Some productivity gurus insist the only way all of your tasks are going to get done is if you schedule them into your day. Assign a time to each task, and do that task at its appointed time.
I see the point: it gets you to commit to a specific time, and make room in your schedule to get the task done. After all, if your schedule is completely booked up, you won’t have time to squeeze in any extra tasks.
But I see several problems with this, and it all boils down to overbooking. By booking in your tasks, you might not allow enough time in your schedule for flexibility to deal with anything else that comes up during the day. You need to pad your schedule to allow for things to take longer than expected and to deal with those inevitable emergent tasks. If all your time is scheduled, even something minor can derail your whole day.
So that brings us back to the question: should you schedule your tasks? The answer, as it is with most things, is: It Depends.
In reality, I think most people do a combination of scheduling their tasks and keeping a to-do list. Here are some suggestions for when to schedule tasks, and when not to:
Schedule tasks that must be done at a certain time and/ or day:
For example, if you are hosting a dinner party at your house on Thursday evening, and the only time you have available that week to do the grocery shopping for it is Tuesday evening, obviously you will schedule in grocery shopping on Tuesday evening.
Similarly, if you have a project due Friday and the only time you have available to finish it is Wednesday afternoon, you should book that time to finish your project.
Block out time in your schedule to work on categories of tasks:
You can use time blocking to schedule time to allow yourself to focus on a specific project, make headway on a long-term project that you need to keep chipping away at, and deal with “mosquitoes” that pile up.
Keep a prioritized to-do list:
For other tasks, keep a prioritized task list and have an idea of how long each task will take. This post can help you decide on the levels of priority of each task, and in what order they need to be done. When you find yourself with open time in your schedule, take a look at your list and choose the highest priority task that you have time for.
Do you schedule your tasks, keep a task list, or do a combination of both?
Planner in photos: Quo Vadis Trinote weekly planner