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With a busy home life and seemingly never ending work to be done, it can sometimes feel like our schedule is running us instead of us running our schedule. It can also be discouraging, when we are trying to find time to pursue our dreams, to look at our calendar and see a packed schedule.
In this episode we are going to talk about some things we can do to make our time more efficient and to create time for pursuing our passion.
Highlights, Takeaways, & Quick Wins
- Use a scheduling system that you trust, or your brain is going to hold on to stuff.
- Get the tasks living in your head out, because they’re taking up space.
- Give your future self the gift of not wondering what to do with your time.
- Batch similar kinds of work together to be more efficient.
- Spend the time to automate anything you do more than once.
- Margin helps your brain to switch gears more efficiently between tasks.
- Scheduled margin affords you the ability to say no.
- If you don’t have the discipline of margin, it can steal your focus.
- If you’re not good at saying no, your yes holds less weight.
- When we take care of ourselves, every aspect of our lives benefits.
- Don’t try to figure out a scheduling system all at once.
- 02:59 Ben: I have my own approach to scheduling, and Rachel has her own. I thought it would be fun to get into a little bit of that as we go. A good place to start is how you arrange and come up with the schedule itself. A lot of times, folks don’t have things scheduled out for themselves. They have a task list, or maybe they don’t. They might just have it in their head, “These are the things I need to do. This is the specific time I have set aside for work…” I don’t want to prescribe getting super involved to the minute with your schedule, although some people need that. You can get obsessed to the point where it’s taking away from your focus.
- 04:05 I find for myself that when I have a vague idea of what I need to be doing, my brain goes on strike. I haven’t told it, “This is what we’re going to focus on right now.” My brain is looking at all of the projects and examining them, and it’s trying to figure out which ones are the most important. They all feel urgent, like they’re a priority, so my brain goes into panic mode. You can get stuff done and still make progress on things, but you’re not as efficient. I want to talk about the way I do my schedule, and then I want Rachel to talk about the way she does hers.
- 05:04 Rachel: We do things very differently. It has to do with personality types, too. Some people work better with certain things.
- 05:17 Ben: I start with my task list. I use Google Tasks, which is a free service through Google, and I like it a lot because I enjoy the user interface. I like an app that was developed for it that I can use on my iPad. It’s not as fancy as some of the paid apps out there, but for my purposes, it works really well. I break things down, first, by category. Some of my main categories would be personal, things I need to do around the home, In the Boat With Ben, my client work, and I might have a category for stuff I work on for Rachel. Those categories are basically separate lists, so I’m not looking at all of the lists at once. That would be overwhelming.
- 06:22 Within those lists, I break out by project. In my client work, I break it out by client first. For any given client, I may have several different projects going on. I have an important way of looking at it that helps me distinguish. My projects are things, nouns, that have to be done. I put tasks under that, and my tasks are verbs. They’re things I can take action with. Sometimes I have sub-tasks, and I get as granular as I need to in order to make forward motion on any given project. Sometimes, I let it be nice and broad, because I know that I’ll have a nice amount of time to devote to that specific thing.
- 07:27 As much as I can, I get all of the stuff out of my head, and I put it on that list so I don’t have to think about it anymore. The really important thing is something I learned from Merlin Mann on the Back to Work podcast. I believe it was in episodes 97, 98, and 99, he talked about this book called Getting Things Done by David Allen. Both fantastic resources, that book and that podcast, specifically for scheduling and productivity.
If you don’t have a scheduling system that you trust, your brain is going to hold on to stuff.
- 08:18 Rachel: You’re limited in everything that you can do—your ability to make decisions, your creativity, your ability to handle your kids…
- 08:32 Ben: Whatever it is you decide to use, it takes time to build trust. Whatever program, app, or system you use, you have to develop a relationship with. Find out what works and what doesn’t work. Spend some time with it before you get to a place where you really trust it. That’s hard. For me, for a long time, I kept bouncing around to different things. Nothing was working. I realized that I had to develop my trust in a system before I finally started to stick with something over a longer period of time. Over time, I was more and more able to trust it. My mind was free not to focus on those things, but to focus on the work.
- 09:24 I’ve got my tasks. Everything is out of my head and in my list, and now, I keep my tasks open. I usually have it on my iPad, sitting there so I can scroll through them as needed. On my calendar, I pull up my week, and what I have pre-existing are things I know I’m doing from week to week, like getting the boys ready for school and the bedtime routine. I put those on the calendar, because then I know that that’s not available time. It seems silly, because you might say, “My head knows that,” but get that out of your head. Put it on the calendar so it doesn’t have to take up space.
- 10:15 Anything I can, I schedule. With the available time I have leftover, I break it out into work blocks. My work blocks are about an hour and a half, on average. Some of them are an hour, depending on where they fit. This is where it gets fun. I play a little bit of schedule tetras. Think of it like packing a car for a trip. You’ve got a certain number of things that you have to fit into the car, and if you pack it efficiently, everything fits. If you pack it even more efficiently, everything fits and you’ve got some extra space.
- 11:11 This is the opportunity for you to move and shift things around. See how you can play around with it to free up some extra time. Once I’ve got all of those blocks, and I usually have 18 or 19 different ones, then I take my list, go through my tasks, and I assign them to specific blocks. The great thing about this, for me, is that when it comes time to work, I don’t have to decide what I’m doing. My brain doesn’t have to try to prioritize or see what the most important thing is, because my brain is free to focus on doing the work. “I said I’m going to do this? Okay, I guess I’m doing that now.”
- 12:05 That’s how my scheduling works. I try to set aside at least one hour per week to go through that exercise. There are some things I’ve done to make that more efficient. For example, those work blocks are pretty much the same from week to week, so I have those as repeating items on my calendar. I don’t have to rebuild it every single time. If I need to, I can go in and adjust things if I know that I have a meeting coming up. That’s one of the ways you can be a little bit more efficient with your scheduling. I love the idea of the tasks, the calendar, and the relationship between those two.
Any little thing you can do to get a task out of your head is going to give you more focus and efficiency for doing your work.
- 12:57 Rachel: I kind of do it the same way, except that I don’t use any technology for it. I have everything in a notebook where I put down all of my tasks for the week. I start from the broad place and then narrow it down to the specific tasks. At the beginning of my year, I map out the whole year. I say, “Okay, I know exactly how many words I can write in an hour and a half block, and this is how many words I want this book to be, so that’s going to take me a whole two months to write.”
- 13:41 Ben: Christopher asked in the chat, “How do you handle the humongous, never-ending projects? Do you keep repeating spaces for it?” To me, something that takes two months to do feels like a pretty humongous project. You’re a writer, so writing a book takes a long time.
- 14:09 Rachel: One of the things I try to do on a regular basis, and I just did this today, is what I call a “brain dump.” I’ll list out everything that needs to be done, either for business or personal stuff.
Get the tasks living in your head out, because they’re taking up space.
- 14:29 My brain dump today was six pages long, because there are so many things that need to be done. A lot of those things, like Christopher said, are never-ending projects. With those things, I have an hour and a half block when I work on those things every single week. It feels like your’e just chipping away, like you’re not getting anywhere, but any kind of progress is progress. I do the same thing that Ben does with the tetras stuff. I know exactly what needs to be done and I know which projects I’m going to be working on, so I insert those projects into those work blocks. That way, I know exactly what I’m doing every single day.
- 15:16 I keep a running list of the things I need to be working on for the day, but I have a whole schedule printed out that will say, “Writing block 1, for fiction. Writing block 2, for non-fiction. Writing block 3, for fiction finals,” as opposed to rough drafts. It’s very detailed, but it helps me stay on track. The advantage that I have over Ben is that the stuff I do is pretty much the same every week. I’m not doing client work. I have a client right now that I’m working with, but that doesn’t really have a place in my schedule.
- 16:10 Ben: There’s this feeling I have sometimes that my schedule is running me and not the other way around, and a lot of that has to do with not being scheduled out far enough. I’d like to be scheduling out the following week the Sunday before.
- 16:37 Rachel: I work everything. I do six blogs a week, and I do all of them at least a week before. I have what’s called an “editorial schedule,” where I have the next eight weeks planned for every one of those blogs. Obviously, if something comes up that’s necessary for me to write about, one of those blogs will be migrated to another space. There’s definite value in planning those things in advance, because if I wasn’t doing that, I would be stressed out all the time. “Oh my gosh, what am I going to write this week?” When you have a recurring thing, even if it’s just a newsletter or whatever, there’s so much value in brainstorming those things and scheduling them out. Even if you don’t write it yet, knowing what the topic is is a huge relief.
- 17:28 Ben: When it comes to client work, scheduling out ahead of time is great, too. Everything can feel urgent, and some of that has to do with being in Scarcity Mindset. If you feel like your livelihood depends on you adhering to your clients’ schedule needs, you want to be in a place where you can afford to say, “I know that you really want to meet with me this week, but this week’s already scheduled.” We’ll get into that a little bit more. Schedule out as far as you can—two weeks is probably good. Three weeks might be pushing it a little bit.
- 18:25 Rachel: I have experience as an editor in the newspaper world, where we scheduled out features weeks and weeks in advance. That’s how you plan for pictures and all of that, so that’s what I bring to the table.
- 18:44 Ben: On the seanwes podcast yesterday, we were chuckling about this. We showed up, and the topic had to do with building and buying your life in cash. It had to do with our values around debt and that kind of thing. Now, for the all of the seanwes network shows, we’re scheduled out pretty far in advance by necessity. There are a lot of people doing different things to make an episode publish. Sean said something like, “Thanks past Sean.” This is a cool concept for me. One of the guys I follow, Shawn Blanc, recently came out with a course. He had some prelaunch material that was fantastic.
- 19:42 One of the practices that he encouraged us to do was to set out our clothes the night before. When you wake up and you’re groggy and tired, wiping sleep from your eyes, you don’t have to think about what you’re going to wear that day. It’s like your past self is giving your future self a gift.
When you schedule ahead, your past self gives your future self the gift of not wondering what to do with your time, because your time is predetermined for you.
- 20:31 Rachel: When it’s 5pm on Monday and I have to schedule all of my posts for the following week, I don’t want to be thinking, “Oh my gosh, what am I going to write?” You enter a panic mode, because you know you’ve committed to doing those things, and now you have to figure out what those things are going to be. That’s part of my personality, too. I enjoy planning ahead.
- 20:57 Ben: Shawn Blanc’s course is called The Focus Course. It’s such an amazing clarity to be able to show up and not have to worry about what you’re going to do.
Find Ways to Work More Efficiently
- 21:28 This is another way that we can free up time. When you work more efficiently, we’re talking about focusing and getting more done in a shorter amount of time. Somewhere, there’s a ceiling to how quickly you can work. There’s a ceiling to how quickly you can type. If you’re doing a rough draft, you can type faster than when you’re doing a final draft, editing, and that kind of thing. There’s definitely a ceiling somewhere, but I find it helpful to continue asking the question, “How can I make my work more efficient, so I can get more done in a shorter amount of time?”
- 22:22 Rachel: There’s a lot of value in tracking your productivity. This might be more tangible for someone like a writer, but I look at these work blocks that I have and how many words I wrote on a rough draft for a particular project. I compare it to last week’s and what happened, if there were any distractions, if there was something else on my mind, or if something happened that morning that threw off the whole day. I track those things so that I know and can plan for those things in a better way.
- 23:02 Ben: It’s good to know how outside circumstances and events can influence your productivity on a given day.
- 23:11 Rachel: It’s really helpful for a person like me to know, “Okay, I’m limited by these things.” I’m a very focused person, and I would be a workaholic if I could be, if I didn’t have kids and a husband to set me straight.
It’s important to know where your efficiency ceilings exist.
- 23:43 Ben: Sometimes, you don’t even know whether or not there is a ceiling for what you’re doing. With writing, it’s a little bit easier. I thrive on creative stuff, so when I’m doing something creative, I get in a flow and I can really focus. When I do tedious tasks, I time myself. I see how quickly I can work through those things to get to the stuff that I really enjoy doing. It makes a game out of it, it becomes more fun that way. No matter what creative thing you’re working on, there’s always going to be some aspect of it that’s going to be a little bit tedious. I want to waste as little time as possible on the tedious stuff.
- 24:51 Rachel: Those things can hijack a whole day.
- 24:56 Ben: Pete, in the chat, said, “This sounds a lot like Pomodoro.” Pomodoro is a technique for timing yourself. Specifically, you get 25 minutes of focused work and then you get a five minute break.
- 25:15 Rachel: I time myself for an entire 90 minutes. It’s probably not the way you’re supposed to do it, but that’s my peak productivity.
- 25:26 Ben: It’s kind of similar in nature. You’re timing yourself, and you’re racing against yourself to see how quickly you can get stuff done—not in a way where you produce sloppy results. You know, “I’m going to nail this whether I sit here and let it drag on or hustle through it as quickly as possible.”
- 25:53 Rachel: For my personality type, I feel a little bit panicked if there’s any racing. When I’m timing myself, I’m not in the mindset of seeing how fast I can get it done or racing. It’s just to let me know that it’s time to go on to the next project.
- 26:13 Ben: I’m talking about for someone like me, who finds the tedious stuff really difficult. That slows me down because my brain wants to be more engaged, and because it’s not a very interesting or creative task, my brain tends to wander. If I make it a game, that keeps me a little bit more interested, and I can focus better.
Batch similar kinds of work together to be more efficient.
- 26:56 One of the ways I do this with my video stuff is that, between the two of us, we have several different things every week that we shoot video for, so instead of doing that on different nights, we consolidate all of the shooting.
- 27:15 Rachel: We have a Friday night date, and we record.
- 27:21 Ben: The main idea here is that, for any task, regardless of how big or small, there’s always some set up or ramp up to starting that task, and there’s always some cycle down or tear down. With video stuff, it’s more tangible. I have to set up the lights, the tripod, and get everything ready to record. Even something as simple as opening up a program on your computer and making sure your workspace is ready to go, if you have to do that for multiple things at different times, if you keep revisiting the same tasks but you have to cycle up and cycle down too often, it takes some of your focus away and it’s not as efficient. As much as you can, batch like things together, because that will help free up some of your time.
- 28:24 You can also work more efficiently. I’ll give an example from the work I do with video editing. I was finding that I was redoing the same thing every time I started a new project. I would have to pull this file over here and set up the space and make sure these levels were correct, and after four or five times of doing this, I realized that I’m doing the same work over and over again. I don’t have to. If I save a template or an instance of this that I can open, it’s all ready to go. Even if that saves me one minute of working time, over the course of several weeks doing this work, that saves me quite a bit of time.
- 29:24 That’s just one example. There’s a program I use called TextExpander, and TextExpander allows you to program your computer to take some kind of action when you type a certain set of keys. For this podcast, we have a newsletter that goes out every week, and when the newsletter goes out, there’s a link to the forums where we discuss specific episodes, whatever went out that week. I set up that forum post every week. I have a TextExpander “snippet” or a “macro,” and and I can copy the url for the episode and type “itburl.” It pastes the episode with the code wrapping around it, adds the extra text that I need, and then it puts the curser on the spot where all I have to do is type in the episode number.
- 30:44 It does all of this extra work for me. Sure, I could do it. The basic idea is that if you do something more than once and there’s a way to automate that, it’s worth spending the time to do that. There are two episodes I want you to go listen to. The first is about automating and workflows and the other is about batching (Related: seanwes podcast e193 Automating When You Can’t Afford to Hire Yet & e141 Optimizing Your Lifetstyle for Better Productivity).
Create Margin to Free Up Your Time
- 31:57 You have to actually schedule margin. For those who don’t know what it is, margin is time you’ve scheduled, typically between other scheduled tasks, that you’ve set aside as time where you don’t have to do anything. It can be 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour if you need to. It sounds counterintuitive, because you’re adding something to your schedule that doesn’t seem to serve a purpose, and it’s ultimately taking time away from your ability to do other things.
- 32:50 I believe in margin because when you have that space, it helps your brain to switch gears more efficiently between tasks. That way, you can go into focus mode faster and work more efficiently. As a practice, having margin and space between tasks helps you have more mental clarity overall, and that’s going to help you be more efficient. It gives you an excuse to say no, which is something we’re going talk about in a little bit. Rachel, I want you to talk about margin and why it’s so difficult for you.
- 33:34 Rachel: I think it’s because a lot of my tasks are very similar. I don’t feel like I need that time to readjust to a new thing. I have four 90-minute work blocks that I’m able to do every day, because of our schedule, which is about four and a half hours of work. In order to get the most out of that four and a half hours, I feel like I need to schedule everything. I’ve found, also, that I can use two of those for writing blocks, and then my brain is fried. I’ll use another one of those to catch up on business stuff or do some editing, which doesn’t require the same kind of attention as creating a story from nothing. Those things are margin time for me, because I’m not trying to get the most done in that hour and a half block. I have these few tasks that I need to do in these sections, and I can take my time with them if I want to.
- 34:48 Ben: So, you have fake margin?
- 34:55 Rachel: I have justified margin. Because the time is so limited, it feels really hard to build that into it. It would be different if we had kids in childcare and we didn’t split our days down the middle. It would be different for both of us. With the reality of our situation right now, I feel like I need to use every single minute that I get. It’s really hard, because I go from taking care of the kids in the morning straight into work. Then I get to dinner time, and I just want to go to bed. I don’t want to sit down to a rowdy dinner and then wrestle kids into bed. I can definitely see the value of margin.
- 35:58 Ben: Even if you’re moving to a task that’s unrelated and you’re able to switch gears, your brain is experiencing this constant state of being on without the hope of space. I’m not saying this to make Rachel feel guilty for not having margin, but it’s important to understand the cost of that. There’s the stress of working non-stop and not taking a break.
If you don’t have the discipline of margin, it can steal your focus, because your brain naturally seeks space.
- 36:47 You might find it more difficult to stay focused on what you’re doing. Your brain might seek out distractions more readily. It’s that constant state of being on. I’m talking about Rachel’s schedule now. She goes immediately from that to dinner time, which is crazy, and right after dinner comes the nighttime routine, which is crazy. Finally, if the kids don’t come into our room five times, she gets to read and unwind then. The stress of that over a sustained period of time, not having rest, is costing her in ways she’s not aware of. Eric in the chat said, “After the kids are down, ‘Finally, I can do some stuff!’ And then crash out on the bed.” That’s exactly how it goes, Eric.
- 38:28 Rachel: I usually hide myself away in a book. Poor Ben says, “Don’t you want to talk about today?” Nope.
Margin can afford us the ability to say no, especially when it’s scheduled.
- 38:55 Ben: Where you schedule margin, put that on your calendar. Put it in a color like red, so you remember that you can’t touch it. It’s got to stay there. Block it out. In last week’s episode, we talked about saying no so you can accomplish your goals (Related: e033 Saying No to Things That Don’t Serve Your Goals). Any time anyone asks something of you, wants to schedule something with you, or calls you on the phone, I almost want your first reaction, before you think about it, to be, “No.” “Do you guys want to go to dinner next month?” No. I almost want that for you, because I would rather start with no and work my way to yes than to start with maybe and have to work my way to no.
- 40:15 I want for your time to be protected. We talk about this on the seanwes podcast all the time—the best way you can make more time is to say no to things. This week for us is a great example of what not to do. We said yes to way too many things. They were good things. It was fun letting the boys go to a soccer camp, and it’s going to be fun this weekend helping Rachel’s parents move into a new house. That will be fun.
- 40:56 Rachel: There’s no rest time at all. I think this is where I justify the whole margin thing, because I intentionally set aside our whole weekends as a rest time for me. That’s my margin time, even though that’s not what Ben was talking about. When we have weekends where we’re constantly running, I don’t do well with those. I get to Sunday after church, and I feel like I need to be in bed for the rest of the day.
- 41:38 Ben: Exercise that muscle. It’s okay to say no. It’s even okay to say, “Probably not,” or, “I’m not sure. Let me get back to you.” Many of us experience this. We have this feeling that, when someone asks something of us, we have to do it. Some people don’t. They’re fine saying no, and they don’t have to have a reason. Some of us have a real anxiety, where if they ask, we feel like we have to say yes. We like to be accommodating. I want that so much for you because I want that for myself. I would love for my first reaction to be, “I don’t think I can. Probably not. If I figure out a way that I can, I’ll let you know.”
- 42:47 This is where it gets out of the realm of being selfish and gets into being good for everyone being involved. When you say yes to something, you really want to be able to say yes to it. If you’re not good at saying no, your yes holds less weight because you’re overextended. You can’t focus as much as you should. You’re not leaving time to pursue your passion and find fulfillment in that. I encourage you, not only for yourself, to exercise your no muscle, but also for the sake of the people and projects you will say yes to.
- 43:48 I asked the question in the chat room, “What are some ways you create extra time in your schedule to pursue your goals?” I got a few good answers I wanted to share. One of the first responses we got was from Robert, and I totally resonated with this. He said, “We’ve gotten very good at going into hyper-focus mode when the opportunity presents itself rather than scheduling it in.” I’m a big fan of scheduling, but I also like the flexibility of this, the commitment to “when we have a moment.” Kids are such a wild card. That’s what he said before, “For us, the kids are such a wild card. Any time we attempt to schedule effectively, it sometimes feels like they crave routine but are the first ones to want to break that routine.” You thrive on routine, and yet you get upset when we try to keep you in a routine. Kids just don’t make sense sometimes.
- 45:03 Rachel: I take a notebook everywhere, because if there’s a moment at the park when they don’t want me to play chase with them, I always have something I can jot down. There’s always something you can do.
- 45:16 Ben: That flexibility is good. I like scheduling as a default, but you can’t account for everything. Decide ahead of time, “When I have the ability to be focused and use my time efficiently, I recognize that and I will do that.”
- 45:37 Rachel: One of the things that has helped us, being the parents of so many kids, is having a weekly scheduling meeting where we tell each other things that are on the horizon. With the kids’ schools or whatever, if we have things coming up, like next week we have an early release day, we talk about those things and how that’s going to change up the schedule. Those things are good to plan for.
- 46:04 Ben: That really does help a lot, just knowing how the various activities throughout the week are going to affect your time. Robert brought this in also, to add to what he said before. He said that one of the things that’s worked for them in the past is identifying one or two things you want to work on when an opportunity opens up. You’ve got your task list, and you’ve got as many things scheduled out as you can, but it might be good to go through and identify what you will do with time if it opens up. Ask yourself how focused you can be with that time. If you can be fully focused, there are certain tasks you can do.
- 47:11 If you’re at the park watching the kids, they’re playing, and you’re kind of having to keep an eye on them, then you can’t completely focus on something. Knowing the level of focus required and what tasks fit into those categories is really helpful. Have those ready to go in case an opportunity presents itself. Scott shared that he’s a person who loves to maintain a schedule, because it keeps him on track and he can easily see his progress. He wrote, “When we had Madi, I found that my scheduling got tossed out the window.”
- 47:57 Rachel: Especially babies. They require a lot more work… I don’t know if I can say that. We have three year old twins.
- 48:10 Ben: It’s just different at different stages. He said, “It was a big change for me, but I’ve learned to accept it and enjoy my time with my family. Things might have slowed down a little bit, but as Robert Guzo points out, focusing your time when you have it really helps.” He was reinforcing what Robert said, but I also love what he’s saying here.
We try to make our time more efficient and free up our time to pursue our passions, but we also find fulfillment in the time we spend with our family.
- 48:47 When we feel fulfilled in those areas, when we’re approaching our work, it helps us have more focus and clarity. We’re a more whole person. I’m a big believer in the relationship between work, family, and the things we do to take care of ourselves and how those things play into one another. When we have a healthy family life, our work is better. When we are working hard and we’re doing work that we love, we’re finding fulfillment and adding value to the world, our family is better for that. When we take care of ourselves, every aspect of our lives benefits. It’s important to see the relationship of those things and not try to be more efficient with your time at the expense of taking care of yourself or spending time with your family. Those are important pieces of that puzzle.
Don’t Overload Your Schedule
- 50:03 One of the questions was from Eric. He asks, “Do you set a time for you to concentrate on your work? How do you communicate with your family? Especially working at home, there’s always a huge chance to get interrupted. How do you let them know that you’re working, and they should respect that?”
- 50:21 Rachel: We have this problem every now and then. We’ve trained our kids to know when Mom is on duty and when Dad is on duty. We have a two story house, which makes it a little easier for us. We hole away in our bedroom, and the kids stay downstairs or go outside. That helps. I wear headphones, so if a kid does walk into the room and tries to talk to me, I say, “I can’t hear you! Go talk to Daddy!”
- 50:55 Ben: That does help. Communication and talking with your family is really important. A few episodes ago, we really went in depth on this, so I’ll encourage you to listen to that episode (Related: e032 How to Get Your Family On Board With Your Dreams). It’s a great episode to listen to if you’re trying to make more room in your schedule to pursue your dreams, but you feel like your family just isn’t quite there with you or they don’t understand what you’re doing. That gives great guidance for getting them on board and helping them to not just tolerate your pursuit, but to be supportive of it.
- 51:41 There’s one more question from Simon. He asks, “How do you avoid task scheduling overload? I’ve tried to do apps, whiteboards, post-it notes, etc. Each task method seems to be out of favor after a certain number of weeks.”
- 52:00 Rachel: I tend to over-schedule things because, whenever I see a task that needs to be done, I know all of the steps that need to be taken to do it, and it’s a lot of steps. I’ve had to train myself to leave a task unfinished until I have the next block of time to work on it. That’s really hard to train yourself to do, if you have a personality like mine that does not like to leave things unfinished. It’s been one of the best things I’ve trained myself to do, because the reality is that I don’t have 12 hours a day to work. I have to be okay with leaving emails unsent in my draft inbox folder.
- 52:52 I only have 15 minutes a day to work on that. It feels like it leaves a lot undone, but I also have a place where I put all of that in print format so I remember exactly what it is. It doesn’t have to live in my brain. It’s been helpful for me to train myself to say, “This is unfinished and I have no more time to work on it, but I need to move on to the next thing now.”
- 53:24 Ben: I think part of his question had to do with the time set aside to schedule things, that specific time of writing out your tasks and writing out your schedule. What Rachel said is also really valuable. I’ve been so caught up in the building of the schedule that I can spend two or three hours on it. If you’re looking for a system that works for you, there’s some time that goes into that. You’re not going to figure it out overnight.
Don’t try to figure out a scheduling system all at once.
- 54:23 It’s okay to open up a new scheduling app you’ve never used before and give it your best shot, but cut yourself off after a certain amount of time. Say, “I’m not allowed to spend more than an hour on this,” or, “I’m not allowed to spend more than 30 minutes on this.” Once you get to that 30 minutes, maybe you’ve only gotten through Tuesday on your scheduling, but that’s okay. You’re still learning how to use the tools, and that’s better than not doing anything at all. That’s better than stressing yourself out and going overboard. Find a balance there.
- 55:01 Rachel: Some industries are probably harder to schedule than others. Simon said, “Programming is hard to schedule all tasks,” and I can totally understand that. I know that when Ben has built websites, he’s met with resistance that he didn’t plan on meeting that has nothing to do with families and kids.
- 55:24 Ben: There’s an element of the unknown. You can’t always account for everything that will come up. In another sense, sometimes your tasks have to be more general. You could go into sub-tasks and make it really granular. Think of your project as a mountain. If you try to break that mountain up into pieces of sand, that’s going to take you a long time to do. Maybe you can break off a boulder, and that’s enough for you to make progress on it. The point of scheduling isn’t to have a nice-looking, complete schedule. The point of scheduling is to help you make progress on something. Find the balance between how specific you need to get on your tasks and what’s good enough to give you the momentum you need to keep moving forward.