At the end of the day, we often find ourselves feeling like we were just spinning our wheels all day long and didn’t really get much accomplished. This is why planning and following a time management schedule is so important. By having the day, week or even month planned out in advance we don’t have to stress about what we should be doing or how to effectively divide time to get the most out of it.

Knowing how to create a time management schedule is just as important as actually following it. Have you ever been guilty of writing a to-do list and tossing it to the side? It’s quite common and there could be any number of reasons why the list didn’t make it to the finish line. Below you’ll find the key components of a successful time management schedule, strategies for creating a schedule, and tips on how to stick to it and get things done.

Key Components for Time Management Scheduling

  • Set Clear Goals – Take some time to write out your goals, both short-term and long-term. If your goals have deadlines, document that as well. Use this as a visual aid to remind you of your goals and fuel your success by placing it where you will see it every day.
  • Establish Your “Open” Hours – Think of your schedule as the hours in a day in which you are available. If your focus is the typical workday, use those hours. If you intend to incorporate work and home, extend your hours.
  • Choose Your Scheduling System – Some prefer writing things down while others use online calendars. Both have their advantages. Physically writing information down sticks better in your brain. Many day planners can also be customized to your specific needs

Online calendars offer automation features like repeating appointments, synchronization with other apps, and reminders via email or smartphone as a notification. Some things to add to your online calendar are:

  • Essential Items – Non-negotiable items; gym schedule, meditation, yoga class, picking up kids from school, weekly management meetings, church, etc.
  • Top Priorities for the Week – Think of the bigger picture for the week and decide what you’d realistically like to accomplish.
  • Tasks – Break up your priorities above into smaller tasks and decide how much time you are going to devote to each task before moving on.

Strategies for Creating Your Schedule

  • Plan tomorrow today! The best time to work on your schedule for tomorrow is today.
  • Choose your time wisely for bigger tasks. Things that will take more brainpower should be scheduled during your most productive time of the day. Do you work better at night when everyone else has gone to sleep or are you a go-getter as soon as the sun comes up?
  • Group like items. Returning calls, conducting interviews, employee evaluations, etc.
  • Block time for email. Many of us get inundated with emails all day long. Block out a time to check your email. Clean out the clutter, respond to what needs attention, and add tasks or due dates to the rest.
  • Leave gaps. Interruptions and delays are inevitable. Plan for them.
  • Plan self-care and family time. Personal time and quality time with the family are crucial. By adding them to the calendar you’ll have a sense of balance and be reminded when to unplug and unwind.

Tips for Sticking to the Schedule

  • Under-schedule yourself. Too many weekly priorities and daily tasks mean one or more won’t get done. The whole goal here is to manage time effectively.
  • Add breaks to the daily calendar. Don’t exhaust yourself. Breaks are essential.
  • Buffer time. Leave some cushion room in case a task takes longer than you intended.
  • Use a timer. A kitchen timer works great, or set the timer on your phone when you are working on a long-term goal in daily increments.
  • Check off completed items. Try it! You will feel accomplished and eager to continue using a time management schedule.

If you’ve had difficulty in the past creating a time management schedule and sticking to it, but are serious about being more productive, devote one week to the above strategies and tips. At the end of the week compare how much more effectively you’ve managed time to the previous methods you’ve used. You’ll likely see a great improvement and be motivated to continue.

Time is a resource we simply can’t reproduce or purchase. When it’s gone, it’s gone forever. What we can do is learn from past experiences, failures and excuses and use that to inspire a better, impactful use of our time.