Updated: Jan 15, 2019
When we were younger planning our time sounded like just another boring adult thing to do. Now as we get older, suddenly time seems to accelerate and we realize it starts to slip through our fingers. Sentences like ‘I have no time’ or ‘I’m so busy’ become our mantras (who’s not guilty of that, raise your hand). With more and more to-do lists covering different areas of our lives, it’s easy to lose your balance sooner or later.
Don't get me wrong - I’m not telling you to become a planning freak. But imagine what you could do with all those unplanned hours? Let me share some of my basic planning hacks with you. I recommend starting by booking an hour for yourself on a Sunday evening, make yourself a cup of tea, and grab a dedicated weekly planner or simply outline your own by drawing seven columns representing each day of the week. Now let’s begin!
Worst Things First...
You’ve heard me right. There is nothing worse than a difficult task hanging over your head and subconsciously stressing you out for the whole week. Write down your most dreadful tasks and tackle them early on in the morning, early on in the week. Postponing these tasks won’t help. Finish them as soon as possible and move on to more enjoyable tasks.
Monitor Your Productivity
Truth is we all have different daily routines and there is no point forcing yourself to be a morning person if you’re not one. Personally, I like to start my day slowly and then move to the heaviest tasks to get them out of my way. In this case the key is not only ‘when’, but ‘how’. Studies show that frequently stopping and restarting our tasks could cost us more energy than doing the work itself. Remove all distractions and try not to check your phone/e-mail/Facebook until you finish your task. It’s also a good idea to break up your tasks into larger chunks and take a break every 30 or 60 minutes. Stick to your break time and don’t extend it.
Batch Your Tasks
Multitasking is overrated. More and more studies suggest that humans are simply not capable of multitasking. To make sure the quality of our job or other duties don’t suffer from our mind jumping from one thing to another try to batch your tasks allowing your brain to focus on one type of tasks at a time. As I mentioned before, switching from one job to another decreases our efficiency.
Don’t Sit Down (Before You’re Done)
Now this one might be a bit controversial, but it works amazingly for me. Actually I came across this tip a long time ago and it really changed my approach to planning. One of my biggest struggles was (and sometimes still is) to get things done in the evening. In the morning I plan all sorts of things I need to do when I finish work like going to the gym or cooking lunch for the next day. It all seems perfectly possible in the morning, but when I get home in the evening I’m just too tired to do it.
The solution is to not lay down on your sofa before you do the dishes or cook or whatever you planned for the evening. For me, once I sit or lay down, the chances of getting up from my cozy spot and motivating myself to get stuff done decreases to zero! The same applies to a workout — I try to take my gym clothes with me in the morning, so I don’t need to stop by and pick them up on my way from the office to the gym. The risk of staying and cozying up at home is just too high (especially now when it’s getting chilly outside).
But it’s not all about productivity and efficiency. Introverts or extroverts, we all need some me time. It’s easy to put your needs last, but really I can’t stress this enough — it’s when your 100% happy that you’re on top of your game. That’s why it’s so important to schedule time just for your self. It can be anything from reading a book, getting an oil massage or simply a pampering session with sheet mask in the comfort of your own home. You can try to do a daily mediation session with apps like Headspace (my personal favorite). Try to carve out at least one hour per week just for yourself, your mind and your body. And don’t just think about doing it - write it down in your calendar!
Girl Gotta Eat
Meal planning might not sound like your thing, but don’t skip this part just yet. Let me explain why you might want to rethink your approach to it. It’s really easy to end up binging on unhealthy junk food or overspending in Wagas, if you don’t plan your meals in advance. When things pile up, we tend to crave comfort food, and a lot of it. So even if you aim to eat healthy, but don’t plan your meals in advance, your stressed mind won’t scream for a salad, but rather for a pizza. Of course, you don’t have to reject an unexpected dinner invitation or irresistibly tempting happy hour, but with meal planning in place, you’ll be more aware when making those decisions. Honestly, I could just go for hours on meal planning, but it’s a topic for a separate article!
How to start your own planning routine?
I’ve only shared the basics of planning here, but there are so many aspects of our life that we can manage better by conscious planning to achieve our short and long term goals. As a born procrastinator, I know how hard it is to get things done especially in such a busy place as Shanghai. The thing is, in order to achieve our goals, be it career advancement or weight loss, we need to make the damn time and no matter what stick to our resolutions.
The keyword to succeed is commitment and there is no better way to start than writing down (not typing!) your goals. It’s scientifically proven that an analog process that takes you away from your smartphone or computer is less distracting. It requires you to focus and be more mindful. Give planning a try at least for a week and let us know how it went! You can start by sketching your own planner, printing a free page of a Virgo Diaries planner or getting a hard copy.
When juggling her professional career, social life and personal time became too overwhelming, Miriam decided to create her own planning system away from the distractions of smartphones. Created first to meet her needs, Miriam’s cute Virgo Diaries found a lot of fans in Shanghai who share her belief that organizing make one’s life peaceful and wish to practice a mindful approach to time management. WeChat ID: VirgoDiaries