A time existed when I couldn’t keep a schedule to save my life. Well, to save my school schedule. I ran late every single day of my senior year of High School. This had to do with the fact that, honestly? I didn’t want to go. I had a 4.0GPA, my classes bored me, and I worked full-time at a local fast food joint.
It’s easy to realize when you’ve lost your drive because you’re not feeling challenged by what you’re doing. To keep a schedule, one must definitely be inspired or feel challenged by what they plan to do next.
This is why you can’t go easy on yourself when setting goals.
So, how do you stick to a schedule?
The act of making a schedule sounds easier than it actually is. You need to have a set idea of what you need done, and by when. There are no actual tricks to doing this and making it work.
Not what you want to hear, I know. Me either. But it’s the truth of it.
You have to sit down, and buckle down. What’s worse? Not everyone has the programming for willpower. They’ve done studies on it. There is a way around this; however. It involves creating a map that fits you. That’s what a schedule is, it’s a life map.
Don’t sit down and make yourself an impossible schedule with every 30 minute block of time set up and established for you to drown yourself in an overwhelming amount of mess. Create a life map.
Sit down with a pencil and paper, or an empty document if that works better for you.
Great. Now, let’s get to work:
Step One: Fit For Your Lifestyle.
A schedule that works, means looking at the big picture. Does your work schedule change every week? Count that in. Do you have kids and summer is just around the corner? Consider that. These are important factors of your life. And since every individual has a different life, we need to work through what matters to us, primarily.
Make this first step block one on your paper/document. Then, follow suit for the following steps.
In block one, write out what is specific to your life. What do you need to consider as a specific need to you? For me, I have to write down my school schedule, and when assignments are due, and any volunteer or client work I have. Then I need to write down cooking dinner, physical rehab, writing time, and family time. I make everything go from most important to least important, and all of these are important. This doesn’t mean your family is the least important thing next to work or school. It simply means that obligations and time sensitive projects must come at the top of your list. We are only as good as our word, so a promise is a promise, and it’s important to keep those.
Step Two: Understanding Your Own Habits.
This part is incredibly important. Why? Because the reason a one size fits all module doesn’t work for everyone’s schedule, is because of our habits. Now, some habits are unhealthy and destructive to your productions. I heavily suggest you keep a journal that you write all of this in, and include a habit tracker and a mood tracker.
In the habit tracker mark habits you want to create, and habits you’d like to stop. Then mark your mood down whenever you’ve done a habit. You want to be able to track and see if you’re happy when you did something healthy/or that you want as a habit, and if you’re stressed when you did something you want to quit doing. (IE: if you smoke, and would like to stop, figure out if you only smoke when stressed or not. It won’t stop you from being stressed, but it will help you become aware of the trigger for that habit.)
Once you know your habits, it’s good to also know your reactive habits. These are often far more subtle than others.
If you put too much on your plate and end up getting overwhelmed and falling apart, maybe you need to break down how much you take on. For me, I noticed this happening. If my to do list got too large, I would start to panic, and then eventually waste my day watching YouTube videos instead and calling it research. This is an example of a subtle bad habit. Because we tend to excuse this behavior and let it happen, when it shouldn’t.
These kinds of habits happen when we’re least expecting them. And they are often a sign of emotional or mental burnout. Something you do not want to do, or to have happen.
In order to avoid them, you need to create a life map that acknowledges these habits and works through them in a way that is helpful and healthy.
To do this, start keeping track of when you avoid tasks, or feel emotionally stressed. Write it down, with the date, and see how often it happens and how expansive your chore list or to do list was that day. This will help you to acknowledge it, and prepare you for the next step.
Step Three: The Life Map Creation.
Now for the fun part. You have in hand, or on a document, the basic needs to creating a life map. So, let’s do it.
In this block, create a map of your weeks, or if you would rather, use a calendar with writing space for the days. Whichever works best for you — no way is the best way to do anything.
Start by jotting in your obligations, deadlines, anything you cannot put off. Things you don’t procrastinate on (or shouldn’t) because they’re time sensitive, or impact you heavily (like family time — hey, those people, they don’t like being avoided — unless they’re the family you choose to avoid, your call).
Next, make sure you have an area for habits and mood in each day’s slot. This is optional, but honestly, it’s extremely helpful.
Once we’re done with that, it’s time to take a look at the big picture that you’ve put down. What’s next? Do you want to finish a book in 30 days? Write that reading time down, and if a specific time works for you, write it in — if you’re like me, making a loose object. Mine would say, “Read for 20 Minutes”. On every day slot. If you want to write a book, figure out a rough estimate of how long that book will need to be to be complete, calculate out how many words you’d need to write everyday and jot that down.
Do you want to lose weight? Mark down how often you must exercise to reach your goal and put it down. For exercise, I think it’s best to look at your overall daily obligations and look at your mood in the different empty spaces of your day. Are you happier after you wake up? Exercise then. Are you sad in the evenings? Or simply just too tired? Do not exercise then — it will make you miserable, and you will quit. And this goes for everything, not just exercise. I write or edit my work during the early morning or late at night, because that’s when I feel my best. Don’t force yourself to do something when you feel horrid. It becomes a chore-like feeling and you’ll give up — and fast. Which is why I think it is so important to track habits and moods.
Once you’ve looked over all of these different factors and jotted everything down, you should have a life map. That life map should be always changeable. Do not put yourself in a forced routine if that doesn’t work for you. It will only make things worse.
That’s it. That’s the best way to create a “schedule” that’s not really a schedule at all, but a road map to success. Now you’re done reading — go attack the day!
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Johannus M. Steger is a Texas blogger, vlogger, student, and fiction writer. He has a love for all things Fantasy and coffee, and leads a successful group of like-minded individuals in goal-and-task setting every Friday. He is published through The Huffington Post and a horror anthology, “Infinite Darkness”. He also publishes short stories to his website twice a year.
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