Why I’m Trying A New System

Over the last few days, I was knocked me 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 and 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?

Why I'm Trying A New System | arimeghlen.co.uk

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The Truth About Leisure Time

On average adults in the UK watch around 12 hours on 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 that 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 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*

The Challenge

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 were you note down everything you’re doing as you’re doing it to track just how much time is wasted.

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*.

Why

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?

time table

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!

The Calendar

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.

calendar appSince 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 when I kept putting it off.  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:

  • Create my writer newsletter
  • Create my business newsletter
  • Update business paperwork
  • Complete an OOT

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.

Possible Difficulties

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.

phone

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.

WiggleRoom

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!

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Would you ever consider scheduling your To-Dos?

Happy writing

Signature & logo of Ari Meghlen

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).

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13 thoughts on “Why I’m Trying A New System

  1. I did that last year for a few months and it worked really well. Until it didn’t. Certain unexpected things would throw me off and I would just give up on the schedule for a while, pick it back up, and then get tired of the structure.

    I think I will restart it soon, though. Maybe do a month on/month off. It might help my brain feel more ‘free.’ What I actually did the other day was schedule an actual break in my Outlook calendar at work. For a trial period, to see how it works. I was used to taking breaks whenever I felt like, but recently found myself not taking restful breaks for days as tasks just keep piling on. So, I definitely think you are onto something with that new system.

  2. I, too, create to-do schedules. I’ve been using Todoist for a few months now as I can use it to make a to-do list, schedule it, rearrange it, reschedule if I miss a deadline, and check things off. I find that the easiest thing is to make a to-do list, the funnest is scheduling it and rearranging it to fit my days like a puzzle (I’m weird like that), and the hardest is actually committing to the schedule, which is what I’m trying to overcome.

    I, more often than not, find myself rescheduling certain to-do’s, but I do agree with you that actually scheduling you’re to-do’s to a specific day/time is way more efficient than just simply listing your to-do’s and doing them whenever. I do find that having a schedule keeps me on track and more productive than no schedule. I am a planner when writing and an organizer while student-ing (if that’s even a word), so it makes sense that I plan everything else in-between. ^^

    P.S. Maybe a reward system for accomplishing tasks might be a good way to keep me on track, but I don’t know if I have the willpower to make it work. Lol! 😊

  3. Enjoyable read, Ari and all things planning grabs my attention. For the last year and a bit I’ve implemented a quarterly planning habit (I did the HB90 course with Sara Cannon). It’s really helped to focus my attention and because it’s planned over three months, with more detail going on into each month and each weeks tasks it helps see what needs to be done. The system using a kanban board method for tasks (to do’s I suppose) but I haven’t got on with it, I’ve tried both an analogue system (too many sticky notes) and Trello (I forget about it if not in front of me. The calendar scheduling sounds like a good option. Interested to know why you wouldn’t use a Google calendar! Thanks as always for sharing.
    Ciao
    Jo

  4. Ooh, so intriguing, Ari. I’m interested to see how helpful this is for you because I think it would work for me too. I waste so much time during the day when I know I should be doing more important things. Timing everything to a schedule may just help. Keep us updated!

  5. I think that this is a brilliant plan. I do so so much better when I’m in school- as a teacher now, but structure works well for me, too. Maybe I need to do a bit more scheduling with my free time so I don’t get so distract…hey! What’s that over there?!
    😊
    All the best with this new approach!

  6. Victoria Zigler

    Good luck. I hope it works for you. I tried something like this a little while ago, but with unpredictable sleeping patterns and not knowing from one day to the next how I’ll be feeling, it just didn’t work for me. Sometimes you have to switch up how you do things though, and maybe it will be the thing that works for you.

  7. Wait til you are 65, like me … I turned 65 in April and I said to myself “I must organize my time better because if I was to make a pie chart, that thank goodness for walks because the majority of that pie was computer time … for work, social media, blogging, etc. … I don’t like it at all. I am looking forward to retirement (when that happens in the next year or two) because I won’t feel like enjoying myself too much is simply frittering away my time. Must retrain my brain! My favorite lines from this post:
    “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 sense to give it a smack and drop it on its ass.”

    1. It is shocking just how often we are on the computers/devices these days. And we don’t always realise, apparently they have done studies asking people how long a day they use a device and everyone severely underestimates their time.

      I hope you are able to organise your time and hopefully reduce the amount of online/screen time.

      Retrain the brain, that is it entirely! 🙂

      LOL yes, that was a weirdly insidious thought and I had to stop it. I couldn’t believe I’d thought that about quiet, calm time outside with my partner!

      1. I believe that study – social media hogs your time and you’ll go down that rabbit hole and not surface for long periods of time. I’ve stepped away a little from blogging as well, much as I like it. I have gone from doing three long posts a week to one long “walking post” and a Wordless Wednesday post, usually about nature or even street photography. That has helped, but I’m still behind in Reader half of the time. 🙂 Yes, banish that ludicrous thought Ari!!

  8. 🙂 Ari, the only things that I schedule are my blog posts. Scheduling my day-to-day tasks may end up feeling like imprisonment.

    An easier solution is making a conscientious effort to do less.

    However, if you still wish to accomplish a lot of those things that you were doing before, you will have to outsource them; for example, hiring a secretary.

    1. Hi Renard, I can appreciate how scheduling for some can feel really restrictive and that is usual for people who are pretty good at staying on track.

      Sadly I’m not like that and bounce around too much, I used this technique today and was way more focus and was able to get everything done and finished by 6pm rather than logging off at 8pm as usual.

      I would love to hire someone to help! As my business has gotten busier I’ve crunched the numbers but I’m still not yet able to afford assistance even just a few hours a week. But that would be a dream to have help and I’m hoping to get there! 🙂

      But I’m hoping this structure will keep my scattered brain from flitting around too much. 😉

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