Annie Dillard said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
How do you spend your days?
I find managing my schedule is like trying to wrangle hippos.
In my ongoing quest to manage my life, here’s what I’ve learned:
Better planning makes better days. Better days makes a better life.
How can you plan your days better? Identify your true priorities. When you say yes to something, that means saying no to other things. Decide ahead of time what you can’t accomplish. This eliminates the frustration of beating yourself up for unrealistic expectations that weren’t accomplished.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by work and not prioritize relationships. It’s easy to be tyrannized by the to do list and not rest and refresh.
It’s easy to think that you have so much to do that you don’t have time to plan your days.
The investment you put into planning pays off.
One thing I like about really planning your day is deciding ahead of time that you can’t get something done. Like clean the fridge yesterday. I just moved it off my list. That helps you avoid the disappointment of getting to the end of the day and not accomplishing it.
You already knew you weren’t going to be able to get it done.
After a few days, you become more realistic about what you can accomplish in a day. The lists become manageable.
Prioritizing your to do list is a critical element in planning better days.
There’s always too much to do, isn’t there? So every day there are decisions about what to do, but, also, what not do.
I’ve worked harder lately to prioritize my to do list. It isn’t easy. For one thing, we don’t always know which is the most important. Sometimes a little, insignificant task results in a chance encounter that changes our lives. But, we can’t predict that or prioritize that.
So, here’s what helps: Choosing from the to do list which items are the most important. Focus on getting those done first. Let the rest go.
Also, you know if you don’t get very far down your list at least you did the most important things. You’ve spent some time thinking about what was most important. It gives you more focus.
It helps with that feeling of being overwhelmed. Of having too much to do and never being able to get to all of it.
Determining prioritities isn’t easy. It isn’t always easy to know which is more important. And when something unexpected comes up in your day, you have to make a judgment call about your list of things to do.
It comes back to juggling the glass balls and the rubber balls. Thinking through what are the consequences if I drop this ball? Will it bounce back? Or will it shatter?
Be willing to flex as circumstances change.
You have to plan some flexibility into your days. You have to have some margin to handle the unexpected.
That’s part of the planning. To be able to recognize when you need to flex and when to stick to the plan.
Here’s the other thing: Life is full of people.
People are unpredictable and impossible to schedule.
And, yet, we have to have some order in our lives.
So, we need a life management plan with enough flexibility to handle life’s unexpected turns.
Having unrealistic expectations is disappointing. Not following through on something you said you were going to do is an integrity problem, unless you make the decision to make something else priority instead. There has to be some flexibility for that.
You also have to have down time planned, so you don’t feel guilty when you need to rest and you are able to stay productive on the other days.
Prioritizing your to do list is the critical element in planning better days, with the caveat that you’re willing to flex when you need to.
What have you learned lately that helps you manage life better?