How I Stay on Schedule

November 6, 2013 — 18 Comments
Recently I’ve been trying to reorganize my life and my schedule and get back on track in several areas.  No matter how good you are at planning, it’s these regularly scheduled maintenance that keeps our schedules working smoothly and effectively.  So in that process, I referred back to some of my old blog posts and found them extremely helpful (yes, I am tooting my own horn…TOOT TOOT!).  So I thought to repost them and maybe you’d find them helpful as well.

“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.”  Michael Altshuler

Yesterday I wrote about Why I Go to Bed at 8:00 and apparently I raised quite a few eyebrows.  Several people asked me to provide more details as to how I schedule my days and how I use my time.  So as a blogger of course I am happy to share.

But let me preface it by saying that there is no right way to schedule your time or a right time that everyone should sleep and wake up.  I’ll share what’s worked for me but please realize that – as my wife always tells me – there’s no one else in the world like me.

So here goes – my top 3 principles when it comes to staying on a schedule.

Principle #1:  SCHEDULE YOUR WEEK, NOT YOUR DAY

Several people asked “how do you wake up at 5 am every single day?” or “how are you able to go to bed at 8 every single night?”  My answer… I DON’T.  No one said that you have to do it every day.  We need to change our way of thinking.

Usually we ask “can I wake up at 5 am every single day?”  And the answer to that is an overwhelming NO.  But instead, the right question to ask is “can I wake up at 5 am tomorrow?”  Now you are much more likely to answer YES.

In fact, one of the reasons I am able to get up at 5 on several days is because I intentionally don’t try to wake up that early every day.  In other words, be realistic about what you can handle.  If you’re used to waking up at 7 every day, it is unlikely that you’ll be able to jump to 5 am right away.  So try to work it in slowly.

Start with 2 days a week – and on those two days be extra vigilant about sleeping early the night before.  Then if you are enjoying it, try to squeeze a third morning in there after some time.  You might never get to 7 days a week, but if you got to 3 or 4, wouldn’t that be a success?

For me, my typical schedule is this:  Sunday is your Sabbath but Monday is mine so I try to sleep in, relax, get rest on Mondays.  Then I aim to get up pretty early on Tuesdays and Wednesdays [either 4:30 or 5 am].  By Wednesday evening I’m probably tired and I usually stay up later on Wednesdays anyway, so Thursday I give myself another sleep in day – waking up at 7 or even 7:15.  Then it’s back up at 5 on Friday.  Saturdays and Sundays are variables depending on what’s going on but usually Saturday is a late day and Sunday an early day.

This principle is so important in every aspect of your time.  Think weekly not daily.  Let’s say you want to exercise regularly.  Can you do it every day?  No.  But can you find 3 or 4 pockets of time per week to do so?  Yes.  Same with reading or Bible study or spending time with loved ones.  You may be frustrated because you can’t find a way to do these things daily.  But we need to stop thinking in terms of daily and start thinking in terms of weekly.

Principle #2:  ADAPT SEASONALLY

Life is not the same year round.  Just as the weather changes from season to season, so do the commitments and responsibilities of life.  Give yourself room to change with them.

For example, if you’re an accountant, tax season might be your busy season.  So March/April might not be the best time to start that new workout program or commit to coaching your kid’s soccer team.  Or if you’re a mom, you might not be able to commit to serving in Sunday school during the summer but maybe when Fall comes around you will.  Adapt seasonally.

Here’s what I try to do.  With every season of life, I come up with a schedule that works for that season.  A lot might be the same, but a lot won’t.  For example, now we are in Lent.  When Lent comes, I put my exercise plan on the shelf because I usually like to exercise in the morning and it’s hard to do so and still maintain fasting.  So therefore, I give myself permission to stop exercising for the season.  Once Lent is over, I will reevaluate my schedule and come up with a new schedule for the next season of my life.

Also, these days I am preparing for the launch of St. Timothy’s church in a few short weeks.  Because of that, I am trying to spend more time alone in strategic thinking and planning.  I realize that once the church starts, there’ll be a lot less time for strategic thinking so I am trying to do more of that now – more time reading, more time writing, more time getting God’s vision for this new mission.  Once the church launches, I will reevaluate and things will change again.

Principle #1:  Schedule your week, not your day

Principle #2:  Allow your schedule to change seasonally

Principle #3:  BE FLEXIBLE

The biggest mistake people make when they try to start a new schedule is being overly aggressive and unrealistic [fyi – this applies to dieting as well].  We try to schedule every minute of every day to maximize productivity.  We do ok for the first couple of days but of course we can’t maintain that pace.  So what do we do?  We quit and go back to the chaos we were in before.

Be flexible.  Don’t schedule your week in 7 minute increments.  Always budget more time than you think you need because you never know what interruptions will come up.  Factor them in, get ahead of the schedule and then give yourself room to relax and enjoy life.

For example, last night was NCAA Men’s basketball championship game.  Now while I am not a huge college basketball fan, I can’t resist a championship game in almost any sport.  No sports fan can.  But there was a problem – tip off was at 9:23 pm.    That means the game won’t finish till probably midnight – 4 hours past my bedtime!

So what should I do?  Break my rule and stay up late?  Or deny myself the enjoyment of the championship game?

Neither.  I went to bed at 8:00 and was asleep by probably 9:30 or 9:45.  I woke up at 4:45, got dressed, did my quiet time as usual till 6.  Then at 6, I would usually exercise or get some important work done before the day begins.  But instead, I sat down and watched the game that I had DVR’d from the night before (DVR is the greatest invention EVER!!!).

So instead of staying up till midnight or so watching the game and totally ruining the next day, I maintained my routine for the most part and was still able to give myself a treat this morning (of course the real treat would have been if Kentucky lost, but that’s another topic for another time).  My point is that you can be flexible and still maintain your schedule.

Schedule your week, not your day.

Allow your schedule to change seasonally.

Be flexible.

Discussion:  What other tools, principles or resources have helped you maintain a balanced schedule in life?

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Fr. Anthony

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  • Marina

    Hey Abouna!!
    I don’t know if you remember me, you came to Halifax a few years ago..anyway I love this blog and look forward to reading it all the time.
    I have a problem with time management and spreading my priorities. I tend to do my school work all throughout the day but in a very slow pace leaving me no time to read the Bible and to really organize my life. My room at the moment is a complete mess and I seem to have no time to organize it, but then again I chose not to because I do my work slowly..How can I break this vicious cycle?
    Also, what kind of things do you do in your quiet time?

    Thank you for writing this blog, it really is an eye opener.
    Marina

    • Fr. Anthony

      It sounds like you need to work on your ability to FOCUS. Focus is one of the most important factors that will determine your level of success. A talented person who is unfocused will not succeed. But a less talented person with a strong ability to focus has a much better chance. Check out this sermon I gave about living a focused life and hopefully it helps you out.

      http://orthodoxsermons.org/sermons/burnout-balance-part-5

    • http://franthony.com/ Fr. Anthony Messeh

      It sounds like you need to work on your ability to FOCUS. Focus is one of the most important factors that will determine your level of success. A talented person who is unfocused will not succeed. But a less talented person with a strong ability to focus has a much better chance. Check out this sermon I gave about living a focused life and hopefully it helps you out.

      http://orthodoxsermons.org/sermons/burnout-balance-part-5

  • Amanuel

    This is a great perspective…up until now i have been used to the mind set that flexibility isnt workable but this changed my viewpoint. I reallyhave love the adaptmind seasonally aspect. It fitsmy nature completly. As a big fan of procrastination i have really trouble in figuring out how to inplement this in my life. My spiritual life and my school life arent as cohesive as they should so i am wondering if you have any tips?

    • Fr. Anthony

      If you struggle with being “too flexible” or in other words, staying disciplined, I would strongly recommend for you to get someone to help you and hold you accountable. Research says that you are much much more likely to continue with a lifestyle change – like dieting or exercising or going to church – if you have someone walking with you on that journey. Find someone who is good at discipline and ask him/her to help you. Or get a partner who will walk with you and you guys can hold each other accountable.

      Take the first step and God will help you. And I’ll be praying for you too.

    • http://franthony.com/ Fr. Anthony Messeh

      If you struggle with being “too flexible” or in other words, staying disciplined, I would strongly recommend for you to get someone to help you and hold you accountable. Research says that you are much much more likely to continue with a lifestyle change – like dieting or exercising or going to church – if you have someone walking with you on that journey. Find someone who is good at discipline and ask him/her to help you. Or get a partner who will walk with you and you guys can hold each other accountable.

      Take the first step and God will help you. And I’ll be praying for you too.

  • Kathryn

    Organizing!

    I found that 5 mins of organizing my room, papers/books, or even picking out clothes the night before a test allow me to wake up in a relaxed state of mind instead of scrambling in the morning. Nothing is worse than having to rush out the door. Not only before a test is it helpful to get organized, but I find that having things in order can always help the day to go a little smoother and allow you to tackle the day in a calm way cause there are plenty things that can be stressful through out the day! I also think getting prepared the night before allows you to wake up knowing you can take those extra couple of minutes to yourself and have quiet time.

    -Kathryn

    • Fr. Anthony

      YES YES YES! All true. 5 minutes at night can bear a ton of fruit in the morning. If you look in the Bible, you’ll notice that there is a lot of precedent for starting your day from the night before. The Hebrew calendar used to start from sunset the night before – so Tuesday began from Monday night, also called Tuesday Eve. Even when God created the universe, at the end of every day of creation the Bible says “So the evening and the morning were the first (or second or third, etc) day.”

      So I am with you Kathryn. Start the night before and you’ll be that much more ready the next morning.

      Thanks for taking the time to share.

    • http://franthony.com/ Fr. Anthony Messeh

      YES YES YES! All true. 5 minutes at night can bear a ton of fruit in the morning. If you look in the Bible, you’ll notice that there is a lot of precedent for starting your day from the night before. The Hebrew calendar used to start from sunset the night before – so Tuesday began from Monday night, also called Tuesday Eve. Even when God created the universe, at the end of every day of creation the Bible says “So the evening and the morning were the first (or second or third, etc) day.”

      So I am with you Kathryn. Start the night before and you’ll be that much more ready the next morning.

      Thanks for taking the time to share.

  • Dellila

    Thanks for breaking it down, I was wondering how it worked out for you! I also liked the practical concrete steps. I will try to remember them and implement at least some it. God Bless!!

    • Fr. Anthony

      My pleasure. Thank you for taking the time to comment. God bless you too!

    • http://franthony.com/ Fr. Anthony Messeh

      My pleasure. Thank you for taking the time to comment. God bless you too!

  • pb

    To Do Lists.

    I normally start my week off at Sunday night with updating my to do list with the weeks activities that must get done. I’ve read in the past that when you write things down you don’t stress over them as much because your brain isn’t trying to remember all the tasks you must complete.

    Within the To Do List I have it broken down into Home, Work and Appointments. Then throughout the week I cross things off as completed.

    Every since I started doing this in a centralized location I’ve found it easier to handle and prioritize my weekly tasks.

    Great Blog Abouna.

    • Fr. Anthony

      Excellent! I couldn’t agree more. You found a great system that works for you. And if you are into To Do lists, then check out this tool called Nozbe, http://www.nozbe.com. Best tool I’ve seen for keeping track of To Do lists. I highly recommend it for busy professionals looking to keep track of their To Do lists.

      Thanks for the comment PB.

    • http://franthony.com/ Fr. Anthony Messeh

      Excellent! I couldn’t agree more. You found a great system that works for you. And if you are into To Do lists, then check out this tool called Nozbe,http://www.nozbe.com. Best tool I’ve seen for keeping track of To Do lists. I highly recommend it for busy professionals looking to keep track of their To Do lists.

      Thanks for the comment PB.

  • Ihab

    Abouna,
    If you allow me not to agree with the term flexibility because as human beings once we start losing the consistency, things will get loose and this is purely human nature, However I like the variation in the weekly schedule as you mentioned, few days early then you break the tone with one day later. This way your body will be able to adjust to the weekly routine and will be able to go with you the extra mile.
    Ihab

    • Fr. Anthony

      Agree. You are right Ihab. Flexibility is a relative term. We all define that word differently. I tend to be more of an inflexible person [remember the SWORDS VS PILLOW post] so for me I need to scoot over to the side of flexibility a bit more. But other people tend to be TOO FLEXIBLE and for them, they need the exact opposite. I agree 100%.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    • http://franthony.com/ Fr. Anthony Messeh

      Agree. You are right Ihab. Flexibility is a relative term. We all define that word differently. I tend to be more of an inflexible person [remember the SWORDS VS PILLOW post] so for me I need to scoot over to the side of flexibility a bit more. But other people tend to be TOO FLEXIBLE and for them, they need the exact opposite. I agree 100%.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.