Over the last few days, I was knocked clean off my feet by illness (no, it wasn’t Covid). I was left with excessive amounts of time to think (my partner was not big on me “just doing a few things”…especially since I couldn’t even get the strength to get out of bed).
With the help of my phone and my ever-growing Trello To Do List, I got myself into a real gump. Every time I felt like I am making progress, something hits me and I fall back to the start like I’m playing an endlessly-infuriating game of Snakes & Ladders.
So, is it that age-old issue… not enough time? Well, no, because in truth for most people (me included) that’s just twaddle. In fact, we actually have more leisure time these days. So why doesn’t it feel like that?
The Truth About Leisure Time
On average, adults in the UK watch around 12 hours of on-demand TV in a week (according to UK Active). Let’s be honest, that’s a lot of leisure time. Let’s not even consider all the time we spend scrolling on Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter.
So why does it feel like we have no time? Well, firstly, when we do have those leisure moments of TV watching, gaming or social media scrolling, our stupid brains are quietly whispering to us about everything that still needs to be done (at least mine does). So we don’t always enjoy our leisure time like we should.
NB: I’ll add in a little note here to show I understand everyone is different and some people have multiple jobs, some are carers to family members, some have children with special needs etc. All of our situations are different and just because in the UK adults have an average of 12 hours they use on leisure time does not mean we all do – but many of us have more time than we realise!
I’ve even had irrational moments of being frustrated while on a nature walk with my partner because my brain is telling me I’m “wasting time” when I have other things to do. Thankfully when that stupid notion popped into my head, I had the good sense to give it a smack and drop it on its ass.
We don’t need such insidious thoughts taking root. Time with my partner, time outside in nature is NEVER wasted, it’s much more important than updating my blog or scheduling social media etc.
My old methods have worked in the past, which is why there are blog posts about them that will stay up to help others who may find them useful. But my current situation is different now – my business is busier, we have a house that needs endless work and I have more obligations than I did even just 1 year ago.
So, I’m doing something…. Different! *GASP*
If you read my recent newsletter, you will know I mentioned how we don’t protect our time well, that it is a truly finite commodity that we squander often without thought.
Maybe it’s because I’m in my fourth decade now, but wasting time isn’t something I’m willing to put up with anymore. I want time to do things I love, time to spend with my partner and my animals, time to create awesome memories!
So where is all this time being wasted? I think one issue is, time wastage isn’t always in huge blocks – it’s not like we can go, “oh yes, I wasted 4 hours on Tuesday staring at the wall”. It’s more likely those 4 hours were wasted spread over the day with lots of interruptions, task hopping etc
Now, people will often suggest writing a Time Journal. This is were you note down everything you’re doing as you’re doing it to track just how much time is wasted. And yes, there are apps for this.
Well, I dont want to squander my time anymore. I also don’t want to create a Time Journal to find out where the hell I’m wasting my time (good idea, but I would just waste more time creating it).
So I’m going to be trying the Schedule Maker Method.
Rather than running my life off a To Do list, being reactive to every little thing popping up, I am going to be scheduling everything*.
I can hear some of your thinking this real loudly!
I know, right? After all, To-Do lists are my jam! But right now I need to go beyond my To-Do list that feels like it’s killing me slowly.
The idea is rather than starting your day with a list of To-Dos (usually more than you can manage), that you hope to complete between distractions and procrastination such as surfing the web, online shopping and Insta scrolling… you instead have a tight schedule for the whole day.
In fact, the whole idea is that you never add a “To-Do” to a list again, instead any new To-Do tasks go straight in the calendar. I’m not ready for that level of commitment yet, but maybe one day! :p
*Well, not everything, I’ll start with doing it one week at a time, then move to a month, then maybe 3 months.
Back To School
Do you remember being at school? Having a timetable that was scribbled out with what classes you had on which days with which teachers in which rooms and at what times?
Our lives were structured, organised and we knew where we were meant to be, when and with whom.
I hate to say it but that routine and structure worked well, at least for me, if I dont have boundaries I tend to flail about like a pinball, bouncing from task to task to task, getting only pieces done before my attention is snagged by something new (it has been suggested I may have ADHD).
I always liked the idea of freedom to do what I needed, when I wanted – I now work for myself and both love and hate that I have such freedom because I am my own boss and sometimes I’m just not strict enough with myself. But no more!
In my How To Get Back On Track article, I explained how I organise and categorise all my numerous To-Do tasks that seem to keep growing. This is still how I work, but the only difference is, I’m using my calendar for everything!
Originally, I mentioned adding in deadlines to your calendar with reminders so you can stay ahead. But the Schedule Maker Method goes one further by using the calendar for every To-Do.
Now, this is NOT my main way of working and it’s a little uncomfortable for my brain but I’m desperate to persevere.
Rather than running off a To-Do list, ticking things off as and when you manage to do them, they all go into a calendar. They are scheduled just like a meeting or appointment would be.
How I Fill My Calendar
I open up my Calendar App in my phone in the Daily View – I then fill in things that are important first, this includes what time I want to be up, having breakfast with my partner, sorting the cats, going for a walk and doing yoga.
Since I want to do these every week day, I make it a repetition Monday to Friday so it autofills my calendar.
Next I add in a 30mins every day to check emails. I am rubbish with my emails at the moment and the more I get, the more I ignore them. I want to get a handle on this by doing emails for a short time every day rather than having to spend 5 hours once a month playing catch up.
Then I add in things that are already organised – such as Podcasting that I do with Rachel on a specific day and time. We have a standing arrangement that may sometimes change due to the odd upheaval but mostly we know what date/time we meet.
If there are any appointments or events that are happening that week such as vet appointments, doctors appointments, birthdays etc, they get slipped in on the relevant dates.
I then turn to my Weekly Tasks. These are things I need to have done by the end of the week, currently my Weekly Tasks are:
- Create a blog post
- Create Ko-fi content
- Update Buffer with The Merry Writer Game
- Edit the podcasts
- Create, photo and upload new products
So I slip these tasks into the calendar giving myself enough time to complete them rather than waiting until the last minute. Instead of creating a blog post on Friday, knowing I have to get it written, checked, create graphics and scheduled all on the day it has to go out, it’s now in my calendar to do days earlier.
Now I won’t forget to create a blog post, nor will I be rushing. It’s in the calendar and I know what date/time I should be working on it.
I then pull up my Monthly Tasks, these often include items on my monthly goals list. Some of my Monthly Tasks include:
This should also make it more likely for me to complete my monthly goals. Rather than just listing them in my To-Do list and trying to complete them as and when I remember, I’ve add them into my calendar and they now have a timeframe for when they will get done.
I keep my task blocks no longer that 1.5 hours – preferring 30mins to 1 hour. This is because that’s as much focus I can give to anything. I also get bored easily so I split tasks up.
For example, one day I’ll write the blog post, another day I’ll do the graphics and schedule. If I tried to do it all on one day, I’d lose interest (which has happened a lot in the past).
This allows me to break online tasks up so I’m not spending hours of the day staring at a screen.
I haven’t been this structured with my days for a long time, I usually rail against such structure (despite needing it so badly). My lack of focus at times can have me drifting away from “boring” tasks – even though these tasks are super important (like doing my taxes). So I’m having to be really sharp with myself to stay on track.
I also tend to just stop doing things randomly, so I’ve called on my partner to be my accountibili-buddy for this. That helps because since some of the things in my calendar are time with him, we need to make sure we are sync’d up. So by bringing him on board he can keep his own calendar more organised, we can make sure we do actually have time prioritised for each other and he can stop me from “drifting”.
I am using my phone calendar app rather than Google Calendars (there’s a reason) and instead of a paper calendar. I am BAD at continuing to use apps, I get tired of them – however I am going to do my best to push through that and keep using it.
Finally, things will crop up, they always will. I am not so rigid that things can’t change, but the idea is to be a lot less “laxa-daisy” with all the other time. I also need to learn to be okay saying No to people, or at the very least not dropping everything to assist (on things that are NOT a) important or b) emergenices… I’m not a monster!)
I often get requests for my time, many of them trivial but I still find myself stopping what I’m doing to deal with them. When I really should defend my working time and push the request until later, 9 times out of 10 it’s not time sensitive.
Saying No is going to be hard so I may be using my Do Not Disturb function on my phone more.
There’s a reason I didn’t schedule official wiggle room or leave blank spaces in my calendar. Firstly, I know which of my tasks can’t move and they are going to stay rigid and must be worked around if someone needs me or there’s an errand I have to run.
Secondly, if I left wiggleroom, it would get filled with random stuff that would most likely overrun and the whole system would collapse (I know me too well).
Thirdly, some of these tasks can be bounced to another day or can be skipped entirely. After all, I’m going to be doing more now than I was before so I’m still “up” on tasks.
Fourthly, I will be overplanning my time for each task in the beginning because people are rubbish at estimating how long things actually take. So I will probably have little pockets of time here and there.
What I Hope To Gain
Time. There is nothing more important a commodity as time right now. I don’t want to hit my Twilight years, looking back on all the books I never finished, the projects I never completed, the memories I never made.
We talk about “someday.” Someday I’ll get that novel finished, someday I’ll pull out my art supplies and start painting, someday I’ll start that exercise routine.
Someday isn’t coming. It’s hiding at the horizon and moves further away each day.
I also hope to gain focus, there is no surprise that social media and the internet in general as well as TV has shortened our attention spans. TV programs can be on for 8 minutes before a 5 minute advert starts. People now prefer the 1 minute TikTok videos to the 12 minute Youtube videos.
We have numerous tabs open, bouncing from thing to thing, always looking for the new, the shiny, something to give us that dopamine hit.
Well, no thanks, I want to complete things. I want to stay focused on one task at a time. So let’s see how this works out for me.
I hope you found this article useful! If you did, give it a share in case someone else could benefit!
Would you ever consider scheduling your To-Dos?
I write articles on writing, marketing, blogging, organising, social media, books and some random stuff. I also create free printable resources. If you find my content helpful, entertaining and like what I do, consider supporting me on ko-fi (where you will also find extra content I post).