Sunday, July 6, 2014

How to schedule when you hate scheduling

Confessions:

  • I love office supplies
  • I love datebook supplies
  • I hate scheduling
  • Without a schedule I flounder
This is a tangle of love and hate that I have to deal with ALL THE TIME. When I was in school, scheduling was a must--I had to make sure I had enough time to get everything done on time, as well as whatever I had to do in my life. In Highschool and in College, I had those planner books that come with being a student, and that made things easier; in Gradschool, I not only didn't have one of those books, I also didn't have physical classes, and for a large chunk of it, I didn't have a job, so there was no external way to force a schedule, and I had to learn to schedule myself.

What I learned was that I hated it.

I don't like imposing deadlines on myself. I don't like the feeling that if something goes long, or if I can't sleep at night and oversleep in the morning because of it*, I've messed up the whole plan. I don't like the idea that things can only happen on one day at one specific time. I don't like the constant failure-feeling standard sorts of scheduling was giving me.

But I also learned that I love little pages that tell me what needs doing, I love lists, I love looking back through my notebook and seeing what I did do. From a lifetime of dealing with myself, I've learned that I need a framework to hang my days on, but if there's more than that I start feeling trapped, and then I start feeling like I'm failing, but to stay creative I need to feel like I'm succeeding, and like I have the flexibility to go with new ideas when they come.

So I adapted the old school-style scheduling, and I allow myself to look at it each week and see what does and doesn't work for the week coming up, and to change it totally if my needs change.

Here's how:

Sunday is weekly-schedule day. My week starts on Monday, because I like to keep a weekend together on a schedule, not split it up, so the day before, I do the schedule.
  • I look at what needs doing, and any non-negotioable deadlines I have--usually due-dates for bills, or appointments, or my babysitting schedule.
  • I look to see if it's a pay week, and when money is meant to clear from Etsy or wherever.
  • I set up the things that are the same every week.
  • I look at the wall calendar and the future-dates list I keep to see if any of those things are happening in the week I'm looking at.
And I write all that stuff down--even the routine things, because I WILL forget to write my four pages, forget laundry, forget to do the week's blog posts. I'm super-easily distracted by things like whims, weather, allergies. If it's written down, it has to be done. These all go on a week-at-a-glance sheet. They're available all over the place, but right now I'm using one I found at the Target Dollar Spot last year, the red one in the pic above.

Then, I make a list. There'll be other lists during the week, but I make a master list at the beginning, while I'm thinking about scheduling, of all the things I'd like to do this week. Sometimes it's just in my notebook, since I'll be sticking the schedule in there anyway, but usually, lately, it's on this to-do list thing I also found in the Dollar Spot, the green one up there. This particular page is great because, for whatever reason, it's divided into three different list sections, and I use them for Blog Topics for the week, Shop stuff that needs doing, and writing stuff that needs doing. I'll also write down about three reminder-goals of how I want to be during the week--things like "wake up early", or "do tai chi before getting started", etc. Sometimes I'll write stuff I'm waiting on that's coming in this week--orders that should arrive that the shop is waiting on, books for review that I might get, a magazine that I'm expecting soon, stuff like that.

The important part is that this list is separate from the schedule, so that none of it is bound to any specific time or day and is therefore available to any day, whenever I have time. And that the weekly schedule is not planned down to the hour--only a list of things I need to do on that day, at some point, in whatever order I feel like doing them.

And some weeks, that's all I do. But I have options for more.

A lot of times, I'll take a pen of a different color, and I'll write down what I actually did do on each day on the schedule--especially if there's a lot going on that's memorable, holidays or visits or movie premiers and stuff.

If a particular day is really busy, I'll put one of those spiral-time chronodex pages in the notebook near the weekly schedule, because I like the shape, but I'll color them in as I go, rather than planning beforehand, so I don't have to change it. I'll also add a list of things that need doing, and check them off as I go, as I add them to the spiral.

A lot of weeks, I have a secondary, sort of aspirational list--the week's journal prompts, reminders to start a new writing project, the arts or crafts things I want to get to this week, stuff like that.

If a whole week is busy, instead of a week-at-a-glance, I'll use a two-page-per-week schedule so I have more room to make notes and add details. 

And sometimes I'll find some fantastic new idea that I just have to adapt and add, and that goes into the week's pages, too.

And that's how I schedule myself without limiting myself.

How do you schedule things?




NOTES:
* Which happens a lot, because literally almost anything can throw off my sleeping schedule, AND, my natural pattern tends towards staying up until four or six and sleeping all day, which is not the sort of timing that works with, like, any real-life business in the outside world.
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