Tuesday, March 17, 2020

How to Stick to Your Weekly Schedule

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I have so many posts about routines and good habits and I even post monthly about my own schedule.  But making the schedule and sticking to the schedule are two totally different things.  If you start the week or month out with the best of intentions but then struggle with sticking to the itinerary throughout the week, you're definitely not alone.  Here are some ways to make it slightly easier to stick to your weekly schedule:

Figure out your personality type.  When it comes to setting and sticking to goals and routines, I love this idea of the four tendencies by Gretchen Rubin.  Take the quick quiz to find out which one you are, because it gives really interesting insight into why you stick to some tasks better than others and why some recommended strategies just don't work at all for you.  You may be a different type when it comes to different types of tasks.  I know I am.  When it comes to exercising or skipping the junk food, I absolutely need external motivation.  When it comes to saving money, getting blog posts done, eating a vegetarian diet, I find I can do those things consistently on my own.  But knowing your type is the first step to knowing how you can work with that and not against it.

Don't schedule in the details.  Figure out what your most valuable life activities are and why, and see if you can determine how many of those you need to fit into a week in order to deem it successful.  Then schedule those things in broadly.  To give a concrete example, some of my most valuable life activities at the moment, outside of work, are spending quality time with family (including Hawkeye), keeping a clean and minimal house, and recording weekly podcasts with Tara.  The last example is easy - I need to record at least one per week to deem that successful.  So I make sure I block out a time each week to do this.  Likewise, I see my parents once a week and dedicate a bit of time each day and a larger block on a weekend day for housework.  That's it.  I don't schedule exactly what time I'm going to put a load of laundry in.  I don't schedule exactly what I'm going to do when I go see my parents.  It's just general, batch amounts of time that I need to include each week.  If your valuable life actives are working out and eating healthy, how many times each week would you need to work out and meal prep in order to deem that a 'success' by your own standards?

Set yourself up in advance.  If you find yourself constantly missing certain things on your weekly schedule, make a conscious effort to remove the friction between you and that task.  Mine?  Exercise.  I really don't like doing it.  I will make every excuse I can not to, so I have to set myself up for success before I can even make those excuses.  I need to set out gym clothes and shoes and headphones and whatever else it is I need to make it happen.  If you struggle to get blog posts done, try putting in titles and a quick outline so when you come back to the task, it's already started.  If you committed to cleaning tomorrow, get all of the cleaning supplies out and ready to go and make a checklist of what needs to get done.  If you can get some prep work out of the way, it'll be easier to stick to the task you set for yourself at the time you set it.

Remove distractions.  I'm a big proponent of turning off all phone notifications but sometimes, that's not enough.  Sometimes all I need is to see my phone to get my attention to turn to it and away from my task.  If you're like that too, then remove it.  Move it out of the room and out of your reach for the duration that you need to be working diligently on something else.  Remove whatever distracts you - block certain websites, move the book you're reading into the other room, don't sit in a room that has a television.

Take mindless breaks.  I love taking breaks when I'm working hard throughout the day.  It can re-energize you and stop you from getting burnt out too early.  But it can be really hard to shift your focus back to the things that are on your schedule if you take the wrong kind of break.  Namely, when you switch to something that requires you to think and requires your brain to completely shift gears.  Rather than subconsciously creating ideas and strategies for the thing you're taking a break from, you're now focused completely on this new thing and have to basically start over with your motivation when you come back to your task.  Instead, pick mindless activities for when you need to take a break.  Take a quick walk, wipe down a bathroom, change out the laundry - all things that are productive and make for a nice break, but don't pull your mental attention from your important tasks.

Do you struggle to stick to the weekly schedules you set for yourself?  How do make sure you get things done?

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