Does the above set of pictures make you cringe? Do feel the tension in your body building? For so many of us, the idea of living by a schedule, sitting down to determine when we will do what, feels confining, makes us uncomfortable. As much as I like to live an orderly life, to be as productive as I can, I honestly resist the idea of living by a schedule. I sense rigidity, lack of creativity in schedules. I want to leave the door open for those “God appointments”. I want to be able to meet the unexpected needs of friends of family.
Consistency. My word for 2016. Here in lies the truth-the hard truth. I can not be more consistent, I can not consistently move towards meeting my goals, completing my tasks without some measure of schedule. More importantly, tracking my time, setting specific times in which to do specific tasks keeps me mindful.
I just finished reading “I Know How She Does It”, by Laura Vanderkam. It is an inspiring book and exactly the motivation I needed to get back to scheduling. Most interesting in her research was the reality that most Americans work fewer hours than they say, with very few people working more than 50-60 hour weeks, and most people overestimate their work hours by 10 hours! On average, highly successful, full-time working mothers cap at an average of 44 hours per week. As I continued to read, I realized the core of the problem, the explanation for this over-estimation of time, sense of being overwhelmed, living out of fatigue feeling there is never enough time is a result of really having no idea how we spend our time and thus making very few intentional decisions about our time.
Laura Vanderkam is also a firm believe in the 168 hours principle, challenging us to plan weekly instead of daily. I was convinced of this principle after reading her first book, “168 Hours”.
When you treat all 168 hours as your canvas, and don’t hold to rigid assumptions of what must be work time, and what must be nonwork time, you can create some fascinating mosaics (schedules).
While I resist the idea of living confined to a schedule, unwilling to move away from it for the unexpected, I know from experience and am reminded that schedules, daily habits and white space are the key to consistency, the key to my taking care of what matters most and moving towards completion of my goals. So, this week, I focus again on doing what I know I should do (that seems to be a recurring theme!). I challenge you to do the same. Step back from your life for a moment. Look at your week, your 168 hours and decide how you want to spend your time. Here are some of my tips for successfully planning out 168 hours/creating a schedule or road map by which to live those hours out.
- Daily morning quiet time to center my thoughts, read scripture, pray over my day.
- One load of laundry every morning first thing.
- Plan each week on Friday (I have let this habit slip and I pay for it. Planning on Friday allows me so much freedom from nagging thoughts on the weekend and kick starts my Mondays.)
- Use a weekly planner with hourly increments, blocking off appointments, tasks to work on, exercise, hobbies, free time etc… This gives me a great visual, helps me to see the whole of my week.
- Plan for the unexpected by building in PLENTY of white space. I always leave 30 minutes between appointments. This allows for transition time, gives me some buffer should the task take a little longer etc… I also leave gaps of time (an hour to two) in my schedule at least every other day. I typically use these gaps to take care of household chores, but often end up using them to have lunch with a friend, cook a meal for a sick friend, care for a sick child, …
Schedules, daily habits and white space keep me grounded, focused and moving in the right direction. When I look at my time weekly in lieu of daily, I am reminded I have plenty of time. While I still resist “being scheduled”, I always find there is actually a great deal of freedom in scheduling. Life is always better when I am aware of where and how I spend my time. A schedule allows me to be intentional about my time and I find that I get more enjoyment from my “free time/play time” when I have lived my week by my schedule.