We all immediately grasp the importance of a schedule, and yet, scheduling is one of the hardest skills to master for even highly disciplined people. In all likelihood, people with the highest satisfaction in life are people maintain an effective schedule, so, we need to maintain an effective schedule.
Effective Scheduling Versus Having a Tight Schedule
If you ask people the key to scheduling well, you are likely to get as many opinions as people you ask. Some feel as though every event in your day needs to be put into your calendar, from your drive time, time at work, time accomplishing various tasks, lunch breaks, and so on. Others are repulsed by so much rigidity and feel constrained to accomplish what they most need to accomplish.
If we think about schedules with a certain expectation of what a good schedule looks like, we might think, “It’s not for me.” This is why we are using the idea of effective scheduling versus “calendaring” or “maintaining a highly manicured schedule,” or making sure you have every part of your schedule planned or written down. Effective scheduling might look like this, but it need not.
Principles of Effective Scheduling
What does effective scheduling consist of, then? We are going to give some general principles that will apply, whether you are the kind of person who needs everything planned out, or whether that sort of rigidity leads to stress and the feeling of failure.
The first principle of effective scheduling is knowing what needs done. Something I struggle with on the weekends, when my work week is over, is identifying what needs done around my house. This is because I haven’t been paying attention; my focus has been on work and the activities of the week. It helps me to take stock of what needs done, or talk to family members who are more attuned to what needs done. When I don’t do this, the weekend passes and not much gets done because it’s too easy to just do things that I want to do for enjoyment.
Once we have a list of things that need done, there needs to be a prioritization of those things. Going back to my example of my weekends, where I personally have less structure, once I have an idea of what needs done, if I haven’t prioritized what things are most important, I will conclude the weekend in frustration because I did things, but it turns out I didn’t do important things. Thus, the most important things are neglected and the family suffers. Had I prioritized what things were most important, my time would have been spent much more effectively.
Lastly, an effective schedule sets aside some time throughout the week for quiet and reflection. Not everyone likes this, but it is absolutely essential. It is in the quiet and reflection that our minds can focus. In fact, this last one is the most important and creates the conditions to identify tasks and prioritize!