Hopefully the scheduling tool you’ve chosen to help manage 2012 is working well for you (see my last post here). Whether using paper or an electronic calendar, whether off line or online, whatever tool you’ve chosen needs to be what works best for you. But your calendar does not fully “manage” your time. You are the manager, and your calendar is a tool.
It is so common to use the calendar to simply organize our list of time commitments. We record our work appointments and meetings, our kid’s schedules and their transportation requirements, our church schedules and ministry commitments, etc.
Organizing our list of time commitments is certainly a big step toward excellent time management, but it is not the only step. If this is your only practice of time management, you can end up feeling like the calendar is managing you. Let me challenge you to manage your own schedule, rather than playing to the “default” practice of allowing the calendar itself to be your time “manager.”
One way to put this into action is to create an “ideal schedule.” Take some time to identify what your schedule would look like if it was ideal. (Yes, I know that “ideal” is never going to happen, but bear with me to learn the value of this.)
- Start by creating an ideal schedule for your days, weeks, months, quarters and years that reserves times for essential things like sleep, work and personal time. Make sure you include whatever you need to do to keep yourself healthy.
- Consider what you need in order to be healthy in all areas of your life – physical, relational, mental, emotional and spiritual. You may want to also include financial health in this thought process. And if you need motivation here – consider the analogy of the plane emergency. You need to put the oxygen mask on yourself first to ensure you can do so for your children. So ideally, take care of your health so you can then most fully contribute to the lives of others and most fully live out the rest of your schedule.
- Given what matters most to you, what are the essentials that need to be on your calendar? These are things you choose not to compromise because they represent what’s most important to you. So that may be kid’s activities and church schedule – things you will participate in that that are usually scheduled by others. But it also includes things you will intentionally schedule yourself – things like date night, family time, ministry pursuits, meaningful connections with friends, etc.
- Check your personal growth goals and schedule time to move toward them. Need to take a class or classes? If the classes were scheduled ideally, what month or quarter of the year is best for you? Are weekdays, evenings or weekends best for you? Do you have personal study or reading goals? Are you planning to train for a marathon or learn a new musical instrument? What time of day is best for training or practicing?
- Don’t forget to schedule time to maintain the routine things of life that support the things that are most important to you. Putting “personal time” or “personal routine” appointments on your ideal calendar for things like showering and getting ready for the day is an option. Also, especially if you find yourself not remembering to eat at healthy times (which is surprisingly common), put meals on your schedule. Unless you can delegate house cleaning and grocery shopping, reserve time for these things – and similar life maintenance pursuits (i.e. financial management mentioned above) – as well. If you feel like putting the specifics of these things on your schedule feels too detailed or complicated, try just blocking of time for “life maintenance.” Just be sure you know what that means to you and how to translate that reference into meaningful action.
- Another “do not forget” is time for fun and recreation. Actually, this is an essential “to do” for maintaining health and reducing stress. What brings you joy? What contributes to your healthy relaxation? Again, go back to the airplane emergency (mentioned above) to support your motivation for putting health-producing fun and relaxation on your schedule.
- There are most definitely some “do not includes” on your ideal schedule. Don’t include things that are either not reflective of what’s most important to you or do not support what’s most important to you.
I acknowledged above that this ideal schedule is never going to happen! But…your investment in putting it together can yield big results when you use it to help manage your “real” schedule. I’ll cover how to use this ideal schedule and your return on this investment in my next post.