Gaining Control of Your Schedule in 4 Steps
Whenever I chat with clients about their health and wellness goals, I ask what they think is holding them back. SO often they know what they SHOULD do in order to get closer to where they want to be, but they are doing something to sabotage themselves. This can look like - just choosing not to do things you know would help you, it can be the negative self talk we have going on in our heads, it can be the fear of judgement or even the fear or success - so many different things that look different on every single person.
But one of the most common themes I hear has to do with time. I don’t have enough time to add anything to my schedule. I don’t have time to cook the healthier meals. I don’t have time to work out. I don’t have time to go out with friends or have a regular date night with my significant other. I don’t have time to set up my budget. The list is endless.
But here’s the thing. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. It is all about how we CHOOSE to use them. Yes, it is a choice. Hear me out. We CHOOSE to devote all of our time to our kids or our families or our jobs or to staying up to date on our favorite tv shows. We make these decisions every single day, whether we realize it or not.
Now I’m not telling you the answer to your problem is getting rid of your kids and husband. But being more intentional with the time that you have and how we are spending it. We have to take our kids to afterschool activities - what do we do while we wait in the car? Scroll social media? Or could be read a book? Catch up on emails? Connect with a friend we haven’t talked to in awhile? Plan our dinners for the week? We have to do laundry and take care of the house - do we have a routine or a system for this? Or is it once every couple weeks we go all in and clean everything at once, completely procrastinating from all the other things that we need to get done. I mean let’s be real, who has procrastinated on something this week? Is it something that probably wouldn’t even take you that long to do? Probably! We have to be intentional about taking the time to do the things that will move our needle forward - move us closer to whatever our goals are and whatever sort of life we dream of living.
We have to find a system that works for us, so I’m going to break this down for you into four steps. Four steps to gaining control of your schedule, and starting to get things done NOW instead of later.
Step One: Start by looking at your schedule from the past week, couple weeks, even the past month. How were you spending your time? What was taking up most of your time? In the gaps in between, were you being intentional, or what else were you doing? Take some notes for yourself. Just notice what are you actually doing with your time. Are you scrolling social media instead of checking off your to do list? On days you don’t have to wake up at 7am, are you sleeping until noon? It’s a judgement free zone here, but we’ve got to become aware of what we are doing - it doesn’t mean any of it is wrong or bad, or even that we have to change anything. We just need to see the big picture and be honest with ourselves.
Step Two: Create a blank weekly schedule. You can do this by printing off an hour by hour blank calendar from online, or by creating your own in an excel or google spreadsheet. I’ve also googled blank calendar and printed that out as well. Whatever works for you. You can even just take a piece of paper and make it by hand. Times going down one side and the days of the week going across the top. Then start to fill in the things you have going on that are non-negotiables - the hours you are at work, commuting to work, regular meetings that you have, maybe you have a favorite class at the gym each week, your kids dance classes, or soccer practices. Plug it all in. Include when you need to wake up and go to sleep as well. I make a general schedule like this whenever I’m making big changes to my schedule. A change in jobs, adding new obligations, etc. Then every single week - usually on Sundays - I sit down with my planner and do this for the week. My schedule is often different week to week based on when I’m working, when I have appointments, when I’m teaching classes. So each week I sit down and plug in the obligations I have as a place to start for my weekly planning.
Step Three: We have to add in all the other things. This step has two parts. Start by making a list of the other things you have to do or would like to do each week. Date night, meal prep, exercise, read, family movie night, laundry, vacuum, catch up with friends, day to do nothing. Whatever else you might regularly do. Now let’s remember why we are here. What ELSE are we supposed to be doing? And I don’t mean eating perfectly clean and working out an hour every day. It doesn’t have to be that complicated. Will working out help you reach your goals? Add it to the list. Will checking in on your budget help you reach your goals? Add it to the list. These don’t necessarily have to be things we fit in every day, but even once a week. Think of this as a brainstorm list. Not sure if it should go on, add it anyway. Part two, we need to add these into our calendar. Looking at our list, we want to start with what we perceive as the most important tasks. Add those in first. Then continue down the line. What are our most important goals, and which items will help get us closer to them? Fit in as much as you can. Now what happens when you DO run out of time? Well, that brings us to
Step Four: Evaluate. First, are the things we have scheduled actually things that we have to do ourselves? Or can we delegate some of them? Can we have our significant others or our kids help with something? Can we delegate at work? Can once a week we ask a family member to pick up the kids or set up a carpool so we have an extra hour during the week? Are the things we have scheduled in actually the most important things to us RIGHT NOW. Key word - right now. Things that were important last week or last month might not carry the same weight this week and this month. Maybe just ONE day we need to get up 30 minutes earlier to have time to do something before work. You ARE in control of your schedule.
I go through this process every single week. It seems like a lot at first, but trust me, over time it gets easier and much quicker. I take a look at last week. What worked? What didn’t? What got done? What didn’t? What was I doing instead? Then I plug in everything for this week. I look at my schedule and figure out okay what day should I take the dog to daycare so I can get a little more work done. Where do I need to fill in more appointments? Where do I have time to grab a workout or meet up with a friend? I set my goals for the week. This week I need to do XYZ - in order to get there, I need to do ABC, and I plug them in. Where do I need help? Do I need my husband to run an errand for me?
Then what could be described as most importantly - a bonus step 5 - what about time for YOU. Whatever that might look like. Doing something that brings you joy. Doing something to take care of YOU. Make sure that is in there SOMEWHERE. There is no rule on what that has to look like. For me I have to plan small chunks of time to just relax - on Monday mornings I eat breakfast and watch Sunday night’s episode of 90 Day Fiance. We can’t pour from an empty cup. There are seasons of our lives that require us to be more present in one area vs another. This is why it is so important to look at your schedule each week as a big picture and fill in the blanks according to what is going on this week, and what is important right now. The week you’re cleaning out your apartment and moving is going to look very different than the week your biggest focus is carting the kids around to different events.
We are in control of our schedule whether we know it or not. It is in my 1:1 and group coaching that I help my clients figure this out for themselves. You have to figure out what works for YOU. Step One: Review your calendar over the past week/month and see what is working and what isn’t. Noticing trends you have that you might not even have been aware of. Step 2: plot out the non-negotiables, the things that you have to do for the week that have set times. - don’t forget commuting times too. Step 3: what else do you need to get done in the week? Plot those in. Not enough time for it all? Step 4: Evaluate. Where can you shift things? Where can you ask for help? What is really important for you RIGHT NOW. And bonus Step 5: Make sure you add in time for YOU. No matter how busy things are, you HAVE to take care of yourself. You cannot pour from an empty cup.
To dig deeper, check out this week's podcast episode here!