Planning is the First Step
When we start our planning phase of making a schedule, it's the dreaming stage of your schedule. The goal is to write down everything we want to do, decide how much time each task takes, and not feel like we didn't accomplish everything we set out to do during the day. This process is called Time blocking.
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To keep it simple, I stuck to things that are fairly common. Using notecards will make it much easier to move around our tasks in later steps. This means we aren't going through 4 notebooks of paper to figure out our schedule even when we are using a pencil.
How Do You Accurately Time Block?
1. Brainstorm Tasks-
Grab a large stack of notecards and write down just the name of every task that you want to do. You want these cards to be movable so you aren't throwing away entire notebooks because of a small mistake or epiphany while you're making your plans in future steps. Think of the things you do all the time, and add in any one-time appointments or commitments for the week.
On the front of each card, write down how often each task needs to happen. Is it every day? Weekly? Monthly? Just Once?
3. Expected Times-
Leaving as much working space as possible, write on the back of the card how long you think that card's task should take.
The Part We Never Actually Think Through
1. Add Prep Time-
Think about the time that you need to gather the things required to start your task. If you don't need anything to accomplish your task, add five minutes to use the bathroom or get in the right frame of mind.
2. Add Travel Time-
Is it a 15-minute drive to work? Add 15 minutes to your work time, and then add an extra 5 minutes for small problems, like missing a turn or forgetting something at the house after you left the neighborhood.
3. Add Problem Time-
Think of one problem that happens whenever you go to do each of your tasks. Do you search for a pen when you fill out paperwork? Do you have to find the shot records for your son's vaccines? Think of that problem and round the average amount of time it takes up to the nearest 5. Add that time to your task.
4. Actual Time of Task-
Now you should have a closer-to-accurate task time that is put nicely on the front of your task card.
Making Routines and Task Groups
1. Put Routine Tasks Together-
Things that you do around the same time should be put into a routine group. When you wake up, you get dressed, take a shower, brush your teeth, and brush your hair in the bathroom and possibly at the same time. This routine can be considered the "Morning Routine" and they can be paperclipped together since you can't leave any of these tasks undone or shuffle them to other times in the day. Look for other routines like making food, eating lunch, and wiping off the table. Make a routine card that sits on the top of your stack.
2. Put Related Tasks or Projects Together-
Look for tasks that can be done either in the same space or have common threads. If one of your tasks is to do crafts with the kids, and another is to clean the room that you craft in, lump these two things together to save transition time. When you have your routine together, make a label notecard, and paperclip them.
3. Timing Your Routines/Groups-
Add up all of the actual times on your cards and round up to the nearest 15 minutes and write on the back of your card.
4. Editing Your Routines/Groups-
If any routines last for more than one hour, consider breaking them up to allow for breaks in your schedule. Some things may have to be lengthy; Cooking dinner, eating, and clearing the table takes more than an hour. Others might be better broken up, such as long stretches of paperwork or big exercise routines. Relabel groups as needed. Having a few long tasks that are by themselves is helpful, too.
5. More Minutes-
Add 5 minutes of clean up/reflection time to the end of your routine. Trust me, even if it doesn't make your space fully clean, it will make it less daunting later. The reflection can help you tweak what your realistic routine time looks like so it can be perfected over time.
6. Actual Routine Time-
Now you have the true time it takes you to complete your routines and task groups, you can write those times on the front of your card.
Prioritizing Your Cards and Adding Essential Non-tasks
1. Make a Priority Grid-
Separate a piece of paper into 4 sections- Important/Urgent, Important/Not Urgent, Not Important/Urgent, Not Important/Not Urgent.
2. Sort Your Tasks-
In the grid, important is defined as "bad things will happen if I don't do this", and urgent means "doing this has a time limit". So clipping coupons can be important if your food budget is tight and it is also urgent because the coupons expire and you'll run out of bread in 3 days. Organizing the pantry is important, but nothing bad will happen if it isn't organized right away.
3. Label Deadlines-
If a group is in the Urgent column, write down its deadline on the top of the card. If you don't have a set deadline, and you have double-checked that it truly is urgent, make one.
4. Add Missing Schedule Cards-
The cards that you MUST have on your schedule but could be overlooked are:
Breakfast (30 min)
Lunch (1 hour)
Dinner (1 1/2 hours)
Family Time (1 hour)
Bedtime (1 Hour)
Chaos Hour (1 Hour)- This is the time on your schedule where you complete tasks that were unfinished due to... whatever it was.
30 Minute Break (x2)
15 Minute Break (Make as many breaks as you have routines/groups)
Reflection Card (15 minutes, x7)- At the end of the day, plan on writing down anything that was significant during the day, like finishing a dreaded task, better focus, or more impulsivity.