We live in a busy world. That probably is not news to you, though. Undoubtedly, you’ve been faced with the challenge of fitting too many “to-do’s” into one 24 hour period. Sometimes it just doesn’t seem possible to get everything done. And the reality is that sometimes it’s not possible to get everything done in one day. This incomplete to-do list causes a great deal of stress for many of us. And sometimes this stress affects us so profoundly that we end up not getting anything done at all. However, with a standardized and consistent method, it is possible to create a manageable schedule that eliminates the stress of not having enough time in the day. Here’s how you can schedule your day to help minimize your stress and maximize your productivity.
Use only one calendar. Avoid using multiple calendars. Attempting to manage multiple calendars invariably leads to duplicate or overlapping scheduling. Keep one calendar that contains all appointments for all family members. This is the easiest way to keep your schedule organized and avoid appointments that “slip through the cracks”. If you use a written calendar, color-code the schedules of different family members so it is easy to see who needs to be where and when. Many people use digital calendars such as personal digital assistants (PDAs) and find them to be more efficient than a written calendar. Many digital calendars allow users to share information as well as set reminders prior to appointments. Regardless of which type of calendar you use, the key is to be consistent and record everything into one calendar.
Schedule time to review your calendar. Take time each day to review your calendar. Some people prefer to review the upcoming day in the evening while others find it more beneficial to spend a few minutes in the morning to review the day’s appointments. Experiment with both methods and find what works best for you. Most of the time, this should only take ten minutes or less. Once a week, spend a few extra minutes reviewing the upcoming week so you have a general idea of what you have scheduled already. This small investment in time can end up saving you time and reducing the stress caused by forgotten appointments. Make sure to record all appointments in your calendar – avoid trying to keep them in your head.
Prioritize. Review your to-do list and prioritize what must be done today. Label these items with an A. For items that you would like to get done today but aren’t urgent, label with a B. For items that can be done some other time, label them with a C. After labeling each item with a letter, further label with a priority number. For example, a task that must be done today, even if nothing else gets done, should be labeled A1. The next most important item will be A2 and so on. Be sure to set realistic expectations – not everything must be done today. All of your high priority items (labeled with an A) should be scheduled into your day. Not including them as appointments will inevitably cause something else to fill that time, leaving a high priority item unfinished. As you finish each item, mark it off and move on to the next. Remember that taking time for yourself should be a priority and scheduled as such. Scheduling things such as exercise, reading, or taking a nap will help ensure that you have time to recharge your batteries and complete the other tasks on your schedule.
Allow enough time. Be sure to allow enough time to thoroughly complete each task. From time to time, things do come up that will wreak havoc with your schedule but careful planning can help you overcome this obstacle. How many times has a traffic jam caused you to be late to an appointment? Allowing a few extra minutes for the unexpected will eliminate the stress of continually running late or being rushed. If you don’t end up needing that extra few minutes, you end up being ahead of schedule and have time to complete something else on your list.
It is important to remember that we are only human and have 24 hours in a day. The simple truth is that we can’t do everything and trying to do so is setting ourselves up for failure and unnecessary stress. Sometimes we have to be flexible and sometimes we have to say no when our schedules are already full. Careful scheduling does take some practice but the time spent planning is a valuable investment in maximizing your productivity and minimizing your stress.