Scheduling without Stress

Written on June 8, 2010. Written by .
Planning could be called a necessary evil. If you don’t plan at all, your life will fall apart; if you plan too much, you’ll start attaching to life quality maximization. Ideally, one could do all the necessary planning to keep their life on track in such a short amount of time that attachment is kept at bay. This is the idea behind robust planning systems.

The main challenge is to avoid second guessing your system. Initially, you might feel like you’re wasting your time or not allocating your time in proportion to your values. These thoughts are manifestations of your attachment. In the long run, your attachment may fade and these thoughts may disappear, but this won’t happen automatically. The natural response is to lapse right back into planning in an effort to ameliorate the shortcomings of your prior planning. This will only reinforce your attachment so it’s best to avoid activating this response. The way to prevent this second guessing is to become comfortable with your planning system. There are two sides to this: improving your system and accepting the flaws in your system. Every system will have flaws, so in the end you will have to learn to live with these flaws, but the better the system, the easier this should be.

My system utilizes five components:

1. Policy document
2. Priority chart
3. Event calendar
4. Action item list
5. Idea recorder

The policy document lists policies that I have decided to self–enforce. These policies should be relatively easy to adhere to. If I can’t stick to a policy, then I remove it from the document and make an entry in the priority chart for it.

The priority chart is sketched on a piece of paper during my short weekly planning session. The paper is divided into four quadrants corresponding to the four major life quality factors: mind–body, financial, social, and cultural. Using the template shown below and the previous week’s chart, I write down all the things I would like to focus on during the upcoming week.

Using the priority chart, I enter a minimal schedule into the event calendar on my cell phone. This triggers an alarm to remind me to do important things at specific times without thinking about it too much. I also check my calendar in the morning to have an idea of how to schedule my day. I try not to make too many entries that don’t have to be done at a specific time—doing that just makes it easier to break the system, which causes more stress.

Items on the priority chart that don’t have to be done at a specific time are entered into the action item list on my cell phone. This list contains only things that I have the ability to do. It does not contain ideas or reminders for things that I can’t start yet. For example, if I have to make an appointment with a doctor, but the doctor’s office is on vacation all week, then I enter a reminder on the calendar, not the action item list. This distinction between action items and other reminders is important for keeping the list short and manageable. Having a long list will make you feel busy even when you aren’t. Whenever I have free time during the day, I check my action item list to see what I should do. If there’s nothing that can be done, I either refer back to the priority chart or just do whatever I feel like doing at that moment.

When an idea pops up in my head, I record it in the voice recorder on my cell phone. When I have time, I replay the recordings and type the ideas into my private online wiki, which keeps everything neatly organized.

Priority Chart Template
  1. Mind—body
    1. Body
      1. Medical
      2. Sleep
      3. Diet
      4. Exercise
      5. Hygiene
    2. Mind
      1. Meditation
      2. Contemplation
      3. Study
  2. Social
    1. Interaction
      1. Friendship
      2. Romance
      3. Community
    2. Appeal
      1. Appearance
      2. Personality
      3. Languages
  1. Financial
    1. Solvency
      1. Earning
      2. Cost–reduction
      3. Security
    2. Growth
      1. Saving
      2. Skill development
      3. Business planning
      4. Investment
      5. Networking
  2. Cultural
    1. Creative
      1. Research
      2. Writing
      3. Arts
    2. Experiential
      1. Travel
      2. Pleasure
      3. Learning

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