Last week, we set up a schedule together (click here to read that post). If you did that, then first of all: Congratulations! You have already taken a step which most of us don’t even come close to considering. Actually setting up a schedule shows that you want to take action. Motivation is very important, and now that you have already taken the time to think about how you want to spend your days you are already halfway there. However, one important step still remains: How do we actually apply this schedule in our daily lives?
At first, this may seem very obvious. We just do what’s on our schedule, right? Well, yes, but often it is not that easy. There are some basic guidelines that I personally think are helpful to keep in mind when it comes to actually applying our schedule.
Rule #1: Go through a “trial-week”
When we set up our schedule, we based our decisions partly on assumptions. We thought about what we wanted to do. However, when we actually apply our schedule we may find out that some of the decisions we made do not really work out for us in daily life. For instance, we may have thought that it would be a good idea to do some physical exercise right after we are done with work for the day. Once in the actual situation though, we notice that maybe it would be better to first have some time to just rest. This is why it is best to test out your schedule. During the first week, do everything exactly as you have planned it, and feel free to take some notes. Does the schedule work for you? Does it need some adjustments? Write down what works and what doesn’t, and have another look at your schedule at the end of the week. Adjust it if necessary, and test it out again. Once you are happy with it, you have found your official (tested and approved!) schedule.
Rule #2: Stick to your schedule
After you are done testing your schedule, it is time to commit to it. This is in many ways the critical point of the whole endeavour. Self-discipline is of course key here, but I believe that it also helps to know a little bit about how our mind works. There is one thing in particular that our minds absolutely LOVE: Building habits. Often these habits are of the “not-so-great” kind. Bad habits are the reason why we sometimes feel trapped in our own lives. We have a feeling of not being in control because our minds revert again and again to the same patterns that have build up over the years. It is difficult to break these habits, and that is something that you have to acknowledge because it helps you to stop beating yourself up over it while at the same time also giving you a reason to invest some work into your time management.
The tendency towards habits is a problem, but ironically it is also the solution at the same time. We can use our mind’s love of habits to change our experience towards a more productive and fulfilling lifestyle. It takes about 30 days for our minds to build a new habit. Thus, if you want to incorporate a new activity in your daily life you need to stick to it for about a month. During this time, you really have to make an effort and keep at it every day. The time spend each day does not even matter that much it is more about doing it again and again. This is why sticking to your schedule during the first month is so important. After that period of time, it will have become a habit, and from that point onwards it will come as natural to you as waking up.
Rule #3: Don’t become a robot
Now, after having talked a lot about self-discipline in the second rule it is at least as important to remember that we are humans and not robots. Stick to your schedule, yes, but still allow yourself to be flexible at the same time. A good schedule should include leisure time as well as activities, and believe me when I say this: Watching Netflix or YouTube is so much better when it is not the only thing you spend your time on. You would not believe how enjoyable all those films and series are without that creeping feeling of guilt in the back of your head. Also: Even in times of social distancing and self-isolation, remain available for your family and friends. Apply your schedule, yes, but if someone asks you if you would like to FaceTime with them then feel free to do it. The purpose of your schedule is to give you a framework for your day. When nothing else comes up, it gives you something to fall back on. By doing this, you avoid falling into that black hole of procrastination. Once you get used to this idea, you will slowly find the perfect middle ground between flexibility and planned activities.
Rule #4: Print out your schedule
This may seem trivial, but do not underestimate how much of an impact this actually has. If you remember my own schedule from last week, I used a variety of different colours for the different activities. I advise you to do the same for your own schedule, and then also to print it out. Hang it somewhere where you can easily take a look at it in the morning. In a lot of ways, our minds are like children. They are restless, as we have already discussed, and they also like colours. Seeing your schedule in such an appealing way right at the start of the day will help you to get in the ideal mindset.
Rule #5: Have fun with it!
Never forget that this is something you are doing for yourself. As I said in the first part of this article, this time of self-isolation can be a time of great opportunities for us, if we go about it in the right way. Nowadays, we are so used to just “reacting” to whatever is going on around us that we sometimes feel like we are in the passenger seats of our own lives. Setting up a schedule means getting back behind the wheel. It means taking action, and steering life back in the direction that we actually want to take. We all have wishes even if they have been buried under the stress and distractions of our everyday lives. Be bold. Learn a new language, or an instrument, or a skill that has nothing to do with anything you have been doing so far!
This concludes my mini-series on time management. I hope you have found some of the information useful, and I sincerely wish you all the best if you want to try setting up your own schedule. Do you have some helpful advice of your own when it comes to this topic? Feel free to share in the comments below!
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