Making time

Photo courtesy of CityGypsy11 (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of CityGypsy11 (Creative Commons)

How do you schedule your day? Your week? Your month even?

Do you direct your schedule or does your schedule dictate to you?

One thing that keeps me on track are reminders and hard appointments on my calendar. When my phone chirps that x is due, I am more likely to actually do it than if I just have it on a vague list somewhere – especially one that I might not look at frequently.

Specific things like end of month reports, rent, meetings, or even reminders to pick up the dry cleaning on the day it is due go on my calendar. But lately, I’ve realized it could be so much more powerful in directing my work.

I’ve been wondering why I can’t seem to get things accomplished and always feel behind. But then it occurred to me that I am letting each day be hijacked by other people – through email, interruptions, phone calls, new assignments, etc.

Instead of planning out blocks of time to accomplish things, I end up being tossed from task to task based on loudness and newness, and then wonder why I crawl home at the end of the day spent and feeling like I didn’t achieve anything.

I’m taking care of other people’s commitments for me instead of what I have already committed to.

Some of the interruptions are unavoidable, and because of the nature of my work, I can’t post a “do not disturb” sign on my door. But I can do more to plan and schedule my days and my weeks so that I stay more on track. And make time for the things I need and want to do, like take a day off here and there!

One of the first things I need to do, as dull and boring as it may be, is to create a comprehensive list of all the things I have on my plate, both home and work related. Once that is done, then it will be easier to add to it and keep it updated.

Knowing the entire scope of my responsibilities will mean I’m not blindsided by a deadline I wasn’t expecting, and will also allow me to be more effective in those odd little blocks of time such a between meetings or at the end of the day. It will also allow me to be intentional in moving projects forward a little at a time rather than suddenly realizing it is due tomorrow and I haven’t even started.

Using my calendar, I can block off time for some of these projects early in the day when I am mentally sharpest, while also leaving plenty of time to take care of the daily things that come up. If I keep my desk clear of all but the current project, then I have a marker to return to when I do get pulled away.

Having the full range of commitments will also allow me to say no more easily. I can make informed decisions based on what I already have on my plate. Sometimes that might mean compromising but I will be able to confidently say I am putting this on hold so I can do that, instead of just falling behind on both.

What are your methods of directing your time?