Keeping Your Calendar in Control
As a person who struggles with setting a schedule, writing my deadlines down in a planner and on a whiteboard has helped me tremendously. My therapist recommended I stretch out my projects across multiple days, and write down how long I expect to work on a project per day.
This is personalized advice and may not be applicable to other people. This is not a substitute for therapy or any form of medical advice.
I spent most of my life without a clear schedule. It’s worked out fine; I got into a well-ranked University, do well academically, and still have time to hang out with friends (however virtually).
As I become more busy, it’s harder to cope with my increased workload. Online school is decent, but doesn’t compare to in-person education. And doing everything online becomes eye-watering, grueling, and depressing.
My schedule is really stressful, and I have trouble staying motivated. Even if it’s something I care about, procrastination sets in. Then, depression gladly takes the reins, and before I know it, anxiety is panicking over the impossible amount of work I have to do.
This year, I kept working further and further into the night. I’m afraid my mom will read this, so I won’t say how many times I saw the maintenance guys who live across from me start work in the morning, but it happened pretty often.
And I’m not happy with that. I acknowledge a lot of stuff is out of my control. But my schedule is something I can change. This year, I’ve decided to take planning a lot more seriously.
My actual calendar—next week remains unplanned.
Because America is the greatest country on earth, therapy is not available or inaccessible to a lot of people because it’s so expensive. So let me fix that by sharing some advice from my therapist that I think everyone can use. A gentle reminder--this isn’t medical advice.
Especially nowadays, procrastination is in the air; does this sound familiar? Monday: I’m going to work on this project. Monday passes.. Tuesday: NOW, it’s time to work on it. Not really feeling Tuesday. Next Monday: Project is due tomorrow. Stressed out of my mind. There goes my sleep schedule.
It’s really difficult to hold yourself accountable. My therapist suggested I set my deadline to work on a project across multiple days. That way, you have a more flexible schedule. Maybe it’s the longer-scale time commitment, or maybe it’s the act of writing it down, or both.
So set a deadline across multiple days.
Where six hours in one day is easy to move around, six hours across three days is a lot more stable. Once I write something down in my planner, it’s permanent. And while it’s easy to move one day back again and again, it’s harder to move all three. So far, planning in this way helps keep my workload even and steady, and noticeably offsets procrastination.
Plan how much you expect to work--and work around that.
An issue I personally have is overworking and overachieving. I’ll easily spend three hours on work that’s only supposed to take one. Sometimes that’s worth it, but usually it yields diminishing returns. Even more importantly, I have to remind myself that I can’t let my work completely overtake my life. I have to set boundaries to build a stable work-life balance.
A new way I’m working on setting boundaries on work-life balance is by writing how much time I expect to spend on a task. That, combined with spreading work out across a few days, has helped with stress and reduced long hours.
These two ideas came from my discussion with my therapist. The next two, I came up with more on my own. I’ve used them for around 2 months now, and they’ve been a real blessing.
Use a whiteboard to visualise.
Some people use Google Calendar. My mom has a paper calendar, and every couple years, she remembers to use it. I like to use a whiteboard. My favorite whiteboard so far is this wall peel I bought from CVS. It literally just sticks to your wall; no damage, no nothing! It’s spacious, so you have plenty of room to write, and I find having my priorities right there on the wall helps keep me accountable and remember things I might forget otherwise..
Write things down in one place
I find physical media more conducive to memorization than digital media. Studies have shown that handwritten notes are better for memory than digital ones. Some of that may be for vastly different reasons than why writing things down might be good for memory, but I digress.
At first, I used post-its; but a single post-it only provides a snapshot of tasks, and most seriously, does not allow you to see today within the frame of things you plan to do. Simply put, I see what I’m doing today as a part of my week, and it helps me plan my whole week if I have my schedule for today next to my other plans, so if I need to I can cut or add certain tasks.
As mentioned, I use a whiteboard to help me visualise the big picture. Recently I’ve been writing everything down in a planner, and it’s worked marvelously thus far. I would recommend a planner with plenty of space for taking notes, and maybe even built-in to-do list. Definitely get a planner that includes a calendar for every month. To see things in the big picture, I use one with weekly calendars, though I’ve been running out of space every so often.
You can definitely cheap out on one; what really matters is writing everything in one place so you’re not constantly worrying about planning your schedule.
My progress/where I’m headed
What really makes the difference isn’t having the object, it’s knowing you’re going to use it. It’s knowing how you want to use it. Otherwise, like a lot of other crap you buy, it’s going to sit there collecting dust. Before buying it, I asked myself: How do I see myself using this planner, and will I use it?
I’ve only been using the planner for about 3 weeks now, and it’s been great. Before this, I wrote down to-do lists and plans almost every day, but I either forgot about them or lost them. So it hasn’t been a total 360 for me; I just put everything in the right place.
There’s still a lot of things to work on for me as far as scheduling is concerned, and that’s okay. I tell myself that’s okay, because it is. I just know I’m making a good start, and I’ll let you know how it goes from here!