Let me open with a few questions to get you thinking about the concept of “scheduling” your day…Do you find yourself frantically jumping out of bed, grabbing a donut, throwing on your clothes and rushing out the door to work?…Do you feel like you don’t have a plan or a direction for your day?…Are you busy being busy instead of being busy being productive?
For so much of my life the answers to these questions were 100 percent YES! I used to walk into work frazzled, and I felt completely out of control (to be quite honest). My day was controlling me and I had no control over my day. Can you relate to that?
When my children were young, I remember so many mornings snoozing my alarm because I just KNEW a few extra minutes of sleep would really help with my energy throughout the day. Looking back now, an extra five minutes never produced anything extra except stress…because then I’d be scrambling to get myself and my kids together and out the door!
I know now that I spent a lot of time busy being busy. I was always trying to organize how I could make things work to be busy, which is just the silliest thing ever. Fast forward to today, and my “scheduling” life looks COMPLETELY different from 20 years ago.
A little background on me for those that don’t know, but I began my career as a Physician’s Assistant. I was surrounded by some amazing people who supported me and helped me grow, both in my career and also in life. One such person was a nurse I worked closely with for 10 years, named Belinda. Belina was an outstanding nurse, not only due to how she cared for patients, but also because of how she cared for me personally. Her time management skills were impeccable. She directed me throughout the day guiding me where to be, reminding me who to follow-up with, telling me where to go next, etc. She was amazing.
But then I ventured on from my life as a PA and started working from home as an entrepreneur. Guess what? I was clueless about how to manage my schedule because up to that point I had always had somebody planning it for me! Yikes.
And so I set myself on a personal journey to understand what this entrepreneurial life was all about and what truly makes a person successful. I invested in conferences and personal coaches–intentionally surrounding myself with millionaires and billionaires. I spent time observing the habits they’d created and the character qualities that set them apart for success.
And here’s what I learned: When you observe a truly successful person, you’ll see an extremely disciplined person. But discipline isn’t born overnight. Discipline comes from all of the habits you gradually add into your life, consistently.
Today’s discipline focus: Scheduling.
So how much do you get done by the end of the week? Is that something that you track? Do you ever really know what you accomplish?
I’m going to share with you 10 tips that will help change all of your answers to the questions above and build the discipline of time management.
Tip 1: Find Your Best Method
Let me start by saying that my tips will work for you regardless of your preferred “planning” method. I personally tried a paper planner for years but it just didn’t work for me. I’m constantly scheduling things on my phone that I need to coordinate other people, so my phone works best. But if paper and pen works for you, I want you to continue that!
Tip 2: Start on Sunday
Every Sunday, you need to set aside some time with no distractions to schedule your week. The first area you want to plan is your non-negotiables. These are the things that are repeated on your calendar every week. My non-negotiables are exercise, date night, “me” time, and personal growth time. Okay? So what are your non-negotiables? Put them on the calendar FIRST and DO NOT schedule over them.
Tip 3: Develop A Running To-Do List
Next create a to-do list of non-schedule specific items that you can pull from, because if you get everything accomplished for the week that’s on the calendar you can start pulling from your to-do list.
Tip 4: Everything Goes On the Calendar
I want you to know that everything you want to achieve during a week NEEDS to be on your calendar. If it isn’t on your calendar, I promise you 98% of the time it will not get done. My husband Mark and I have had a standing date night on Tuesday night for years. When our kids were young, we got out of the habit of having date night, and we lost connection in our relationship. So we had to write that date night back on our calendars. I know it sounds terrible, but trust me, you need to do it.
Tip 5: Time Chunking
When you’re looking at your calendar, consider what projects you need to complete this week. What are your priorities? Have those items in front of you so that you can write them out. Let me give you an example. I am in the process of writing a book which is so overwhelming to me. I’ve never been a writer. I’m not going to say that I’m not a writer, because I am a writer now, but I’m not trained as one. The thought of writing a book is really overwhelming. This week I committed to investing five hours towards writing my book. I’ve taught myself to chunk my time for big projects in order to make them more manageable. So if my goal is five hours in a week, basically what I do is block out five, one-hour chunks on my calendar. I’ve learned that if I try and block five hours all in one sitting or even in one day, tasks feel overwhelming. But by chunking my project into five, one-hour segments, I can approach my writing with more freedom, knowing I’ve planned my work out appropriately. I want to set myself up for success and not for failure. Chunking projects into manageable pieces works for me and I know it works for most people.
Tip 6: Use a Timer
Continuing with my book writing example, when my writing time pops up on my calendar, I set my timer for one hour and this is where the magic happens. I set my timer and guess what I start doing? I start writing! And when that hour is up, I then make a choice about whether I take a break or continue to go on. If thoughts are flowing freeing, I take advantage of that flow and continue working (so long as my calendar permits)…But if my timer goes off and I’m ready to be done for the day, then I’m done! And I’m always ok with that. By chunking my time I do not worry whether tasks will get accomplished because I know that I’ve created space for myself throughout the week to tackle them. Sometimes I know I need a break so I get up, take a break, go outside, take a walk, whatever it is that gives me a little reset so I can get ready for the next task at hand. I use this same strategy with all of my other priorities as well.
Tip 7: Schedule Time For the Fun Things Too!
I want to emphasize that everything on my calendar isn’t just work-related. I have social events such as going to lunch with friends, family time, and time for personal growth and development. It is essential that your calendar reaches all aspects of your life because your life is not defined by your work tasks. You have so many different aspects of your life. And I’m going to tell you, if you stay pretty true to your calendar, you will find that you will achieve so much more and have less distractions.
Tip 8: Identify and Tame Your Productivity Enemies
The two enemies I used to face when I sat down to try and be productive were distraction and procrastination. The first one that I absolutely have gotten over is distraction. My mind goes 24/7, and I’m constantly thinking about all the things I need to do, whether it’s personal or business. This is where my running to-do comes in. I need a space to quickly write down everything that’s in my head. And when I have time, I pull out my list and put that on my calendar. The second thing I struggle with is procrastination. I mean, certainly I’m not alone in this, right? I’m going to tell you that the timer really helps with procrastination because it gives me a deadline or a stop time. I know I only have to do whatever task I’m working on for a certain amount of time and then I’m done. I am able to focus for a shorter sustainable period of time.Perhaps you have other “enemies” keeping you from being productive. It’s important to identify those issues and work to change them or you’ll keep yourself in a rut.
Tip 9: Take Regular Productivity Inventories
As I shared above, I prefer a digital calendar over a paper one and one of the reasons for that is everything I need access to syncs between all of my platforms and devices. I use Google as my one-stop-shop for scheduling, to-do lists and task lists. So all of the projects that I’m working on are in one place. At the end of the week I use my calendar and lists to take inventory of my production. By regularly checking my productivity I can identify areas where I can improve and grow, and where I am finding success. I wouldn’t have a pulse on these things if I didn’t take time to analyze them…Plus, I like to give myself a gold star at the end of the week when I am productive!
Tip 10: Give Yourself Grace
Lastly, I want you to know you need to give yourself some grace because incorporating a new habit takes time. And turning those habits into disciplines takes even longer. You’re not going to get it right in the beginning. In fact, it may be way off in the beginning. You may over-schedule or under-schedule. So give yourself grace and continue in that process. Continue moving forwards and leaning into your goals.
If you are chasing after BIG goals and striving for your next level of greatness, there will be days when self-doubt creeps in. But on the other side of self-doubt there’s always massive growth. The most important piece of your journey is that you don’t quit. You have to keep going with that journey.
There may be moments when you doubt whether the journey you’re on is the one you’re supposed to be on. There were so many times in my journey as an entrepreneur that I doubted whether I really felt that tug in my heart to do business. I’d think: Did I really feel that tug in my heart to grow to that next level of leadership? And I’m telling you if you’re questioning it, you felt it. And so you need to keep going. If it’s not where you’re supposed to be, keep moving, because God’s going to redirect you into the place you need to go. So don’t be discouraged.
My friend, self doubt is the enemy of your success. So I want you to be bold and remove the lies of self doubt.
There are likely lies that have gotten into your head because someone else made you believe them along the way…maybe you worry about not being supported or encouraged as you chase your dreams. This is just part of the journey. Keep going, get rid of the lies of self, and just know you are here on earth for a mighty purpose. And I want you to shine and shine bright. If nobody tells you this today, it will be me. I believe in you. I know that you can accomplish great things because you were created by a Creator who loves you more than you can ever imagine.