When it comes to creating a daily schedule, have your cake and eat it too.
GROWING UP, I’ve been relatively resistant to TO-DO lists and creating structure in my day. Some of this resistance had been ‘sourced’ in feeling over-protected as a child, so I left my days unstructured and spontaneous as an act of rebellion. Some of it had to do with laziness and the momentum that stagnation can bring. Nonetheless, this pattern was ultimately one of self-sabotage.
As I’ve matured, I focus on creating specific goals and structure on a daily basis. This feels good and so I know it’s relevant for me. Specificity and structure. I’ve found that I can still create spontaneity and mystery within the structure I create.
Here are some strategies I’ve found effective in organizing goals for the day:
- Identify your priorities and commit! A commitment means we are committed to the completion of a goal, by a certain time, no matter what. It’s important to be mindful of how many commitments we are putting on the table at a given time. Three per day is usually my magic number. If you find that you’re completing your daily commitments (MUST-DO’S) with ample room to spare, up the ante.
- Simplify. Separate the commitments from the tasks. Commitments are high priority and time-sensitive. Tasks deserve their own window but their immediate completion is not critical. For example: Commitment: Submitting my final school dissertation by 2:00 pm. Task: Cleaning the living room before my wife gets home. In this example, both are goal-oriented and time-sensitive. One, however, takes priority. Distinguishing our true priorities is important as the mind can contain a whirlwind of TO-DO’s. Remember, simplicity does not lack potency.
- Your calendar is your friend. Select a start time for each commitment and literally place it in your calendar. Estimate its completion time, with some room to spare. Associating specific windows for each commitment is the type of discipline that will set us up for success. Now that our commitments have their selected windows of time, we can organize our tasks around that.
- Give yourself more time than you think you need. This will create spaciousness and fluidity, rather than tension and anxiety. With this approach, you can enjoy the action you’re taking while not feeling rushed. Productivity without sacrificing quality.
- If you’re working on a larger-scale project, break it down into daily, actionable steps. What can you do today that creates true progress towards that vision? Is this a commitment (high-priority) or task?
- Create space to relax and rejuvenate. Meditation, yoga, journaling, exercising, nourishing, and positive social interaction, are important activities for down time. High-quality down time is an important investment into your goals and activities for the day.
Explore and experiment with what works best for you. Use your experiences as your teacher.
I invite you to find your cake.
One that allows you to powerfully structure your day, while celebrating yourself and feeling free.
All original material copyright © 2016 Matthew Spangler