A Month of Schedules?

Look at THIS guy, he LIVES in a calendar.  You'd think he'd be a bit more organized.I’ve spoken of this before, but the truth of the matter is that I’m a terribly disorganized person. I have an aversion to schedules, and I am a world class procrastinator. (Ask poor Jill, the editor at Linux Journal, about my deadline pushing. It’s disgusting. I have 2 more articles due today — and it’s already tomorrow AM.)

Once upon a time, I did a 30 day experiment in which I woke up at 5:00 AM every day. It was horrifying, but I figured if at the end I liked being a morning person, it would be worthwhile. As it turns out I don’t like being a morning person, so that plan sorta fizzled. I still consider it a success though, because now I know sleeping later isn’t just a bad habit.

I’m considering doing the same thing with scheduling. See, I’m convinced that I’m all artsy-fartsy, and I work better without a schedule. There is a distinct possibility, however, that I’m just fooling myself. Maybe if I learned to be better organized, I’d be even MORE creative. Sounds cool, eh?

I’m going to spend the rest of this week figuring out just how to schedule things. I think I’ll need to use Google Calendar, since I already have lots of stuff in there, including shared calendars with my co-workers. If I can get my iPhone to reliably give me notifications, it might work. But I’ll hate it, I know I will.

So I have a few questions for you uber-organized folks out there:

  1. Do you schedule “free” time?
  2. If you get behind, how do you fix it?
  3. Are todo lists helpful, or should everything just be scheduled into timeslots?
  4. Should I print out my daily schedule, or does digital-only seem practical?

Thanks for any feedback. Again, this is an experiment, so at the end of 30 days I’m allowed to quit if I so desire. πŸ™‚ (And no, I don’t know what the official start date will be yet.)

14 thoughts on “A Month of Schedules?”

  1. I’m very organized, but I’ve never met another well-organized person whose techniques exactly mirrored mine. Everyone is different, don’t take this as an advice, Shawn. But since you asked…

    1. I don’t schedule “free” time. It naturally occurs when I have nothing else scheduled.

    2. You can’t have all of your top priorities scheduled one after another – or simultaneously. So, when you get behind, you re-prioritize and re-schedule the less important things that were on you schedule. If you can’t do that, then there is an underlying problem with your workload…

    3. I live by to-do lists. Scheduling everything is both an overhead and an exercise in futility. The trick is to remember to consult the lists πŸ™‚

    4. I never print things out – but then, I am rarely away from a computer screen, and always have my Blackberry on me…

  2. I to struggle with organization, I have tried to-list, moleskin, printing out calendars, blackberry notifications, and email/sms notifications. In all honesty those things are just enabling your/my procrastination. The last thing you/I want is more _work_ and lets be honest the reason you stop using ‘to-do list’ is because you need to be reminded to use them. What I suspect; the only way to get more organized..is to ‘learn’ (get help?) how to stop procrastinating. Or perhaps ‘disorganization’ is your/my organization? Either way I don’t see myself changing anytime soon :p

  3. I rarely if ever write down anything in terms of schedule. I’ll occasionally put something on the calendar, but mostly I just keep it all in my head.

    Unless I have something specific I want to do (see a movie, see a band, visit friends/relatives), I don’t schedule “free” time. I usually just decide I’m wiped and a break is necessary for my mental health. Exception: I always have some downtime at the end of the day to read, listen to music, or something like that, even if it’s just for 15 minutes.

    Given that I do a lot of web work, behind (ie, not on the projected schedule) is not uncommon. I just keep clients in the loop and keep truckin’.

    Todo lists overwhelm me, and then I either a) get panicky or b) do the “run incles” thing being unsure which thing to tackle first.

  4. I’m with Ilya in that everyone is different, so YMMV.

    1. Do you schedule β€œfree” time?
    Yes. My calendar is never back-to-back-to-back, as it leaves no time for unexpected requirements.

    2. If you get behind, how do you fix it?
    You’re always going to be behind. In my industry, if you’re not behind, you’re underutilized. The trick is to prioritize with an eye towards performing tasks that are IMPORTANT. Remember – important and urgent are not the same thing, and learning to distinguish between them is that pearl of great price.

    3. Are todo lists helpful, or should everything just be scheduled into timeslots?
    I love my to do lists. I schedule things on my calendar when they involve other people (meetings, calls), everything else goes on my to do list, in priority order.

    4. Should I print out my daily schedule, or does digital-only seem practical?
    I use a combination of both. My actual calendar is electronic, my to do list is on paper.

  5. I am a very organized, and I like to think, very efficient person. Here are some of my tips:

    1. I use a paper planner. I tried using digital resources a few years ago, and it drove me NUTS that I couldn’t see everything for my week all at once. Things had a tendency to sneak up on me if I couldn’t see them coming. (Franklin Covey is my planner system of choice. I use their weekly and monthly pages.)

    2. I plan my life about a week ahead of time. I don’t know whether this will work for you with larger work projects, but it seems to work for me. I split my “to-do” list up by day, so nothing feels too overwhelming.

    3. I write almost everything down, even if it’s something as simple as “get cash” or “wash and chop lettuce.” I have a terrible memory, and I also feel a great sense of satisfaction from crossing things off my list.

    4. I don’t schedule free time, because if I get everything done (and don’t procrastinate, at which I am probably as bad as you are,) I have the rest of the day to do what I want with it! Sometimes that means getting ahead, sometimes that means doing something fun.

    5. I keep my telephone and address tabs in my planner as well, so I have almost everything I need at hand to accomplish tasks.

    6. Having my workspace/home organized really helps me stay on top of things. I have fallen into the habit of “tidying” for ten minutes or so at the end of the day — helps me relax, I think, and feel ready for the next day.

    7. I think I’m less of a procrastinator and more of a “finish it” kind of person — if I don’t have enough time to work on a project start to finish, I don’t want to start it because I don’t want to leave it unfinished. With larger tasks, it helps me to break things up into “cross-offable” items, then I feel like I’m finishing things.

    Good luck with your organization efforts! Hope my tips helped.

  6. I’ve mentioned it before — I love “To Do Lists” but I almost never assign a time to a task. I update them every morning or even more often sometimes.

    The only thing they do for me is remind me what has to be achieved. Crossing off things is wonderful.

    Disclaimer: I will admit that I may put something on my “To Do List” on the first day of Pre-production and then just keep moving it down to the bottom of the list — never actually doing it. By the time I finish a job, it’s just not important anymore.


  7. I don’t plan. I hate planning. The only thing I do is put together a high-level list of things needed to be done.

    Remember, the best battle plan is only good until the first shot is fired.

  8. Maybe it’s genetic. The problem I have with schedules is I forget to look at them and/or something comes up I’d rather do so I find a way to do it instead. Not getting everything or even most things done is very frustrating.

  9. I liked reading everyone’s comments and suggestions. I used to be so organized. All chores, errands, meetings, appts, etc. were scheduled, completed, crossed off the list in military-like precision. I think that was in my past life because now I’m a mess. I seem to run in circles accomplishing nothing. I get further & further behind, become overwhelmed and say “F** It!”, then waste away precious time watching mindless television or surfing the internet. What has become of me? I think I might need a tough love intervention. I’m hoping your experiment will, in some way, help me get back on track.

  10. Though I maintain a whole slew of different calendars for personal, professional, family and other parts of my life, I don’t tend to schedule free time. To me, if it’s scheduled, its no longer “free.” To do lists are a must, because even though I may push a particular deadline back from time to time, I still find that I get things done much faster than if I had made no list at all.

    Finally, if it makes you feel any better, there are some pretty great minds had no great love for organization. Take, for example, this quote from one of my favorites, the French philosopher Michel de Montaigne:

    “There is no course of life so weak and sottish as that which is managed by order, method and discipline.”

  11. Make lists. Scratch off your completed tasks. Doing this will afford your mind the freedom it probably craves while your important chores are secure on a tiny piece of scrap paper. When you get used to being a list-user, you will each day check your list and adjust it–whether this means adding to it, or scratching an item off. This is also an environmental act, for it will put to good use the tons of paper you may have floating around. I use the back of receipts, ATM statements, just about any piece of paper I happen to find myself in possession of rather than just tossing it in the trash.

  12. I like to think I’m organized, but something always gets out of hand.

    I use the following to keep track of things:

    – A moleskine calendar: This is for when I travel or go to meetings. After I get back from a meeting I put things in my;

    – Google Calendar: This is “synced” with the moleskine manually every day (or week or whatever).

    – Remember the Milk: Perfect when I’m at my computer all day. I use this to schedule my blog posts, my MARVIN calls, my chores, my job search, my emails, my facebook group updating, etc. I get a DM when I have something due that day.

    – A PDA might help you. I’d see if you can find an old-school Palm on ebay or something… You don’t want something that can play games or surf the net while you’re supposed to be in a meeting. A book reader is handy though.

    As for your questions:

    1. No, I do not schedule my “free time”. Free time to me is exactly that, free time. Time I have nothing scheduled (no chores, no meetings, no lunches, no shopping trips, etc). I use it to read, watch TV or just chill on the computer.

    2. I try to not get behind. Seriously. But you have to prioritize what is most important. You can use a color-coding system for importance (RTM has this; if you use a paper list, hi-lighters will work great), a number system (1=most important, 2=not so important, etc), a quadrant system (a grid where in the top quadrant you have important and urgent, the next one over is not important but urgent, the bottom is important and not urgent and the last is not important and not urgent). Just try a couple of different ones, and see what works for you.

    3. YES. I love task lists. I get loads of satisfaction crossing things off lists (like a cleaning list; besides keeping me from forgetting anything, I can cross off “clean mirror”. And I feel good.)

    4. I use a combination. Like I said before, you have to try different things. Sometimes an “all digital” version will work for you, but you have to try a couple different things that fail before you find something that works.

    Good luck, and sorry this is so long. I was in Canada for a week and am just getting caught up on all my articles. πŸ™‚



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