It's the end of another busy working day and, even though you came into the office early and left late, you don't feel as if you've accomplished anything significant. It's all too easy for this to happen. Faced with endless meetings, frequent interruptions, and urgent last-minute tasks, you can easily be busy all day without making any progress on high-priority projects and goals.
That's why it's so important to know how to schedule your time properly. In this article, we'll look at the steps you can take to do this, thereby making time for the work that really matters, while still leaving time for personal development, family and friends.
The Importance of Scheduling
Scheduling is the art of planning your activities so that you can achieve your goals and priorities in the time you have available. When it's done effectively, it helps you:
How to Schedule Your Time
Set a regular time to do your scheduling – at the start of every week or month, for example.
There are a number of different tools to choose from here is an online schedule maker. A simple and easy way to keep a schedule is to use a pen and paper, organizing your time using a weekly planner. (Click here for a free downloadable planner template to get started.)
You can also use apps and software such as Google Calendar®, MS Outlook® and Business Calendar. Choose a scheduling tool that suits your situation, the current structure of your job, your personal taste, and your budget.
The most important thing when choosing your planner is that it lets you enter data easily, and allows you to view an appropriate span of time (day/week/month) in the level of detail that you need.
Once you have decided which tool you want to use, prepare your schedule in the following way:
Step 1: Identify Available Time
Start by establishing the time you want to make available for your work. How much time you spend at work should reflect the design of your job and your personal goals in life.
For example, if you're pushing for promotion, it might be prudent to work beyond normal hours each day to show your dedication. If, on the other hand, you want to have plenty of time for out-of-work activities, you might decide to do your allocated hours and no more.
Step 2: Schedule Essential Actions
Next, block in the actions you absolutely must take to do a good job. These will often be the things you are assessed against.
For example, if you manage people, make sure that you have enough time available to deal with team members' personal issues, coaching, and supervision needs. Also, allow time to communicate with your boss and key people around you.
Step 3: Schedule High-Priority Activities
Review your To-Do List , and schedule in high-priority and urgent activities, as well as essential maintenance tasks that cannot be delegated or avoided.
Try to arrange these for the times of day when you are most productive – for example, some people are at their most energized and efficient in the morning, while others focus more effectively in the afternoon or evening. (Our article 'Is This a Morning Task?' can help you identify your best times of day.)
Step 4: Schedule Contingency Time
Next, schedule some extra time to cope with contingencies and emergencies. Experience will tell you how much to allow – in general, the more unpredictable your job, the more contingency time you'll need. (If you don't schedule this time in, emergencies will still happen and you'll end up working late.)
Step 6: Analyze Your Activities
If, by the time you reach step five, you find that you have little or no discretionary time available, you need to go back through steps two, three and four, and question whether all of the tasks you've entered are absolutely necessary. It may be that some things can be delegated or tackled in a more time-efficient way.