This is the hardest time of year for me. It’s a time to hold our breath, in between winter and spring, with long dark days. It’s so easy to drift off the path we laid for our self when the sun was bright and the grass green. This is the most important time for me to practice self-care and part of that is staying on a schedule. Having a schedule gives my days and weeks a rhythm that makes everything more enjoyable. It’s like the baseline behind the melody.
Some people feel like a schedule is stifling and weighs them down, I have to disagree. With a schedule I don’t waste time fretting about what I’ll do next or how I’ll fit it all in; instead I have a plan so all I have to worry about are the details.
I’ve found things are hardest before you start them. It’s like some sort of cling wrap that wants us to all stay as we are. It takes work to overcome the cling wrap but it’s worth it. I know I will be happier and more productive once I’ve got myself back on a schedule but I have to drag myself kicking and screaming in the beginning. Here’s how I plan a schedule and get on it.
Planning Your Schedule:
I’m not one for micromanaging my time. I roll with a barebones schedule that only includes essential daily and weekly tasks and events. A schedule isn’t supposed to be a torture devise anyway; it’s suppose to be a tool
I think it’s important to write your schedule down. I’m all about lists and color coding so I made a grid for a week with hour or half hour chunks of time denoted, then I color code different activities. It makes the OCD corner of my heart happy.
My schedule includes:
A daily morning alarm
A daily bedtime
Scheduled 8 hours of sleep
Block of time for morning chores
Regular planned events
I encourage you to wake up at the same time even on days off. You can stay in bed snuggling your loved ones, reading a good book or just listening to the radio. This is actually something I love once I get in the habit. It takes me about two weeks to get in synch with my alarm. You might find yourself waking up a few minutes before it goes off or be much more awake when it does go off than you had been in the past. I’m a morning person so I try to wake up early enough to accomplish things. I get the best of everything done in the morning. If you’re a night owl set the alarm for as late as possible and prepare for the next day before bed. This might mean showering or preparing lunches at night, laying out clothes, so on and so forth. Our schedules dictate how much of an early bird or night owl we get to be, but you can still plan around your preferences.
Figure out a morning routine that is efficient and budget for that time. This is really important for me. If I get up and get stuff done in the morning I’m more productive the rest of the day. It’s like some kind of magic trick: wake up earlier and have more energy! I also need to stay on track in the morning. I can easily get sidetracked with a project that could wait. Before I know it the morning is gone and the animals haven’t even been fed. Yikes, I know, just a little bit of “squirrel syndrome”. I swear I’m not that bad. Usually.
My morning routine includes the daily tasks that are best done early either because of my schedule or preferences. If you’re a night owl you might want an evening routine too.
Getting up at a regular time is more important for me but a regular bed time helps me get more sleep. I literally have an alarm named “Bed Time”. It just reminds me that if I want eight hours of sleep I need to go to bed soon. Do I always obey it? Nope. I probably go to bed within thirty minutes half the time. Other nights I go to bed earlier or later but with the alarm I don’t get so wrapped up in something that I work late into the night without realizing it.
Eight hours of sleep
I know people who seem healthy and functional on as few as four hours of sleep. I am not one of those people; anything less than six hours and I’m grumpy, less than five and you should avoid me. I plan so I get eight hours of sleep if I watch my alarms. I’m not going to lecture you on the importance of sleep; suffice it to say it’s easier to stay on a schedule if you’re well rested. Even if you can get by with less sleep, I highly recommend budgeting for it in your schedule.
I use office hours to limit distractions while I’m working on something and to preserve the quality of my day.
I’m a full time student, the lead coordinator for our college ballet club, I raise and sell livestock and I run this blog. That combination means a lot of people can be trying to get a hold of me in a day.
At one point I was getting phone calls after nine o’clock at night. I answered messages, comments, emails and texts all the time. This turned into a huge time suck and kept me from getting tasks completed. My solution to this was to create office hours for myself.
During my office hours I answer school and sale related phone calls but no non-emergency calls or texts. I also stay off the almighty time suck known as Facebook as much as possible. I check my emails only if I’m expecting something important other wise I check them once early, once at lunch and once in the afternoon.
Outside of my office hours I don’t answer school or farm sale related calls or texts unless they are an emergency. I do reply to comments on my page because I enjoy it too much to not do it. If I have project that needs my full attention I stay away as long as I can manage. Part of the way I enforce this is by turning my phone on silent. I also turn notifications off so my phone isn’t constantly buzzing and blinking at me.
If you work at home you will probably benefit from office hours as much as or more than I do. It’s also helpful to use this strategy to limit your time watching TV or stalking facebook. You might try not watching TV until after five or only fall down the internet rabbit hole at lunch and after five.
Budgeted time for recurring weekly & daily events
These are for both fun things like my favorite TV show ( Grimm and Downton Abbey, in case you wanted to know) and obligations like cleaning my rabbit cages and going to class. I add these so that I can see what blocks of time are free around them.
Seeing the remaining the blocks of white space can be a depressing thing if there aren’t many. I would challenge you to take this moment to consider what is worth spending your valuable time on. Are there commitments you’ve made that aren’t helping you achieve your goals? How much time are the cat videos, Craigslist, Facebook, TV and video games stealing from you? Which of your hobbies do you actually love? You have to make those decisions for yourself. We all would have different answers to those questions but answering them truthfully and making changes because of them should have the same affect for everyone: living a more meaningful joy filled life.