January 15, 2021

Top Scheduling Tips from a Professional Organizer

Posted in: Organization, Productivity

Mmmmm… Do you smell that? That crisp new paper smell of your fresh planner? So many possibilities ahead and so much time yet unscheduled! It makes my heart do double beats. Or is that the extra cup of coffee I snuck in? Either way, I’m hopping into your day to bring you my top scheduling tips to save you the headache from trying to squeeze #allthethings into your already overflowing day. Ready? Let’s do this.

Here are my top scheduling tips:

TIME BLOCK

If you aren’t time blocking or haven’t even heard of it, this is my secret weapon for staying on task all day, every day. Yup. You read that right. Time blocking is the bee’s knees and you need it in your life, like yesterday.

Time blocking breaks your day into sections or time blocks and groups like activities together. This saves time, effort, and energy focusing on one task, or a group of similar tasks, instead of multitasking and constantly switching gears hopping between tasks. When helping clients get organized, I show them how to group like with like so that their spaces are more streamlined and accessible. Your schedule is no different! 

Studies have shown that switching between tasks slows response time and makes completing even simple tasks much more difficult.(1) You think you’re getting more done because it feels like you’re doing a lot, but it’s all just surface level busy work, barely scratching the surface or moving the needle forward. Multitasking is also prime time for distractions, like a hound dog chasing a squirrel. A classic case of “I needed to do the laundry but then…” 

Scheduling Tips: Multitasking is also prime time for distractions, like a hound dog chasing a squirrel. A classic case of “I needed to do the laundry but then…”

When you break your day into time blocks, you are able to get more done AND you can quickly see whether or not you can fit additional obligations into your schedule. It sets realistic expectations for home, work, and family tasks and clearly highlights how they fit together. 

Grab your free daily schedule template so you can start time blocking now!

SCHEDULE EVERYTHING

The key to time blocking is to schedule everything. Truly, everything! This is the only way for you to know exactly how much time you have to devote to your interests. Get your meals, morning and evening routines, commute time, work hours, and recurring appointments blocked off first. Any remaining time is available for other tasks. Use these sections to group like tasks together so that you can make the most of them. 

I recommend assigning different colors to each time block. Visually this makes it extremely easy to see at a glance what block corresponds to which task(s). This will also help when you’re trying to rearrange your schedule or add something else in. You’ll know right away if you should utilize an existing time block or create a new one. Plus, it makes it fun and encourages you to keep going. You can get really creative with decorating your time blocks, if that’s your jam! 

Included in the free template is an example of how I color code my schedule.

Scheduling Tips: Included in the free template is an example of how I color code my schedule.

TIME YOURSELF

Generally speaking, we have a hard time guessing how long things take to complete. We frequently underestimate drive times, preparation times, work times, all of it. Scientists call this the “planning fallacy” and it turns out, it’s part of our innate nature.(2)

So how do you know how much time to block off if your very nature is working against you? Why, time yourself, of course! Time yourself for one week and log your times. Keep this log handy so you get accurate data. At the end of the week, average the time it took you to complete each task and you’ll have a great starting point for your time blocks.

When you take the averages for your time blocks, sneak a peak at your social media and app usage. Checking email, updating social pages, and flipping through messages can be a distraction and a time suck. You might be surprised how all the small minutes and quick checks add up to hours of use across the week. These tasks are absolutely best approached with time blocking. Some phones track this data for you, for others you have to download an app. Ironic, right? Lol. If you need to download an app, check out the top 10 apps for 2021 here.

Scheduling Tips: Time yourself for one week and log your times. Keep this log handy so you get accurate data. At the end of the week, average the time it took you to complete each task and you’ll have a great starting point for your time blocks.

ADD BUFFERS

Even with accurate timing, there needs to be a buffer. It’s not always easy to hard stop one task and jump into another. So it would be best if you had wrap-up time, aka transition time. Build this into your time blocks or schedule them as their own time block. 

Remember that your current task is not completed until you’ve cleaned up your area. You really did learn all you need to know in kindergarten! Ha!

PRIORITIZE YOUR TASKS

This seems like a no-brainer but you can’t just fill your schedule with only fun stuff! You’ve got to have a hierarchy to your list.

Knock out time-sensitive items first before moving on to other projects. Remember to group like tasks together and give yourself a time frame for finishing things like answering emails or checking non-urgent messages.

Break down big projects into smaller, more manageable sections so you can maintain forward momentum and set a realistic goal for completing the work.

(Insider tip: if something takes less than 2 minutes, just do it right then. Don’t worry about scheduling it!) 

Scheduling Tips: Break down big projects into smaller, more manageable sections so you can maintain forward momentum and set a realistic goal for completing the work.

TURN OFF NOTIFICATIONS

Notifications = distraction city. They are nearly impossible to ignore. Who is it? What did they say? What if it’s important? Sorry, but it’s usually just noise! Turn notifications off. Enjoy the silence and added focus: no email dings, no news pings, no FB chimes. Get your updates all at once during your scheduled block time and limit the chances that you’ll slip from concentrating on something important to wasting time on things that are unimportant.

Worried about missing a call from your spouse or babysitter? Most phones allow emergency notifications to still come through as well as messages/calls from certain senders. 

GET A GOOD PLANNER

What makes a good planner? A good planner is simply one that you actually use and works for you. No matter how you think or process information, there is a planner out there for you. Traditional paper planners, digital planners, bullet journals, task-specific planners, there’s no shortage of choices.

Personally, I love Passion Planner. It’s hands down the best planner I’ve ever found. There’s plenty of space to time block on the weekly calendar pages, several sections to jot down your to-do list, as well as empty spaces to plan projects or doodle. They’re available in 3 different sizes and multiple colors as well as digital versions. Get $5 off $15 with this code.* (Planners are $25-35.) Once you get started with one, you’ll be hooked! Check out all the innovative ways people use their planners here

I also really like Trello for business task management. If you love making lists, Trello is where it’s at! There are endless ways to use it and the best part is that it’s free!!! One small drawback is that there’s a bit of a learning curve so I recommend taking this course to learn how to use it. It breaks down all the different parts of the program and makes it super easy to understand. The course even comes with several pre-loaded board templates so you can rock ‘n roll right out of the gate.


Looking for more scheduling tips? Check out the Intentional Living Through Organization and Mindset Community and join the conversation! 

View Related Blog Posts:


1 Rogers, R. D., & Monsell, S. (1995). Costs of a predictable switch between simple cognitive tasks. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 124(2), 207–231. https://doi.org/10.1037/0096-3445.124.2.207Rubinstein, J. S., Meyer, D. E., & Evans, J. E. (2001). Executive control of cognitive processes in task switching. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 27(4), 763–797. https://doi.org/10.1037/0096-1523.27.4.763

2Buehler, R., Griffin, D., & Peetz, J. (2010). The Planning Fallacy: Cognitive, Motivational, and Social Origins. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 1-62. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0065-2601(10)43001-4

*This Passion Planner code is an affiliate link. If you purchase through this code, you get $5 off your $15 purchase, and I get a small commission as well, at no cost to you. I only recommend products I know, love, and use myself. For that reason, I only partner with a very small selection of brands.

Top Scheduling Tips From A Professional Organizer

  1. Lee says:

    Hi there, I love reading organizational tips and enjoyed yours. I don’t ever seem to use them as much as I read them! Guess that’s just me.

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