writing life

Scheduling

I’ve been reading a book on how the conventional wisdom about success is often wrong, and I’ll discuss it in more detail once I’ve thought about it some more, but one thing it did do was reinforce my scheduling habit. The “conventional wisdom” was that you should have a to-do list to keep track of tasks, and the better way is to have a schedule, instead, because the to-do list doesn’t do you much good if you don’t allocate the time to do those items. Scheduling time to do the things you need to do makes you more likely to do them.

I actually have both. I use the Stickies app on my computer to keep a to-do list for each day of the week. When I think of something I need to do, I put it on that day’s list. Then when I do my scheduling for that day, I schedule those tasks.

But the schedule really is a life changer for people who tend to procrastinate or who have trouble getting started. I find that I get so much more done, and actually get those tasks on my list done, when I make a schedule every morning. It even works on weekends because I schedule my chores and the fun things I want to do. That makes me more likely to make time for the fun stuff. If I don’t schedule, it’s easy to fall into the trap of just surfing the Internet or watching TV, and then I feel guilty for doing that, so even that’s not fun. So, I schedule my Internet and TV time, along with other stuff I want to do, and then I can relax and enjoy all the activities.

That’s what the author of this book was showing, that while the conventional wisdom is that a schedule will make you feel constrained, and you definitely don’t want to have to stick to a plan on the weekend, it actually works out that you’re happier when you’re conscious and deliberate about how you use your time. You’re more likely to do the things that make you happy instead of wasting your time on things that are easy to fall into without thinking, and you feel better about yourself when you don’t feel like you wasted time. It’s nice to be at the end of a weekend and able to look back at what you accomplished and the things you did rather than wondering where all the time went.

I’m still working out the best way to use my schedule. I’ve learned to overestimate how much time something will take. I only schedule half-hour blocks because any tighter than that adds to stress. If a task doesn’t take that much time, it gives me a cushion in case something else takes longer or there’s an interruption. In fact, I deliberately plan a few blocks that I know will only take a few minutes. The tricky part is scheduling writing time because I know I need a few breaks just to get up and move, but those are too short to put on the schedule, but if there’s not a firm “back to work” time, it’s easy for those breaks to expand. Using the timer on my phone for the breaks helps. It also depends on which stage of a project I’m on. I want longer working blocks when I’m drafting because I want to get into a state of flow where I’m immersed in the world. When I’m editing or proofreading, I don’t want that flow because I want to be focused and aware, so I may schedule shorter blocks with breaks to go do something else in between.

And now my schedule is telling me that it’s time to write.

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