If you’re like me, you live by your schedule. I use it to plan my day and my week, to make sure I’m on track at work, and to make time for my friends and family. Let’s just say I’d be up a creek if I ever lost it!
So, maybe you’re like me, and you already live by your schedule, but you want to make sure you’re scheduling the right things. Or maybe you’ve just been winging it, and you’re ready to start being intentional about scheduling your time. Either way, I’m excited that you’re taking the time to learn how to make a schedule that’s right for you. Because when you realize that time is the most finite resource you have, you’ll go above and beyond to protect it.
Let’s jump right in.
1. Identify what’s most important to you.
It’s pointless to make a schedule if you’re not clear on how you should spend your time. Before we get tactical, pause and reflect on your life right now. Do you like your life? Do you feel a sense of balance? Are you overwhelmed by everything on your plate?
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I can’t stress how important this step is. You will never feel balanced if you don’t bridge the gap between what’s important to you and what you spend your time on.
Write down a list of your priorities. You’ll need it for the next step.
2. Gather your current calendar and a blank calendar.
Now that you’ve identified what’s important to you, I want you to create a calendar that helps you manage your time and—more importantly—reflects the life you want to lead.
Gather your list of priorities, your current calendar and a blank calendar. At this point, you can decide if you want to keep the same tool you’ve been using (like a paper planner or the calendar on your phone) or try something new. Whatever calendar system you use, open a blank week to work with. You’re going to create an ideal schedule for one week.
I know it’s nearly impossible to live an entire week in an ideal schedule. The goal isn’t to be perfect or control every little detail. Life happens, and things come up unexpectedly. But this step is about allowing yourself to dream about the possibilities of what could be. That’s why you need a blank slate.
3. Fill in your new calendar with what you have to do.
You’re going to start filling in your schedule by writing in everything that you know you must do in a given week. These are the very real limitations in your life that you cannot move (or that you don’t want to move). For example, you probably want to get a solid eight hours of sleep every night. You may have a 9-to-5 job Monday through Friday. If so, block those hours. This first round of putting things on your calendar will only include things you absolutely must do.
I want to point out one important thing here. If you’re realizing you’re putting something you don’t like on your calendar—a stressful night shift or a weekly freelance commitment that leaves you feeling too busy—then it’s time to reevaluate your commitments. You don’t have to figure it out right now, but you should write down a goal that will move you one step closer to getting out of that obligation.
4. Add what you want to do.
After you fill your calendar with things you have to do, such as sleep and work, it’s time to start adding in things you want to do.
First, look at your list of what matters to you. Remember who you want to be. With that in mind, look at your current calendar. What commitments from your current calendar make you light up and come alive? Move each of those things to your “ideal” schedule.
After you’ve plugged in everything you need to do and those current commitments that you want to do, start to plug in new things that you want to do but don’t do right now. It might be exercising regularly or a having a morning prayer time. Block time to do those new things on your new calendar.
At this point, you might start to feel guilty as you schedule things you want to do. But whose calendar is this? Right. Yours. Fight that voice of guilt that’s creeping up right now telling you it’s “selfish” to spend your time on things for you, because it’s simply not true. This is your one life, and it’s your job to spend it well.
5. Evaluate what didn’t make the cut.
When you sit back and look at your new calendar next to your current one, you’ll probably notice some differences. There are most likely things on your current calendar that didn’t get moved over to your new one. Do you know why? Because you don’t have to do them, and you don’t want to do them. That means they’re not a priority, and they shouldn’t get your time. That’s a huge win. Way to go!
You have a choice in how you spend your time. Decide to let go of what doesn’t make the cut. This probably means you need to make some phone calls, cancel a subscription, or talk to your spouse and kids about how things will look a little different.
It takes courage to say no. But what matters the most is that you spend your life on what matters most to you.
6. Give yourself time to adjust.
It takes time to adopt a new habit and get into a new rhythm—usually around a month. Cut yourself some slack as you adjust to your new schedule. There will be times when your priorities shift and unexpected tasks pop up out of nowhere, and that’s okay! The important thing is to remember that you get to decide what goes on your calendar. Be fierce and protective of your time so you can say yes to what really matters.
How to Create The Perfect Schedule for You
Like I said earlier, time is your most finite resource. So, you've got to be intentional with it—which might seem easier said than done, but that's why I wrote my book, Take Back Your Time. It will help you prioritize and say no to what doesn't matter, walk you through each of the things you do want to accomplish, and schedule everything perfectly into place. It's like having me as your personal time management coach.