Scheduling For Those of us That Hate Schedules

Scheduling is one of those things that is necessary in life, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.  I recall a vacation I had with a group of wonderful people, we would be gone for ten days and visit Yellowstone, Reno and San Francisco.  It was my first time to the west coast and I was pretty stoked about the whole trip.  Giant redwoods, the Napa Valley, the Golden Gate bridge, so much to see and do!
My companions felt the same, and had every single day scheduled from 7 am to 9 pm.  It drove me nuts.  By day five I caused a ruckus, I am not spending my vacation getting up at 6 am.  Today I am going to wander around and see what I find, no schedule.  They were appalled, but there was so much to see and do, how would I know where to go!  We all survived, and I probably saw more on that trip than on any other vacation, but I still hate tight schedules.  If you are a wanderer and not a scheduler this post is for you.

Scheduling for those of us that hate schedules

Why I Hate Scheduling

Schedules make me itch, they make me feel trapped and panicky.  If I don’t follow them, they make me feel like a failure for not getting things done, and sometimes once I am off schedule I want to throw the whole thing out the window.  I guess the thing I hate about schedules is that they are so strict, that is why I had to come up with my own plan.

Why Scheduling is Important

I did see more on that vacation than I ever would have if my schedule loving pals hadn’t been along, and that is what makes scheduling so important.  Scheduling makes you more productive.  It gives you a time and date to be somewhere or do something that makes some type of logical sense.  If you have a good schedule you will be twice as productive as if you don’t.  Even if you are a list maker, a good schedule will give that list some structure so you will actually get it done.

My Liquid Schedule

Since I know I need a schedule, I had to find something that was a little bit less exact, something that could flow with my wandering mind but still keep me productive.  Enter my liquid schedule.

Start In Blocks

Block scheduling is simply planning your time in large blocks.  One of the things that makes me shudder about scheduling is the exactness of them. At 7:05 am get in the car, at 7:25 am arrive at work, 7:30 am pour coffee, 7:35 am sit down at my desk.  I think you get the idea.

Sure I can keep my appointments, but schedules that schedule every minute of every day are what make me crazy.  Block scheduling allows me to block off a section of time to work on one thing, without being too nit picky.

Here is what my schedule for this week looks like.

Google Calendar

This week for me is pretty boring, I had shoulder surgery and can’t drive so it is pretty much the same thing each day, but this is what a basic block schedule will look like.

Here are some important tips to block scheduling

  • Leave some white space.  Don’t schedule every minute of every day, leave some time in between so if you run over a little bit, you won’t be freaking out.
  • Don’t Schedule EVERY task. Schedule the big important blocks of time, but don’t schedule each and every, teeny thing you are going to do.  See micro tasks below.
  • Estimate long.  If you think something is going to take a half hour, put it on your calendar for an hour, this way you are not running quite so tight.
  • Only use hour or half hour increments.  This makes everything easier and cleaner to look at and when you finish early you feel like you have extra time!
  • Include travel time.  If you look at my calendar I have my doctors appointment scheduled for 2 hours, not because my doctors office is slow, but because that includes driving time.  If you just block out the actual appointment, you can find yourself getting crammed, so include travel time.

Develop A Micro Task List

A microtask is a small little something that takes you less than 15 minutes to do.  Things like sweeping the floor, throwing in a load of laundry or emptying the dishwasher.  There are two different types of micro tasks, the daily and the non-daily.

Sweeping the floor or throwing in a load of laundry is something I try to do daily so the task does not become overwhelming.  So this list is static, it doesn’t change, it is the same every day.  Those are your daily tasks.

Your non-daily tasks are tasks that come up once a week or once in a while.  Maybe you have to write a thank you card,  maybe you need to pay bills.  No matter what it is, put these on a separate sticky note so you can pull from this list as well.

Put it All Together

Now that you have your big blocks and your micro tasks, it is time to put them to work together.  Looking at my schedule you can see every morning I leave myself an hour to return phone calls and emails.  Some days this takes 30 minutes, some days 45 and occasionally it will take over an hour.  On the days it takes 30 minutes, that gives me an extra 30 minutes of ‘found time’ for me to grab something off of my micro task list to complete.

Even on the days, one thing runs over, I usually have left enough of a cushion elsewhere in my schedule so that I can still throw in some micro tasks and not get off schedule.


Guess what happens if I don’t sweep the floor every day.  Nothing.  I am probably the only one to notice.  Guess what happens if I skip a day of laundry.  Nothing.  Guess what happens if I skip two days of laundry.  OMG, I don’t have anything to wear!  So laundry takes priority over floor sweeping.

You need to figure out before you are forced to make a choice, what takes priority so there is no panic, you already know which choice to make.  I review my list in the morning and I prioritize two things.

  • What can I leave off?  This is the lowest priority item on my list.  If I swept the floor yesterday, today that might be the lowest.  If I did the laundry yesterday but skipped the floor, maybe the laundry will be the fall guy if I run out of time.
  • What MUST I get done? What on my list absolutely has to get done. I highlight it and make that my first micro task of the day.

This schedule is simple, you don’t need any fancy tools.  I use google calendar and sticky notes, but you can get as fancy or as simple as you want.  Just remember to make this system work for you.  Use blocks for longer tasks and put the smaller tasks into the micro task category.  Fit the micro tasks in where you can.  If you get off a little bit, this schedule gives you enough wiggle room to swing everything back on track.

Do you have any scheduling tips?  We would love to hear them, leave them in the comments so we all can learn!

1 Comment

  1. kaye mclaren

    June 15, 2016 at 6:05 am

    I am like you – I wouldn’t have lasted til day 5 before having a hissy fit! My idea of a holiday is to have time to dream, read, sleep, go for walks. I like to boogie board, go to the hot pools, do what in New Zealand we call a tiki tour, which is drive around and look at things. But I like to do it in a very slooooow way! I love the idea of a liquid schedule. But mine is even looswer than yours! I just make a list of 6 options (I can’t even call them tasks, that freaks me out too much!) that I aim to get done that day. Then i have the same as you, the routine tasks you do for 10-15 minutes at a time, daily. I then have a section where I write the next two actions I plan to do. If I try and plan any more than that I freak out! I’m big on personal control. the rest of the page is a detailed list of what I’m going to do – or try to do – in roughly the order I plan to do it, with lots of white space for adding in new things. It sounds complex but it works for me. If I’m ill some tasks get moved from day to day, week to week (get a blood test has been on there for months now!) But it all gets done eventually and that’s the main thing. But when I go on holiday? The damned list goes out the window until the day I have to pack to come home, when it becomes useful again. To me, that’s what a holiday is – a list free zone!

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