Do you know about the School-Sleep-Social Life Equation?
And I hate that.
If you’re like me, being told that you can’t do something…
Just makes you want to do it more.
Just like Adele killed it in 2012, I want to have it all.
This first thing I did was to decide on a goal.
I wanted to get all of my work done on weekdays between 9 and 5, so that I was free to spend my evenings however I wanted. (Which, for me, is still spent working, reading non-fiction books or writing blog posts.)
Next, I did a ton of planning and scheduling. This step, when done right, will allow you to have a 4.0 GPA while being super fit, getting 8 hours of sleep every night and saying Yes when your friends want to go out. This post is a guide on how I did just that. Let’s dig in.
The Two Kinds of Scheduling Techniques to Help You Keep Your Sanity
As I think about time management more, I realize that two of the main competing elements in time management are effectiveness and efficiency. Here is how I define them, with respect to time management:
- Effectiveness values flexibility and getting the right things done, while
- Efficiency values structure, simplicity and speed.
Let’s talk about these two kinds of scheduling and see how they stack up:
A Fixed Schedule
You do the same recurring task on the same time on the same day each week. This is a good route to take when your days are pretty predictable and you have tasks that need to be repeated or delivered every week. Finally, this is a great way to learn how to break down big things into little chunks so you can schedule it week-to-week.
For example, I am taking an online programming course. In my weekly schedule, I’ve slotted this course and its related coursework into Mondays from 9 AM – 11 AM.
- More efficient than effective so it frees up a lot of your processing power for more cognitively-demanding tasks.
- You don’t have to think about what you will do day-to-day. Go from waking up to working/studying/reading faster.
- You don’t have to worry about missing weekly assignments.
- Not very flexible, i.e.
Friend: “Hey, Shay Mitchell’s in town for TIFF! She’s seeing the premiere for Iron Man 10. LET’S GO!!”
Me (checks schedule): “DANGIT I CAN’T. I have to study now. Or else I’d be behind for the rest of the semester.”
Friend: “K bye. Pce.”
- It can get disappointing if you don’t finish all the stuff you have to do, even if it’s not your fault. (Like how it’s the fault of TIFF’s organizers for holding it in the first week of class. BOO.)
A Daily Schedule.
You plan out your schedule, day-to-day. Especially useful because there are days when you’ve overbooked yourself and you just can’t get everything done.
- This is more effective than efficient so it makes sure you get everything done.
- Paints a realistic portrait of how much you can get done that day.
- Forces you to look at your planner every day and be more organized.
- You have to set aside 15-20 minutes to plan every day, when you just want to sit down and get to work.
- You have to keep rescheduling recurring tasks – a lot more administrative and planning time needed.
- Fixed scheduling is more efficient, while daily scheduling is more effective.
- A fixed schedule allows you to get started on your day faster, while freeing up brainpower by giving you a set routine to follow.
- A daily schedule, on the other hand, makes sure you that you can actually get everything done and forces you to cut back on tasks to do if they don’t fit.
- Ideally, you want to gain the benefits of both a fixed schedule and a daily schedule – be effective and efficient.
So what do you do now? Well, my friend, you have to figure out the strategy that works best for you!
But How Do I Know Which One is Right for Me?
Well that depends on a number of factors, including your personal preferences and your situation.
- Having a set routine is something that helps you work,
- You like the freedom of not having to think about your schedule, day-to-day, or
- Most of your tasks are regular, i.e. they consist of things that you have to do weekly or daily,
Then a fixed schedule would work better for you.
- Routine bores you and you need to keep things fresh every day,
- You are OK with taking a bit more time every day to plot out your day, or
- There is someone else who gives you work to do (like in a job) or you’re not sure what you will be working on day-to-day,
Then I would recommend that you use a daily schedule.
OK, cool. But what do you do, Roxine?
I’ve started using a mix of both, after some experimentation.
During the school year, 90% of the time I rely on fixed scheduling with 10% of the time on daily scheduling. This is because most school-related tasks during the week are generally repetitive – readings before class, the lecture itself, weekly group meetings, studying my lecture notes, doing weekly assignments, etc.
I still have to-do’s that pop out once or twice during the day that I have to schedule in (and this is why I still glance at my planner at the beginning of every day), but generally, it takes a huge load off of my mind to not have to plan day-to-day. Like I said before, one of the biggest benefits is that I don’t have to worry about forgetting to do a reading before class or forgetting to submit a weekly assignment… This strategy lets me rest easy at night.
When I am at work I tend to rely on daily scheduling 80% of the time and 20% of the time on fixed scheduling. This is key, especially as a co-op student or an intern, because I am not familiar enough with the business to be able to set my schedule and prioritize the tasks I have to work on. In addition, as people give me work throughout the day, having a daily schedule helps me control my workflow and pipeline. It’s also an easy way to answer to the question, “So, what did you work on today?” and “Can you do this for me?”
I rely on fixed scheduling for spending my out-of-work hours, running personal errands and working on side hustles.
Cool… So, Now What?
As you read this blog, you’ll soon realize that I am a huge, huge fan of test-driving strategies before giving them a permanent place in your life. So here are my recommended action steps for you:
- Pick one strategy.
- Test drive it for a week.
- Add it to your toolkit.
- Make changes as you see fit.
Finally, If you’re a part of a Facebook group with folks who NEED to read this advice, please do them (and me!) a favor and SHARE this post there!
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I publish practical and motivational posts on productivity, careers and success every week on my newsletter, Defy Gravity.
Defy Gravity helps the next generation of ambitious dreamers and achievers become all they were born to be.