Since my original post on my GTD setup back in 2006 a lot has changed in my life. I’ve swapped jobs a couple of times, started my own business and taken on part-time work to help make ends meet. This has lead me to need to be able to manage my schedule a lot more closely so I know not only where I’m supposed to be but also how much “spare” time I have to get things done – or just have a nice sit down and relax!
Because I am “here, there and everywhere” it’s important to use the hours that I have at home as effectively as possible. Whilst my “day job” has set shifts there is always some overtime I’m required to do so I need to be able to plan my other tasks around this so I know when I can get my at-home tasks done.
Initially, when I took on my part-time job, when I was at home I worked on what I felt like based on my energy levels or what I would find most interesting or rewarding. This meant that those tasks I wasn’t really looking forward to working on would be left to the last minute and then rushed.
After a while I realised that this wasn’t the best way of managing my tasks, time or energy. I was feeling guilty at putting tasks off, forcing myself to work on something when I wasn’t feeling like it and the general stress that went along with all of this was making me feel ill. So, how did I turn myself around and get out of this productivity rut? I started to work to a set schedule.
Because I like to batch process a lot of my tasks, setting a specific schedule ensures that I have enough time to go through my tasks in a batched way. I know that I will be spending an hour on a Sunday evening going through my website emails, I’ll be spending 2 hours on a Tuesday sorting out my Friday round-ups and 3 hours on a Thursday formatting guest posts and sorting out social media.
The exact time I will do these tasks is fluid – I may pop out for a couple of hours on a Thursday so I might not start my formatting task until 11pm, or I may start at 8.30pm. This flexibility means that I don’t feel I am too tied to a forced routine.
I also use this schedule so I can work out how long I have for other tasks. For example, if I have most items finished and I’m going to have a pretty light week I’ll try to keep my Friday evening clear so I can cook a fun (and slightly complicated) dinner, alternatively if I know I have quite a lot of stuff to get through I’ll schedule a quick dinner or ask someone else to cook it.
I find that there’s a big sense of inner peace if I know what I’m supposed to be doing and when. Even a trip to the cinema is planned with millitary precision I know when I will be arriving, how much time I have for a comfort break and to grab snacks, how long the film lasts and when I should be home (the only variable in this scenario is the length of the adverts and previews).
At my day job I have set days I do things on, and as you can seem from my schedule above I like to do certain work and blog tasks on certain days.
This routine allows me to focus on the tasks themselves rather then when I am supposed to be doing something, freeing up some much needed mental space and helping to cut down on stress levels.
You can view more of my thoughts on the Importance Of Routine in an article I wrote in March 2016.
Believe it or not, setting a schedule of when you are doing things can actually allow you to be more flexible. Because I have all my tasks for the week figured out, I have been able to go through them, prioritse them and figure out (roughly) how long each task will take. This way if something comes up at the last minute I know whether it’s something I can fit into my schedule without missing something else that’s really important. I can also re-jig my schedule and move things around knowing that I will still get my time-sensitive tasks done and that I won’t have forgotten anything.
I’m a big believer in keeping tasks away from your calendar. I think calendars should allow you to see your appointments at a glance and that tasks (which change often in terms of content and importance) are fluid.
I like to work out my week adding my hard-calendar items to my schedule and I can then plan my other tasks around these.
In the above image you can see that I have my hard-calendar items listed as well as the tasks I would like to work on, and when I’d like to do them.
Above on the left-hand schedule you can also see that I’ve marked the activity cinema as “(Flex)” this is because whilst I have schedule in this activity, the time that I have allocated to it may change – the film might start later for example, or I might not find anything I want to see – so there may be more or less time around this activity.
You could use a simple spreadsheet to keep track of your tasks, or set up a separate Google Calendar that you can hide when needed.
If you’re paper based then you can use the following resources I have developed for you:
Do you put your tasks into a set schedule or do you just pick and choose what you want to do based on how you feel or when stuff is due? Let us know in the comments what you do!