The Value of Sketching a Schedule

source: CR Artist
source: CR Artist

If talking about routines made you break out into a nervous sweat, you may have already moved on to the next post in your feed reader at the mere mention of the word schedule.

Using Schedules to Simplify Your Life

But before you click away, let me assure you that while I do want to talk about schedules today, I’m not talking about a rigid schedule that dictates your every breath. There may be a time and place for those as well, but what I really want to talk about is the value of sketching out a schedule for yourself on those days that you simply have too much to do and barely enough time to get it all done.

You know the days.

Days when Suzie has a dentist appointment at 10:00 am that just happens to be 30 minutes away from your home, and you’re meeting friends for lunch at noon, but you want to try to run some errands in between the appointment and lunch and then get home and get x, y and z done while preparing an early dinner because you’re heading to the pool as a family in the evening.

Or whatever a busy day looks like for you!

On days like this, sketching a schedule for yourself allows you to see in writing what  you have time for and what is going to add more stress than it’s worth.

It keeps you on track to get to appointments and meet deadlines and gives you time to think through the most efficient way to accomplish everything on your list.

Start with the Big Ones

Whether you use a schedule template, a blank piece of paper or your dry erase board, the key is to start by adding appointments and deadlines that are scheduled for certain times, since there isn’t much flexibility around them.  In the day outlined above, you’d start by writing down the dentist appointment and lunch date. Don’t forget to add in the time you need to get  everybody ready to go and in the car as well as the drive time for each appointment.

Fill in the Details

Now that  you have the non-negotiables sketched in, you’ll be able to make more realistic decisions about what you can get done in the between times. Continuing with the example above, maybe you had planned to run errands in between Suzie’s dentist appointment and lunch, but once you sketch your schedule, you see that you’ll only have 45 minutes in between the two, including a 15-minute car ride to lunch and the inevitable 15 minutes it takes to get everyone in and out of the car, all of which makes the errands more trouble than they’re worth.

On the other hand, if Suzie’s dentist appointment is at 9:00 am instead of 10:00 am, you might realize that just running to Walmart is not going to take very long, still leaving you with extra time, so it makes more sense to head to the mall for that dreaded shopping trip you’ve been putting off instead.

If lunch runs longer than expected, a quick glance at the schedule will show you that you need to adjust your afternoon to-do list because you don’t have nearly as much time to get things done as you thought you would.

Because you’ll know what time you want to leave the house to get to the pool with your family, you can set realistic goals for  the afternoon rather than letting your to-do list dictate that for you, which can result in missed opportunities to enjoy family activities because you keep trying to get one more thing done as time steadily ticks away.

A Few Tips for Successful Schedule Planning

I love writing out a simple schedule for myself as I plan each day because it helps me stay on track and prioritize the things that are important to our family. Having a schedule, even for a busy day at home, helps me balance my various responsibilities, including work, homeschooling and blogging. However, I do want to share a few tips to help you use a schedule successfully:

1. Using a schedule helps you get the things done you want to get done. It is not meant to be a drill sergeant, so feel free to enjoy a long lunch with friends or some extra cuddle time with your kids unless you have a commitment that truly is time sensitive.

2. Always – always! – schedule more time than you think you need for an activity. Just like budgeting, one of the biggest sources of discouragement with a schedule is not being able to keep up with it. If you think it’s going to take you 15 minutes to get out of the house and into the car, leave yourself 20-25 minutes instead. If dinner takes an hour, leave an hour and 15 minutes. Having wiggle room for each activity reduces the likelihood that you’ll be stressed out because things aren’t going according to plan.

3. No matter how hard you try, a schedule cannot give you more time than you have. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down to write out a schedule for the day only to realize that it is not humanly possible to fit everything in that I wanted to fit in. In those situations, I’m always thankful that I took the time to write out the schedule because otherwise I would have walked around with unreasonable expectations all day long.

Do you use a written schedule to help you plan busy days? What is the hardest part about writing a schedule for you?