It happens to everyone. You’ve had the inspiration, organized the ideas, and created a to-do list. Now it’s time for action, and this is where you get stuck. Just how exactly are you going to accomplish all of these wonderful things?
Without at least a mental outline, you’ll spend your day wandering from task to task, unsure which to tackle next. Planning is crucial to getting the most from your time. If you take a few extra minutes to prepare, it will save that and more by the end of the week.
The Downside of Scheduling
Ideally, you want to tackle the most important of your tasks first, thereby always making progress in the areas most important to you. Unfortunately, as we all know, life gets in the way. We are required to complete smaller, less important tasks that are more urgent.
Normal scheduling can also work against you. How many times have you had an important meeting, or even a television show, coming in half an hour? Many will kill this time, thinking it not long enough for any real work. Where a project could have been completed, absolutely nothing happens because of the looming interruption. The schedule keeps you from being productive.
I propose a new look at scheduling, something I like to call Fluid Planning. Here, I’ll offer some tricks in turning your written items to action.
Feel the Rhythm
It is important to know the rhythm of your day. You probably have a pretty good idea about when you are most productive, tired, or creative in a typical 24 hours. Many productivity books suggest you to complete your important projects in the morning, but this simply isn’t realistic for everyone. Some people function better in the afternoon or at night.
Assign your projects to the hours that make the most sense for you. These do not have to be exact times. It’s unreasonable to say “I’m creative at 2:35pm.” For now, think in generic blocks. If you feel creative in the afternoon, make that your painting time. If you need to balance your budget, choose an hour more suited to such a task. Your schedule should complement your natural rhythms, not battle against them.
Marking a block of time for required items allows for a rougher, more freeform plan. Rather than pinpointing each minute, you accomplish things within distinctive “genre” windows. This gives you the freedom to ride the day, while allowing the clarity to accomplish and move on.
Go with the Flow
If you’re particularly feeling it on a certain day, feel free to move these blocks around. They do not have to be in the same order every day. Know yourself, and leverage that knowledge for productivity.
You can extend certain periods if the “flow” is taking you. You don’t want to create artificial interruptions in something that is working. Keep it moving.
Make Each Moment Count
If you’re not feeling it however, don’t immediately give up. Push on. Sometimes you have to go out and drag your muse back to your work. Really try for half an hour, if you don't break through, switch to something else.
This is not a free pass to do the things you like, and push off the tasks that you dread. Remember, you still have a set of goals for the day. You have to make it work, but make it work for you. Use your schedule as a lever, rather than a prison.
If you've found your current schedule to be stifling or unproductive, switch it up. Try this for a couple of weeks. It works for me, perhaps it can help you, too.