Is your To Do list a mile long and growing longer every day? Mine was too. I was getting things done every day and crossing things off my list, but not seeing progress. I had to plan for my students, go to lessons at times that changed daily, and work on my products and blog. Plus, my house was a wreck. When I sat down to relax, I felt guilty looking at my messy house and thinking about the things left unchecked on my to do list. I started using calendar blocking instead of a to do list.
Now, I’m free of that. I didn’t buy a fancy teacher planner. Don’t get me wrong, I still want one, they are just so pretty! I’m not using a fancy phone app. Instead, I’m using a strategy called calendar blocking.
The To Do Schedule
Instead of a To Do list, I now develop a To Do schedule. It takes a bit longer to write it all out, but it works wonders. A To Do list can be infinitely long. There is no limit to the items you can put on a To Do list. So it’s incredibly easy to put too much stuff on a To Do list. But a calendar blocked schedule is finite. Everybody only gets the same 24 hours a day. Through calendar blocking, I’ve learned to make the most of my time.
It isn’t high tech or pretty, but I use Excel to do my calendar blocking. I don’t like using the calendar on my phone because it creates too many dings and pop ups on my phone. I use Microsoft’s One Drive to share the Excel sheet with my phone so I don’t have to be at my computer to reference my schedule. It works quite nicely. I bet you could use Google Docs too.
Setting Up the Schedule
Each day, I wake up at 6:30 AM, so that is when I start my calendar blocking. I set up a column in 30 minute intervals, which is the right interval for me. For some, you might want to divide it up into 15 minute sections. When I taught special education, my student’s had crazy schedules and to be able to properly meet everybody’s service minutes my schedule was laid out in 5 minute increments. I wouldn’t recommend letting your calendar block go over an hour for each interval. Across the top, I list the days of the week. I like to start with Monday, but you can start with any day you like. I keep one spreadsheet page per week. For the next week, I start a new tab, laid out in the same fashion.
Now that I have my week and time set up, I start filling in with the things I must do or else everything goes topsy-turvy in my life. I include my slow cooker meal prep time, cleaning time, eating time, work time, and workout time. I even plan when I’m going to the grocery store. Once I put these in my spreadsheet, I like to highlight them red, but you don’t have to color code. The color lets me know they are my must dos.
During my work time and cleaning time, I make notes on what specifically I’m going to be working on. For example, during my work time, I plan out if I’m going to be working writing a blog or creating a product. If it is time I’m with a student, I write in who, and I block out the travel time it will take me to get there. Right now, I’m writing this blog in the time I planned out. Because I planned for it, it happened. I even planned on writing this exact article at this exact time. For cleaning, I put the different rooms in my house on a rotation. It breaks the tasks down into smaller bits. I clean for only the time I give myself, And somehow, the most important things get done. I find my house is getting cleaner and clear with the strategy because when I have leftover time I do things like wipe down the tops of cabinets or organize things that I wouldn’t ordinarily do. It’s still a work in progress but so much better than it was. I am not naturally tidy by any means. Currently Marie Kondo is a superhero to me, and I’m learning lots from her Netflix show. I watch it during scheduled down time.
Once I have all my must dos in order, I can plan out any extra stuff that I want to fit in. If I want to see a movie with my fiance, I put it in. If I’m planning to watch the football playoffs with him, it goes on the calendar. This helps me make sure to preserve that quality time with him. And since even my calendar says it is what I’m supposed to be doing, I can do it guilt free.
Doesn’t It Make You Feel Rigid?
I thought it would, but I can honestly say it doesn’t. In fact, I feel really free. I set my own schedule, so it becomes a tool to keep myself on track to accomplish the things I want to. Before I felt burdened by guilt, but now that I’m accomplishing far more by having a more realistic way to approach my tasks, I feel better.
Now I Can Relax
I’ve been using calendar blocking for several months now. It’s honestly the best way I’ve ever found to keep myself on track with what I need to do, both at work, home, and play. I feel more organized and less stress. I don’t have that nagging feeling of knowing I’m supposed to be doing something, but I’m not sure what. I also don’t feel the pressure to keep a running mental list of what I am supposed to accomplish and when. It’s already written down so I just reference it when I need to. It frees up brain space for other things.