Scheduling everything may seem rigid. “That’s the opposite,“ Villalobos said. “By putting things on your calendar, you can focus on what you need to do in the moment. It allows you to be far more present.“
With more people converting to electronic calendars or hovering between paper and online options, how we coordinate our schedules is in flux. But for balance, it’s often better to track personal and professional in one place.
Sharon Teitelbaum, a Boston-based work-life coach, says to calendar all important life events, including birthdays. It may sound like common sense to calendar your son’s birthday, but people forget and schedule business travel, she has found. She also advises putting work events in your calendar as far in advance as possible and tasks that lead up to them. “You don’t want to agree to host a dinner party the weekend before a work retreat.“
For many busy people, the traditional way of scheduling needs to change from calendaring a due date to creating a timeline. If you have a big project you need to have completed by Feb. 15, Teitelbaum suggests breaking it into weekly tasks leading up to that date. “People vastly underestimate how long things take and the number of interruptions they have to contend with,“ said says.
Julie Morgenstern, who created the Balanced Life Planner for Levenger, an office products company, says that even on a daily basis people don’t plan realistically. “By bravely recognizing the limits of each day and how long each to-do on your list will take, we can see in advance what will or won’t fit into our calendar, and become more strategic,“ she said.
Because our attention spans are shorter, Morgenstern says we need to schedule with that in mind and “break down our work into smaller pieces to fit the smaller windows of time within which we can focus.“ For example, if you have a six-hour project, break it into a series of six one-hour steps. “It’s easier to resist distractions when you have something specific and measurable to focus on for an hour at a time.“