When I became a freelancer, I had to resort to scheduling every detail of my day from showering, eating, doing housework, and of course, time blocking my different work tasks. Once one of the most disorganized people I’d ever known, it seemed too rigid and kind of insane to me, but I was motivated to succeed and had to try it out.
With so much on our plates, it’s easy to think we never have enough time in one day. Taking note of what we spend our time on gives us more control over what we do and therefore, the results. Schedules force you to balance, stop spending time on wasteful activities, and even be healthier if you work in sleep and exercise. Heaven knows we could all use more of both.
I thought schedules like the ones I started to follow last year were a little too restrictive to commit to long-term. I liked the freedom of doing what I feel when I want and thought that putting goals in writing and to-do-lists were enough to keep me on task. But goals and lists were only the first part of planning, and without a schedule, I was still wasting time.
If you hate schedules like I used but find you’re not reaching your goals due to low productivity, here are some things you can do to kick off better habits:
- Know WHY you need to follow your schedule. Will you miss out on commissions because you didn’t put in enough time to close a deal? Will you fail an important test because your procrastinating will leave you with only an hour to study? If the outcome will be important, put the task on your schedule. Then, follow your schedule because you want your outcome to be a success.
- DO the math. No need to be a mathematician, everything you need to know you learned by 3rd grade. So you think a few moments here and there scouring Facebook or Tweeting updates when you should be working doesn’t hurt? Count up all those little moments and you’ll be lucky if they amount to less than an hour per day. What could you have done in an hour? Made 15 phone calls? Cleaned out your inbox? How much later do you have to work to make up that hour? If you consider that there are typically at least 60 working days in a quarter, how small was your last quarterly bonus because instead of working, you were distracted for 60+ hours when you were supposed to be productive? Follow your schedule, add up the time you save and the money you make.
- ACCEPT no excuses. Something will always pop up that’s not on your schedule that you want to take care of, but should you? You know what’s really making an impact and what’s not. Put the little nagging things that make it hard for you to focus at the bottom of your to-do list. Incorporate them into your schedule, and do them when it’s time. The things that are on your schedule for right now wouldn’t be there unless there was a reason, right? Stay focused! You can do it!
Sometimes, as a remote worker I’ve wondered Do I work at home, or live in my office? It was becoming hard to tell, and at times it seemed my whole life revolved around getting work done. But maintaining a schedule has helped me to keep things in perspective.
Disciplining yourself instead of someone else having to results in simple but wonderful freedoms like working while wearing a Homer Simpson t-shirt from on your living room couch, or spending more time with your loved ones.
If scheduling yourself is actually a way to decrease stress and increase freedom, don’t you think it’s worth it?