Time management Monday: How to be flexible in your scheduling

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Last week I wrote about how to cope when new tasks and scheduled events come at you all day long. Today I will give you some tips on how to be more flexible in your scheduling so you can better deal with the day to day reality of fast-paced changes to your daily plan.

Be flexible in your scheduling. In our fast-paced, ever-changing days, it’s important not to be too rigid in your scheduling. If you have every minute of your day planned and/ or loads of tasks on your daily list, you will be frustrated and disappointed when you don’t get everything done. Here are some ways you can be more flexible with your scheduling:

Pad your schedule so that every minute is not scheduled ahead of time. Allow for plenty of travel time to and from meetings and events. Block out a certain amount of time, possibly at the beginning or end of the day, for catch-up work.

Be realistic when scheduling so you don’t set yourself (or others) up for disappointment. Make sure you have allotted enough time to get your essential tasks done. If you have a day full of tasks, and a day full of scheduled events, obviously you are not going to be able to get everything done in one day.

Don’t fill your day with tasks, especially non-essential ones. You will get frustrated having to re-write the same tasks over again day to day when you don’t complete them. Instead, prioritize your tasks. Write only the actions that you absolutely must do in a particular day in that day’s calendar space. Then keep a prioritized list of all your other tasks. If you complete your Must-Do tasks for the day, look at your list and work on the next-highest priority tasks that you have time to do. (Warning, don’t let your lower priority tasks drop off the radar entirely. Block out time specifically to take care of these “mosquitoes.”)

Be flexible in your planner use. I’ve seen online where people get upset when they have to change plans in their planner because it will mess up the decorations or generally just look messy. Remember: your planner is there to work for you as your time management tool. Don’t be so afraid of messing up its appearance that your planner becomes a hindrance.

The reality of life is that your planner needs to be flexible and adapt to your life, especially when plans change (which, let’s face it, is all the time!).

Here are some tips to avoid making a big mess in your planner:

  • Write in pencil or use erasable pens so you can erase what you’ve written. My plans change so fast these days I pretty much only use pencil in my planner, because I erase several times per day!
  • If you like to use washi tape in your planner, you can use it to cover up and make changes. You can also use washi to adapt your planner to your needs, like covering up printed times to change them to your time schedule, or to label lists.
  • Or just use correction fluid to change plans in your planner.

Consider some things non-negotiable. Some things like exercise, eating healthy food, and taking care of our families have to be set in stone. If you start to let slide your workout, your grocery shopping or being there for your loved ones, the most important things in your life will deteriorate quickly. Your health and your relationships are the solid foundation on which your life is built. Attending to these is non-negotiable; these items are set in stone in your planner. Fit everything else in around these actions.

The trick is to find the right balance between being structured enough to be your most productive, yet flexible enough to adapt to changes as they come at you throughout the day. It may take some experimentation to find the balance that works for you. And be aware, that balance may change too! Some weeks may be more stable, and others might change frequently. Have your plan in place so you’ll be ready for anything that comes your way.

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