Have you been thinking about scheduling tasks into your calendar?
Are you looking for a few practical pointers to make the process easier?
It’s no secret scheduling tasks into your calendar is a smart move.
You literally schedule time in your calendar to accomplish whatever task it is that needs to be done.
Simply scheduling tasks, however, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll complete your scheduled tasks.
You need to know a few things about the task scheduling process if you want keep your calendar in tip-top shape.
In this post, I offer several tips to help you with scheduling tasks into your calendar at home, work, or school.
You’ll definitely want to keep these pointers handy when you’re getting ready to schedule tasks into your calendar.
Make sure tasks are clearly defined.
If you want to successfully complete a task, then you should be extremely clear about what it is you want to accomplish. There’s two good reasons for this.
First, having a clearly defined task allows you to perform your work with grace and ease. You read the scheduled task, understand fully what it is you have to do, and then get on with your work. You can move quickly from one scheduled task to another because the path you’ve laid out for yourself is clear.
Second, having a clearly defined task means you won’t waste your time and energy interpreting a poorly worded or vague task. There’s nothing worse than planning a task for you to complete in two months’ time, only to leave yourself scratching your head at your notes.
A clearly defined task ensures you won’t waste precious minutes deciphering your notes, or getting yourself visibly frustrated, annoyed, and upset by lack of planning.
Take care to specify the exact home, work, school, or personal task you’d like to complete. If you can’t clearly understand what a task is simply by reading it, then it’s time to go back to the task drawing board.
Here’s several examples of poorly and clearly defined tasks:
Poorly defined task: Run errand
Clearly defined task: Pick up prescription from drug store
Poorly defined task: Review report
Clearly defined task: Proofread report for typos
Poorly defined task: Check insurance
Clearly defined task: Check home insurance expiration date
Poorly defined task: Exercise
Clearly defined task: Go out for a walk
Factor break time between tasks.
Working on tasks back to back, without ever taking a break is never a good idea. Your mind and body need time to rest and recover.
Even if you’re just planning on filing papers at the office followed by writing a long proposal, or decluttering your bedroom followed by preparing dinner, it’s a wise idea to add in some break time between tasks.
Of course, this break time will vary depending on how long you’ve been performing a task. It will also depend on whether or not the task is mentally and/or physically strenuous, challenging, or repetitive.
While there’s no hard and fast rule for break time between scheduled tasks, give yourself at least minutes five to ten minutes to shift gears.
Grab a drink of water, stretch, go out for a short walk, meditate, sing a song, take in the view, or just sit quietly. You’ll be relaxed and refreshed to tackle your next task.
Ensure tasks are location specific.
Would you try to clean your home while you were sitting across town in a business meeting? Or would you run food shopping errands while running laps in the park?
Of course you wouldn’t! You’d make sure you were in the right place, at the right time, to complete your appointed tasks.
When scheduling tasks, make sure they are relevant to your current, or soon-to-be current location.
If you’re considering a specific spot in your calendar in which to schedule a task, make careful note as to where you’ll be physically located before, during, and after that time. This way, you can coordinate your proposed task with your proposed location and make sure you’ll have all the necessary tools, materials, and resources ready for you.
What if you want to make progress on a project, but you’re hindered by your current location in your schedule? Think laterally! You can work on non-location dependent tasks to help you get one step closer to your goal. You can brainstorm ideas, write down facts, make lists, and make a “yes/no” decision chart.
Here’s an example for you: let’s say you want to do some research on brand-new car, but you’re sitting in a waiting room with little to no internet connectivity.
You can get started on your research by making a list of all the features you’d love your new car to have, such as excellent miles per gallon, a high safety rating, great handling, under $25,000, and the color green.
And what if you’re traveling to a location where it’s unclear whether certain tools will be available?
Double-check your location will have the tools you need for you to fix that cabinet, draw that sketch, or bake that cake. And if you need to bring your own tools with you, now would be a good time to write down a list of items you’ll need to pack.
Incorporate task set up and cleanup time.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re getting ready to work on a small task, such as doodling design ideas in your sketchbook, or preparing for a large endeavor, such as baking a cake for 100 people, part of your scheduled task will involve the processes of set up and cleanup.
If you haven’t been consistent about factoring in set up and cleanup time with your tasks, why, now is the perfect time to get started!
Start by identifying your scheduled task. Once you have that in mind, you can then start thinking about all the things you’ll need to do to prepare for the task, and to clean things up once the task has been satisfactorily performed.
You may not realize it, but nearly all tasks have some sort of preparation and clean up attached to them. These bits of time can quickly multiply over the course of a day’s work.
With practice, you’ll get better and better acquainted with which tasks will take you more or less time to set up and cleanup.
Here’s several examples of scheduled tasks along with their set up and cleanup time considerations:
Scheduled task: Make a sandwich for lunch
Set up time considerations: Remove ingredients from refrigerator and pantry; pull out plate, cutting board, and knives; wipe down table
Clean up time considerations: Replace ingredients in the refrigerator and pantry; wash plate, cutting board, and knives; wipe down table
Scheduled task: Collate work reports
Set up time considerations: Clear off conference room desk, print work reports, gather work reports
Clean up time considerations: Collect work reports, place work reports in cabinet, clear off conference room desk
Scheduled task: Declutter clothes closet
Set up time considerations: Gather empty shopping bags, remove items in front of closet
Clean up time considerations: Return closet to suitable condition, remove filled shopping bags
Be generous in time estimations.
When it comes to scheduling tasks, you need to be generous with your estimations of time. Now, this may seem a bit counterintuitive when it comes to checking off tasks, but it will provide you with a useful buffer of time.
A generous time buffer will allow you to deal with unforeseen interruptions, distractions, and delays, and still get things done.
Even if you grossly overestimate the amount of time it takes you to complete a scheduled task, you’ll still have a healthy bit of wiggle room.
After all, the last thing you want in your schedule is for you to constantly scramble to finish all the tasks you’ve set out for yourself!
When setting time estimations for tasks, consider all those times you’ve worked on an identical, or similar task.
Then, ask yourself a series of pointed questions, such as: “How long did it take me to comfortably finish that task?,” or, “How long did it take me to uncomfortably finish that same task?”
Asking yourself questions like these will give you some guidelines to follow when it comes to how many minutes you should schedule for a particular task.
Review and reschedule uncompleted tasks.
We’d be fooling ourselves if we said we’d accomplish every single task listed in our schedule without fail, every single day. But, as we all know, things happen in life.
And when they do, we need to have a smart way to deal with things, unfinished tasks included!
One of the best things you can do for yourself when it comes to scheduled tasks is to have a method or way of reviewing uncompleted tasks.
An easy way to do this is to take five minutes at the end of your day to review your calendar for the day, and work your way through each uncompleted task, one by one.
Here’s a few questions you can ask yourself when it comes to reviewing those uncompleted scheduled tasks:
- What prevented me from accomplishing this task today? Why?
- How much time should I generously schedule for this task in future?
- Where is a better location for me to perform this task?
- How can I make this task easier for me to complete?
- What steps can I take today to ensure this task will completed in future?
Keep a list of recurring tasks.
Ever have one of those days when you’re trying to figure out what to put on your calendar at the beginning of the week or month? There’s a simple solution for this. What is it? It’s to keep a list of recurring daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly tasks.
It only takes a few moments to put together a recurring list of must-do tasks. The best part about this, is that once you’ve created your list, and have stored it in a safe location, you’re set for the next several months.
All you have to do is pull out your list whenever you’re getting ready to schedule your calendar.
Have a plan for potential distractions.
You sit down to do some planning, when all of a sudden…the phone rings, the letter carrier arrives at the door, and the dog wants to be let out for a walk. While some things are beyond your control, you can take steps to ensure you’ve set up your immediate environment in a way that it will allow you to complete a scheduled task with little to no distractions.
If you’re dead set on completing a scheduled task, it’s worth taking some steps to hinder or prevent unnecessary distractions.
Here’s some ideas for you: log out of your email inbox, log out of unnecessary computer and cell phone apps, hire a dog walker, remove clutter from your desk, work in a secluded or quiet location, use noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs, turn off the television and radio, use a white noise generator, or hire a babysitter.
Treat scheduled tasks as a VIP appointment.
Scheduling tasks for yourself is one thing…keeping scheduled tasks for yourself is another. As we’ve mentioned earlier, simply scheduling a task into your calendar doesn’t necessarily mean the task will be magically completed on it’s own. You have to put in some effort!
Scheduling a task into your calendar is the equivalent of scheduling an appointment with yourself. Let that settle into your mind for a moment…scheduling a task into your calendar is the equivalent of scheduling an appointment with yourself.
You’ve carefully selected the day, time, and location for you to “meet” with yourself in order to accomplish a certain task. You’ve got to admit, it would be extremely silly of you to waste this time you’ve scheduled for yourself.
The next time you schedule a task in your calendar, don’t just pay it lip service. Make the commitment to actually showing up, sitting down, and doing your work at the appointed time, be it running errands in your neighborhood, researching potential travel destinations for your next vacation, or doing your yearly taxes.
How about you? Which of these scheduling task tips did you find to be the most helpful? Why? Which tasks are you going to schedule into your calendar? Join the conversation and leave a comment below!