Updated: Jul 31, 2020
(If this article is too long, read in Tidbits.)
All of us, each one of us, have limited time. There are only 24 hrs each day, and the clock is ticking. It’s not a race we have to run but we have aspirations of some form of improvement and achievement. Hence a lot of us have packed our schedules but scheduling alone does not guarantee completion of tasks. While a significant part of the population (or a lot of people I have met) has their action driven by the motivation they feel on a particular day, they add to the uncertainty of whether their day will be productive or not. Here you have a complete guide on scheduling criteria and ways to improving scheduling effectiveness. Get Set Go!
Schedule yourself at night for the next day. You will have an overall view of what your next day is going to look like, not to mention, you will be saved the time next morning preparing your mind for everything that lies ahead. Well, of course, there can be changes and additions on your actual day but then, isn’t that very normal?
Daily goals schedule:
Set up the date and day for which the schedule is. Line up all your tasks for the following day in your schedule. There’s no need to follow any particularity here. It is a simple list.
Identify the tasks dependent on a second person or external factor whose availability varies. These tasks do not offer much scope in placement and hence should be scheduled first (allotting them chunks of time across the day). Now based on the gaps available in the day, the independent tasks (independent of external factors) can fit in anywhere. Be flexible while approaching independent tasks in your day because these gaps allow for “not-in-schedule” things too. More than that, you’ll soon find out that independent tasks will make you work in timings you never thought you’d prefer. But that’s okay. We build new habits based on new needs.
With primary heavy task[s] you can allocate few light tasks in your day like reading 20 pages of a book, exercising, writing a verse/song, updating your phone, checking on the latest news in your industry, or simply anything.
(Inspired from Indestractable by Nir Eyal)
While distraction means losing your focus and getting swayed away from a chosen course of action, traction means staying attentive and making progress. Traction is sticking to what you planned for yourself. So on a normally scheduled day, you want to watch a movie or an episode of your series, it’s a distraction. It will lead you away from your planned course of action. But if you kept “watching a movie” in your schedule then it would be traction. It’s not the same.
Distraction is the avoidance of hard work and it occurs invisibly. You would end up watching the movie at the cost of some task[s] in the plan. In addition, you lost control of your day already. Now you may additionally turn to Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, or gaming. Already so much out of the schedule now, so let’s call it a day off. We’ll start afresh tomorrow.
Voila! From a movie to a day off. Great progress. And then it’s not just a day off. It’s most of the days.
Traction on the other hand is being attentive and aware of your actions; hence you’ll know where you are going with the day. Suppose you scheduled watching a movie just like you scheduled the other tasks when you are done watching the film you still know the other things on the list are waiting too. But of course, do not start your day with the movie. It is meant to be a break that will not break your schedule into bits and pieces.
Once all your tasks are lined up in a schedule, you can number them based on your priorities. There can be no heavy-task in your day but there’s always a primary task, prioritizing your schedule helps you identify which tasks are more important than others. At the end of the day even if you achieve 70% of completion rate, the 30% you left were still less important tasks in your schedule. So you basically never miss out on the most important things in your schedule. You do not necessarily need to number the priorities if you can still estimate the relevant importance of those tasks and adhere to them while working.
Do not skip this. We as humans tend to indulge more in things we’re rewarded for. For feedback in your schedule, there is no need for a third party though. Finish a task, tick-mark it, or strike it off. It is a sense of achievement that will motivate you for the next task. More than the tasks, what drives me is achieving a complete tick-marked schedule at the end of the day. And the process becomes fun all of a sudden. Very similar to how you spend money in Starbucks and then earn some stars in your app. More than the free delicacy you get more involved with the process of earning more stars. It is simply gamification: challenge and reward structure.
Resist your urge to strike off a half-completed tasks. It’s sort of cheating the reason you scheduled it in the first place, that was to complete it. “Any.do” is one the most widely used scheduling app which lets you set tasks, strike out the tasks you complete, remind you what’s left, and more. It keeps its users engaged by giving them a sense of achievement each time they complete a chore.
It is a very efficient way of tracking your short term achievements with respect to long term goals. At the beginning or the middle of the week, set a few “Week Goals” like complete reading a book, complete a script, plan and start running a campaign, etc. These goals have to be measurable for a valued assessment at the end of the week. Set a day (say Sunday) for evaluating your last week’s performance by checking and tick-marking the goals you achieved, then note down your next week’s goals.
Plans are the best-case scenarios, so as you chase the best results do not get too attached with a 100% efficiency model. The success of your day depends on what is your metric of judging your success. The metric I follow is not based on the percentage of total tasks completed in a day; rather it is based on the value I can extract from each day. Having said that, I do not mean that achieving 50% targets every single day is a satisfactory outcome. It is not. Let the key determinant of our day be a 50-50 combination of the schedule task completion and the value derived from everything we did in our day, whether scheduled or not. We need not bring it down to numbers and calculations, an approx estimate is enough. Also, the value of a task increases or decreases the next day based on our today’s performance. The tasks we could not complete today will have a higher value tomorrow, hence higher priority.
The reason behind many people falling out of schedule is the lack of accountability and responsibility, or simply because their routine sucks. To address it, I would like to borrow an idea from Mark Manson, that you cannot build an empire without falling in love with the process of building it. Suppose we plan to lose some pounds of weight, we start exercising, cycling, swimming, etc. We try to control our cravings for fried or junk food but ultimately we give in, promising ourselves we’ll make it up in exercise. Then we skip our exercise. Result? Extra pounds around the belly. We do not realize that each time we had a choice we were responsible for moving towards or away from our goal. Instead, we think that we tried, after all, we devoted so much of energy thinking “Should I eat this or not?”, “Just a day will have no effect”, and those few days we actually stuck to our exercise and diet, and then the guilt too. The process was indeed difficult but not at all rewarding and that’s quite obvious, isn’t it?
As long as you only love the image of perfect body shape, most likely it is that you will not make it too far. Ask people who consistently have been working out and eating healthy diet, they'll tell you they love doing it. It makes them feel fresh, alive, energetic and the process itself is fun and rewarding for them. This is why our values should be placed rightly in our "today", not superficially over some hollow claims or long term process which does not start today. Get some responsibility off and our mind is very clever in fooling us.
Take responsibility for your failures as you would take responsibility for your success.