Last month I wrote about one of my favorite time management techniques: time blocking. I like the peace of mind it brings, knowing I’m doing exactly what I need to be working on right now.
But one of the big secrets of time blocking, or any scheduling technique is: you have to cleverly pad your schedule. You can’t make plans for every single minute of the day, because inevitably things come up you hadn’t anticipated. That’s life, and it’s normal. But if something urgent must be done during an already jam-packed time slot, you’ll go into crisis mode.
Here are good times to add a little padding to your schedule:
First thing in the morning. Inevitably something will take longer than expected, or something will come up. Even if you’ve prepared ahead, there’s something about first thing in the morning that lends itself to a time crunch. Do yourself a favor and add a little padding to your morning time in case there’s traffic, someone forgot something, or you’re just having a slow start.
When working on that big project. You can generally expect that things will take longer than you think they will. You’ll discover steps you forgot to include in your plan. You might take two steps forward and one step back for awhile. Or, you’ll have to wait on someone else to get done with their part before you can continue yours. Leave yourself some wiggle room in your schedule for the inevitable derailments.
When going places. Similar to first thing in the morning, whenever you set out to go someplace make sure you have enough time to get there plus a little extra. If you’re afraid of wasting time waiting when you get there, bring along something to work on or read while you wait. I have a friend who usually leaves home at the time when she’s supposed to arrive at her destination, because there’s always something else that needs to be done before she goes out the door. Plan to wrap things up ahead of time, and don’t forget about extra time to warm up your car this time of year.
When listening to people. Yes it’s hard to listen to someone yammer on about something that’s not high on your priority list while you’re busy, but if that person is important to you, take the time to listen. If you really need to get away, make a polite apology, explain you’re in a rush, and ask when you can continue the conversation at a time when you’ll be able to really listen.
At bedtime. Don’t expect to rush around or be attached to screens until you flop into bed and then drift magically to sleep (unless you have magical sleep capabilities). Give yourself screen-free time to wind down before bed.
At what times of the day do you pad your schedule?