If you’re anything like me, the way you feel at the end of the week is often determined by how smoothly the week flowed. Did you feel anxious and frazzled? Or did you feel accomplished and organized? Did something slip through the cracks or were you prepared ahead of time?
Though our success in life isn’t based on how much we do in a week, life certainly feels a lot more peaceful when we aren’t constantly racing against the clock. The best way to ensure that we feel organized is to plan an effective schedule for our time.
Whether you have children or not, whether you work outside the home or not, whether your kids are in school full time or not, we all have one thing in common: we only have 168 hours each week.
Those hours may look vastly different depending on your circumstances, but the key to feeling calm over chaotic is in how you use your time. In her book, 168 Hours: You Have More Time than You Think, journalist Laura Vanderkam explains that when we don’t think about how we spend our time, we tend to spend it doing things that don’t really align with our priorities.
“We don’t think about how we want to spend our time, and so we spend massive amounts of time on things – television, Web surfing, housework, errands – that give a slight amount of pleasure or feeling of accomplishment, but do little for our careers, our families, or our personal lives.” – Laura Vanderkam
So how do we plan effectively? How do we set up our schedule so that we’re running our lives and not the other way around?
Here are a few things to consider when planning your week.
Pick a time to map out your week in advance
By looking ahead at what the week holds in terms of time commitments, you’re jogging your own memory. Seeing that it’s your aunt’s birthday on the calendar gets that in your brain and reminds you of any associated tasks, such as sending a card or remembering to call.
You’re also forming a picture of whether the coming week will be busy or slow-paced. You can allocate important tasks to days that have fewer time commitments. Rather than feeling like you have to squeeze things in, you’re giving time to what needs to be done.
Sunday evening is an ideal time to look ahead at the week. You’ll wake up Monday with a clear picture of how the week will go. Obviously life isn’t entirely predictable, but at least you’ve got a fighting chance when you know what to expect outside of the fluke events that throw a wrench in our plans.
Batch your tasks
Studies show that when our brain has to switch between activities frequently, we accomplish less. We get in the flow of one activity, and then disrupt this flow when we start doing something else.
For example, if I’m writing blog posts and decide to stop and clean the kitchen, it takes my brain more energy to get back into the flow of writing than if I hadn’t stopped. The solution to this problem is batching your tasks.
Some people like to batch by days, while others prefer a time blocking method each day. Either way, your goal is to focus on one type of task at a time before switching to a new activity.
For me, this means that instead of cleaning up after breakfast, then spending time writing, and then vacuuming, I do the bulk of my housecleaning chores in one sitting. I’ll empty the dishwasher, load breakfast dishes, do a quick tidy-up and vacuum. Then I sit down to work on blog posts.
We often have routines that are so ingrained in our daily life that we don’t even think about them. For instance, every time I shower, I follow roughly the same steps in the same order out of habit.
Routines minimize the brain power needed for a specific task. I don’t need to remember to put shampoo in my hair in the shower so my brain is freed up to focus on other things. By incorporating routines in other areas, you’re allowing your brain to spend less energy on the mundane so that you can focus on higher priority tasks.
For example, if you empty the dishwasher every morning before breakfast, not only do you not have to remember to do this task, but you also know that it’s ready for loading breakfast dishes. You’re saving mental energy AND crossing two jobs off your list: emptying and loading the dishwasher.
My typical daily Schedule
Since it can be helpful to see how other people manage their schedule, here’s a peek at my day.
6:00 Wake up, have coffee & quiet time
7:00 Get breakfast for the kids & get ready for school
8:00 Drop off at school, walk with the dog
9:00 Pick up the kitchen & do any other house cleaning tasks
10:30 Work on writing/blogging
12:00 Take a break for lunch
12:45 Errands, household chores, or work
2:20 Pick up kids at school, afternoon activities
6:00 Dinner, family time
7:00 Kids shower & get ready for bed
7:30 Read with the kids & put them to bed (usually by 8:30)
8:30 Time w/ my husband, read, watch tv
Not every day flows like this. Sometimes I have appointments or commitments at school. Other days are more laid-back and involve brunch with friends or a pedicure. The general flow is what helps me to predict my day though. I’m allocating time to my family, to work, and to myself.
What’s your key to an effective schedule?
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