Your schedule is what determines what you will do daily. And your daily actions are the steps that will take you to achievement. Therefore, how well you set up your schedule will define how successful you are reaching all your goals, no matter what they are. What you seek to achieve may be professionally related, but it may also be about creating more time for yourself, your community, and your loved ones.
A well-designed schedule will establish where you will spend your time and will be the foundation for your results over time. Your schedule can be supportive if you design it to be so — otherwise, it can be part of the reason you are not where you strive to be.
To establish your schedule in the best way possible, try building it block by block, adding in the most important blocks first, and then adding smaller ones throughout your available time slots. The idea is that once you master one block, you move on to the next until you get your schedule to the place you need it to be. It’s not possible to change your entire routine in the first effort, so adjusting it piece by piece will ensure you make durable and realistic changes.
The best and most fundamental place to begin is with your wellness: eating healthy food, exercising, and sleep/rest. These three crucial elements are what provide us energy for the rest of our activities.
Sometimes, however, these are also the hardest to include in our routines, but without them, you will not be as effective. Make sure you incorporate these three core elements into a permanent part of your routines, and they will happen automatically. For more on routines, please read Why Rituals in Your Professional Life Are So Powerful.
It Might Take Time
Adding in new activities to your schedule is not easy, as doing so requires energy and effort. Sometimes what we are trying doesn’t work, so it is necessary to be flexible in finding the right combination.
As an example, some people hate going to the gym and would rather participate in sports or run outside as exercise. Finding the right team to practice with or the best places to run will take time as well as trial and error. If you like the gym, like me, there are so many ways to exercise. You may start by going to a paid gym and then perhaps switch to videos and then eventually, a home gym.
Setting up your customized schedule might take less than a year, or it might take a couple of years, as it’s not easy to change the course of your days and weeks overnight.
Sometimes It is Necessary to Force a Change
Work is like water: it will find space to fill. If you allow it to take over your weekends and nights, it will. Similarly, other activities that you may be trying to minimize will inevitably take up the time since they have been a staple part of your routine.
I have noticed that to make big changes to my schedule, one of the best techniques is to force it to happen. I’ll carve out the time I want to take for a certain activity and staunchly stick to it as if it is written in stone. I don’t do anything other than what I reserve my time for during that time, and I schedule it in my calendar, so I don’t book something else during that space.
I then force out what I usually did during that space of time into a different part of my schedule. This idea might sound painful, but I have found it to be easier than other options, such as waiting for activities to spontaneously stop taking so much time.
To reduce the shock of the change, I start small — the smaller steps help me gauge how much I can alter my schedule. If the transition goes well, I give it some time and then gradually increase the allotted time of the activity. As an example, I want to write summaries for the books I was reading right after I finished reading them. I started doing each summary in parts, and I saw that the time I had reserved in my schedule worked, so I added more time and was able to move along more quickly.
Once you have mastered the block of time you have been working on, move on to the next one, repeating the same steps you followed with the first one. When you get into the practice of making changes, it will likely take you less time. You will also have probably tested your entire schedule (mornings, afternoons, evenings, or weekends) to see what works best in each time.
Eventually, you will customize your schedule to where you want it. You may not need to make changes for years, or conversely, once you get to the final change, you may find out it’s time to go back and modify one of your original blocks because your work or personal context shifted again. Then you can modify the blocks again. As with most things, your schedule will probably remain a work in progress as you take on new goals and experience life changes.