Jordan Peterson says that you should set up a schedule, not to create a list of things you have to do but to create and plan the day you want. I absolutely love this.
I’ve been getting into the habit of scheduling out the days I want over the last 6 months. They have arguably been the most productive months of my life. I personally use Google Calendar, and love that I can access it from anywhere and any device.
Here is what I have learned about the art of scheduling:
Don’t Be a Slave to the Schedule
Now I don’t necessarily stick to the schedule 100%. Things get moved, changed, and deleted as the day goes on. But just having the schedule in the first place has helped me be far more productive.
You want to be disciplined enough to set up a schedule, but also flexible enough to change the schedule if needed.
Find Your Ideal Number of Tasks
I’m currently in the process of experimenting with how many tasks I can put on my to-do list each day without feeling overwhelmed and while still feeling super productive.
This is easy to work out. You can start with 3 or 5 tasks, and if you managed to do that number within the time you had, perfect. If you find that you still have extra time in the day, you can increase the number of tasks.
If you put 10 things on the list, but only manage to get to 7 on most days, then make 7 tasks your daily goal.
I’m doing this because I tend to be a little over-ambitious most days and want to figure out how much I can realistically expect from myself.
Negotiate with Yourself
Sometimes, you might put something in the schedule like “do an hour of cardio”, but you start dreading it and really don’t want to do it when the time comes. This is where you negotiate with yourself. Is there some reward you can promise yourself that will encourage you to do it?
Can you turn the 60-minute session into a 30-minute one? Or could you do another type of exercise that sounds way more appealing like a dance class, weight lifting, or yoga?
Negotiate with yourself.
Use Colour Coding
I realised that I started associating certain tasks with the colours I assigned to them on the calendar. It is like my brain starts to switch over to editing mode when it sees grey on the schedule or I start getting excited to workout when I see yellow.
Colour coding has made it much easier for me to clearly identify certain tasks on my calendar and it has become a lot easier to examine my day.
Use Block Time
I like setting out blocks of time on my schedule for tasks instead of just jumping from task to task, hoping I will get everything done by the end of the day.
Steven Kotler said that 90 to 120 minutes is optimum for performance in his new book, The Art of Impossible, so I will schedule 90- to 120-minute time blocks for writing, working out, editing, working on websites, meal prep, etc.
That is not social media time, it is time for whatever is in the block.
Do you know what this has helped me with the most? Guilt-tripping myself. I’m that kind of person that when I am doing one thing, like working out or spending time with family, I feel guilty because I feel like I am also supposed to be somewhere else and do something else like writing.
But putting in blocks of time for each task I find important gives me the peace of mind that I have made time and scheduled in enough time to get it done.
For cleaning, I only put in blocks of 20 to 39 minutes, because cleaning sucks in general.
Scheduling Helps You Prioritise
One benefit that I have definitely noticed is that putting together some sort of schedule has helped me become better at prioritising. If I only have a few blocks of time each week for socialising, I am going to plan to see the people who I love the most and who I want to spend the most time with.
I used to say yes to social events because I felt too guilty to say no. If I have to choose between visiting my mom, my sister, or my closest friends, or spending time with an acquaintance I never really talk to, I am going to focus on the relationships that are the most important.
Scheduling and doing the block-time method has helped me identify which work tasks are the most important. I am working on only doing things that are essential and scheduling has helped a lot. It has helped me identify where I was wasting time and helped me optimise the time I have.
Improve Your Scheduling Skills Over Time
There is still room for improvement. There always is, but so far, using a schedule to plan the days I want has changed my life. Don’t expect yourself to stick to the schedule 100% at first. It will take some trial and error to find what works best for you.
I am looking forward to perfecting the art of scheduling over time. If you have any tips, feel free to send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.