Think of all of the systems and devices you’ve used to schedule and plan your life. Handwritten planners, electronic calendars, phone apps, chalkboards, post-its, journals, and the list goes on and on. I’ve read articles, attended workshops, and tried both simple and complicated methods of staying organized with my schedule. Although simple, the below methods work best for me and I hope they work just as well for you.
We live in a culture that follows structured schedules in order to be productive but not all of us enjoy checking multiple calendars to keep up with daily demands. How do we strike a balance between structured time and flexible time?
I believe we can be more skilled at developing a healthy balance. In my previous “Organize Your Life” article, I spoke about how to elevate your time management skills by viewing the bigger picture to help you see that sometimes underneath your time management struggle is fear, lack of direction in financial, personal, and professional areas, and deciding to listen to the ego convincing us we need to do it all. I challenged you to journal this process for thirty days to see if you’ve progressed. These same skills apply when enhancing your scheduling and planning skills. Beyond applying the skills, I’d love to share tools that support the skills that work best in my daily routine.
Use reminder tools on your phone
We all have the ability to use this function but often forget it exists. I like to set a reminder to do something, and once it pops up I’ll either do it then, or make time on my calendar and also set a deadline. I typically use Google calendar, using separate personal and professional calendars, sharing with others to keep organized and efficient. When I check my calendar before committing to obligations this system works wonderfully.
Use the flag (Apple) or star (Gmail) function in your email
I use this as a to-do list. Your email usually stays full and this function allows you to mark all the emails you need to act upon and/or respond to now or within a week or two. You can also only look at the flagged or starred list which helps you get less distracted.
Take 30 minutes on Sunday night to plan your week
I love paper calendars but am unable to easily share them with my partner (he travels 25%+ out of the year) making them inefficient for us. If your only tracking your calendar for you, I think the paper calendar is the best method. Writing things down makes it easier to remember.
Have a limit to your weekly commitments and say no when your limit is reached
Use your time management skills well and know when your schedule is too full. This is often a struggle for me but I always go back to the same questions: “Am I afraid to fail this person or task? Will this activity help me reach my financial, personal, and/or professional goals? Am I only doing this to feed my ego?” When I look at my schedule and feel overwhelmed, it’s time to say no.
Block out self-care time on your calendar
My former supervisor was fantastic at not only utilizing her calendar, but also sticking to it. This taught me to respect others’ calendar blocks, and respect my own as well; block out an entire Saturday afternoon where you take a road trip, listen to audiobooks, run outside, call your best friend, or read a book. Make time and commit to it.
The underlying thread is to take care of you. Try implementing one of these tools at a time over six months and see how much more organized you are while also gaging how much more quality time you’ve offered yourself, your family, your friends, and your career.