I love planning. I love organising. That has nothing to do with keeping everything neat and tidy. I’m a messy person. My head is messy. Total chaos at times. But I have my priorities in order. I know what to do, where to go, how to get stuff done. Here is how:
After reading “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey in the end of 2016, I set up a new planner for myself. I always make them from scratch because I like the process of decorating.
How is my calendar structured?
Firstly, we have a yearly overview with all the upcoming dates. Exams, deadlines, birthdays, these sorts of things. I have a bookshelf-page to put all my readings into. Most importantly, a goals and dreams page. Here, I put my mission statement, my new year’s resolutions and habits I want to develop.
There is an overview for each month. I wrote down all the important appointments of every day, when I need to be where. Furthermore, there are my accomplishments of the month and some inspiring quotes to keep me writing.
The real planning happens on a weekly basis. Just as suggested by Stephen Covey, I divided this page into a few parts.
Roles. Identify which roles you hold in your life. You might be a daughter, a spouse, a parent, a co-worker, a friend. A manager, a worker, an artist. Write all of these down. Plan what you are willing to achieve in each of these roles over the course of the week. Put them into the weekly schedule. Plan every day but leave space for surprises and relaxation.
I added a field which is called “Sharpen the Saw” for Habit 7. We need time for ourselves, to do something for our health and well-being. There are four parts to it: mentally (read, write etc), physical (exercise, eat healthy), emotionally (meet with people) and spiritually (meditate). I find them very important so I highlighted them in my calendar.
I’m a student and that’s why I need an exam plan. On this page, I first wrote down when the exams are. I added every single topic I have to study for. Copy notes, do research on a special subject, read some literature the professor recommended. Now I counted the weeks that are left until the exam and the numbers of topics. I distributed them while also checking my schedule so that I won’t overwork myself in an already stressful period. I assign them to my weekly goals. This plan is really helpful to not get overwhelmed. With small portions of content every week I’m not drowning but doing something. Procrastination has no chance here.
Here are some extra tips to make your plan as effective as possible:
1. Think realistically. If you know you are exhausted, don’t plan to do things in the evening. Shift them to other daytimes. Don’t overdo it with the goals for yourself. Set a low number at first. You will be angry at yourself, otherwise, for not reaching your target. Know where your limits are and act accordingly.
2. Write down how much time every activity you planned took. That way, you will know next time that writing an essay will take this long and cleaning your bathroom that long. It makes it a lot easier to squeeze in something you really have to do.
3. Add meetings with friends and things you love to do to your planner. Don’t make it a “To-Do List”. Make it a plan of your day. With all the fun stuff included. That way you will feel like you have accomplished a lot that day, even if you just had some fun meet-ups.
4. Don’t stress out about not meeting your goals. I wanted to be done with so much revision by the end of this week. I didn’t! It doesn’t matter. I’ll plan some more time for it next week. It’s ok. These are just self-set goals.
5. Add the type of activity.
In habit 3, a very common strategy of time management is described. Distinguish between urgent and important. Think of four squares.
There are quadrant 1 activities: Urgent and Important. That work piece that needs to be done right now. That present you need to buy because her birthday is THIS EVENING.
Then there are Urgent but Unimportant activities. You feel they are urgent but in the end it doesn’t matter if they are done or not. I need to make this project report today… No one is going to read it anyway and I don’t want to be involved in yet another thing. Don’t do it then! If it is not important, screw it!
While always running after quadrant 1 activities, we get stressed out. What better activity than sitting in front of the tv the whole evening? That’s a quadrant 4. Not important, and not urgent. Do you feel better after doing that? Chances are you are extremely unhappy with yourself. Why? Because this is not important in any way. You are just wasting away your time.
This is why we should live our lives occupied with quadrant 2 activities: Ones that are important but not urgent. They represent your goals in life, what you would like to work on. These are the meetings with your friends. It’s also exam preparation. Exams are one month away but I’m preparing them anyway because I don’t want to be stressed out when the time comes around.
That’s what you should always aim for: Do the tasks you want to do because they are important. And do them now. So that you don’t freak out, so that they don’t become urgent. Your life will be a lot calmer.
Certainly, we cannot avoid quadrant 1 activities but with a little thought and planning, we can minimise the amount of them. Two weeks ago I started with this new planner. My tasks were basically all quadrant 1. Now, just a few days later, nearly all of them are quadrant 2. I learned how to fulfil my duties in time so that they don’t get urgent. Isn’t that amazing? I’m so much more relaxed! I know that if I stick to my plan, I’ll be fine.
So write it down. Write a little 1 or 2 next to your task and please don’t occupy yourself with unimportant activities. Life is so short. Find out what is meaningful to you and then go do that.
These are my updated tips on how to be better at organising. I love this new system and I will keep you informed on how the exam phase goes, now that I’m in charge of my schedule.
How do you plan? Do you have any additional tips to offer? I’m curious to hear them!