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Last week I was thinking how I could improve my planning of time between different tasks and activities. I was looking for a more holistic approach than the usual bullet list of to do’s that I use. I mark up deadlines and when to do specific tasks, but if there is no strict deadlines I just work on the tasks that are highest on the priority list until they are done. Sometimes I feel pressure to advance several things side by side, which creates a planning dilemma, and I also find that meaningful but not urgent things are overridden by urgent work-related stuff. Especially activities that provide resilience in a personal level, like studying, reading and blogging.
I was intrigued to try to approach this by considering my time as consisting of slots, blocks or modules.
When planning my week, I could then consider how many slots I have for work and private activities, and make decisions on dividing my time to the different activities. In my usual weekly layout, I have a schedule overview for work days and smaller blocks for the weekend. This schedule view has one row per hour. I counted the rows in my Leuchtturm and found out that I can extend the work week to have two rows per hour, giving me the ability to plan on a 30min basis.
My weekends are not that programmed.
Viewing time as modules
My work requires a lot of concenration and also creativity, so for that kind of productive work, two hours or 90 mins is a reasonable duration for a time block. For mundane administrative tasks I can reserve 30 mins. So, using basic office address label stickers I created stickers of different sizes : 2 hrs, 90 mins, and 30 mins.
My idea was that when I am planning, I consider how much time I have, and decice how to divide my to do -list into stickers of adequate size. I then locate the stickers in my schedule view appropriately. For instance, I could decide that I have one 2 hour slot for blogging each week. As I would have the slot reservation in my calendar, I would need to obey my plan and put the massive work project on the side for that time.
I was thrilled about this system that seemed so promising. I even thought I could color the stickers to different colors to visually identify between projects, tasks and activities.
If I work eight hours per day, I would have 20 two-hour blocks for the week. For my time off-work, I could realistically plan 14-16 slots per week. I think that I should leave some slack time too, as I do not prefer a life that is programmed minute by minute. Unplanned time is for cooking, eating, taking a shower, housework, hanging with family and watching TV. Of course one can plan these activities as well, but I personally want my space to breathe.
Epic fail… what heppened?
Although the concept sounded so brilliant, I did not implement it properly, and it did not work for me. Firstly, my days need to be flexible, as I do not know all my tasks when my week begins. It is possible to remove and attach a sticker again, but they are quite sticky and this system feels rather inflexible. Putting the sticker to its place felt somewhat final and I did not want to stick all my stickers to the schedule in the beginning of the week. I left stickers unassigned, but the loose sheet of stickers in between the book was in danger of falling off and getting lost.
On the other hand, wouldn’t such an inflexible system support me in managing my time effectively? I decide when I reserve a slot for something, and when the sticker is in the shedule I obey it and stuff gets done.
Yet, the tasks that came upon during the week were important and relevant for my work, making adjustments in the schedule rightful. Also, I could plan a slot with flexible agenda for every day even with the stickers. If I would not need any time to put done fires I would be using that time to work on my biggest project.
Lack of holistic planning
Key reason behind my failure was that I got this idea very late on Sunday evening as I was drawing my weekly layout, and I did not have time to implement it carefully. I skipped the step in which I calculate how many slots I have for the week, and how I should divide my time with them. If I would have done this, I could have been more in peace with my scheduling, as I knew I had time for everything. Instead, I just put some stickers for Monday and Tuesday and thought I would finish planning the rest of the week later. Monday I discovered we had found the assistant we had been looking for and I was briefing and preparing for the briefing for several hours. There went my plan.
Eventually I took away most of the stickers and marked up some time blocks using a highlighter. I am not sure whether I am the kind of person who likes to use a lot of stickers – I feel slight anxiety when I look at those planners filled entirely with stickers on Instagram. Next week I returned to my old and comfortable schedule.
Where to from here?
I think my idea has a lot of potential to develop further, and it deserves another try. I will return this this for sure. But what should I change to improve the odds to get better results?
To start with I should make a holistic plan for dividing my work, as I planned in the beginning but did not implement this properly. For work I should have 20 2-hour slots, and for private projects 14-16 time blocks. Ten I should also check whether repositionable stickers would work better, such as post-it notes. In the beginning of the week I should also leave some blocks for emergent task to ensure my time plan is flexible and realistic. If I would not need these flex-blocks I could spend that time on enjoyable and important projects on Friday.
Have you tried something like this? If you got the inspiration to try, let me know how it went. You can find me on Instangram at https://www.instagram.com/journallings/ and catch my attention by tagging @journallings.