some way by sharing my weekly schedule and the process by which I’ve been working on time management. I would love to learn about your own approach to time management. Please leave a comment if you care to share. Happy planning! 🙂