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2017: Making a Schedule that Helps You Help Yourself

time management

When you hear about the routines of the most productive people, they often include tasks like 5 a.m. wakeups, 6-mile jogs, and guilt-free smoothies. Tasks that should all be simple enough to incorporate if you are a well-oiled productivity machine – but unfortunately, chances are you’re not a robot.

For 2017 we’ve created a five-part blog series that focuses less on adding and doing more, and more on simply being present and focused with things as they are. If you missed Part 1 on mindful meditation or Part 2 on being present with those who matter, Part 3 on improving your habits by improving your sleep, click the links above!

What helps productive people be productive

When it comes to creating a more productive and fulfilled life – most of us go about it the wrong way. We think that in order to be successful, happy, and healthy, we need to do more, add more, or be more.

The problem with this way of thinking is that, unfortunately, our resources are limited – our time, energy, motivation, and self-control are all finite resources that eventually run out or get depleted.

So this year, maybe it’s time to take a step back and look at what should be removed before you try to add more. It’s time to acknowledge that less is just as important as more.

Understanding where your time goes

Understanding what your daily life looks like can be the first step to creating more efficient and productive habits. Being able to identify what drains your time and energy is essential in helping you to create a schedule that works with you rather than against you.

In order to be more focused and fulfilled in 2017, you first have to examine who you were and what you did in 2016.

Start by writing a schedule for your average week. Write down approximate wake-up times, bedtimes, and everything in between. Make sure you include the little things like your commute to work, showers, meetings with friends, and all the other little things that add up to form your days. But remember, this is just your estimate of how you spend your time.
Now it’s time to find out how you actually spend your time.

  1. Pick a week and carry a little notebook, or use your phone to record your day. Write down the start time of each activity, and when you switch to a new task, write down the end time. Obviously, certain tasks like brushing your teeth, hair, and getting dressed can be grouped into a more general task such as “getting ready,” however it’s important to not generalize too much and risk missing insight into sneaky time-eaters. For example, quick 10-minute sessions of email, social media, or Candy Crush can quickly add up to huge chunks of time in your day.
  2. After a week or two, it’s now time to see what your daily life actually looks like. It should be easy to see patterns. You’ll probably be surprised at how checks to Facebook and email become hours of squandered time, or how small distractions from coworkers and friends quickly consume an afternoon.

Making a schedule that helps you help yourself

When it comes to achieving your goals, for most of us it’s the little things that get in the way. Whether it’s finding a pair of the right socks before running, grabbing a burger because you ran out of time to make yourself lunch in the morning, or finding the motivation to force yourself not to give into the temptation of binge-watching Netflix each night – it’s the little things that build up and wear you down.
Now that you know what your days look like, it’s time to optimize your schedule.

  • Remove as many decisions as possible from your daily life so that your effort and need for self-control are minimal during the times when you know you’ll be tired and when your motivation will be depleted. If you want to make lasting changes to your routine, it’s important to make it as easy as possible for you to continue to make the right decision. For example, plan your meals for the week and make a grocery list on Sunday nights, or choose which days you want to workout and which will be reserved for friends and family.
  • Find natural pairings of activities that help your day move more smoothly. For example, catch up on your Netflix shows while you work out, or call friends while cooking dinner.
  • Group chunks of digital check-ins like email and social media into designated blocks so that you aren’t losing time and focus throughout the day.
    Remove the bad options so you’re forced to take the good ones. For example, buy a water bottle instead of soda, fruit instead of chips. Get rid of your cable TV, or block the internet with Freedom.

Here’s a list of other potential productivity pairings and shortcuts to help you help yourself:

  • Find a friend to workout with to increase your commitment to exercise while also having time to socialize.
  • If you’re not a morning person, pick out your outfit the night before and set the table for breakfast. Pack your lunch for the next day while making dinner. Check the news on the metro, or listen to it while you drive.
  • Walk to lunch, (even if you pack your lunch,) to get those extra steps of exercise, or take the stairs.
  • On days where you want to work out, set out all the things you need – running band, headphones, socks, sports bra, etc. – the night before.
  • Buy healthy snacks so that when you’re hungry you only have good options to choose from.
  • Make your bed before leaving in the morning to help your environment feel tidy and relaxing when you return.
  • Keep a water bottle on you at all times, and set out a bowl healthy snacks near your door to grab on your way out

You’ll be surprised by the changes you can make to your habits when you create a routine that makes it convenient for you to succeed. How have you designed your environment for success? We’d love to hear your tips, tricks, and methods in the comments below!