As 2018 commences, most people are giving thought to their New Years' Resolutions, some are already wondering where did it go?? Alongside resolutions, there are a number of ways that we can improve the way we use our time and energy in the New Year. Of course, sticking to resolutions is all about building habits. And what better way to plan, develop, and track those habits than to set aside time for them in your schedule? Setting aside time to create a schedule once a week is a habit I would highly recommend starting in 2018.
In this particular scheduling technique, known as zero-based planning, you'll want to use a calendar or daily planner--Google calendar or similar apps are perfect because they can send you email reminders as you progress through the day. The zero in a zero-based schedule represents the unscheduled time on your calendar. Put another way, your calendar should be entirely full. This ensures that no time slips away toward tasks that you did not plan yourself. Of course, things come up. That is totally fine! Time is the ultimate equalizer, we all have the same amount. Since you have a finite amount of time, you should start treating your time like the precious resource it is and budget it accordingly.
Here are three great reasons to adopt a zero-based schedule this year.
1. Zero-Based Scheduling Keeps You Focused on Your Goals
When you create a zero-based schedule, everything you plan on doing is put on the schedule, including sleeping, meal preparation, eating, commuting, and taking breaks. This may seem like overkill, but trust me, it is not. This is especially true if you are the type of person who lets a simple social media update turn into an hour-long conversation in the comments or who unintentionally spends the evening binge-watching Netflix originals that you don't even particularly enjoy. Because you schedule in the breaks in a zero-based calendar, you realize that you are only going to watch one episode of your favorite show after dinner tonight because that will allow you to dedicate thirty minutes to writing in that new blog you created, and get a full eight hours of sleep.
Zero-based scheduling once a week is perfect for supporting goal-oriented habits because you have your goals in mind while planning for the whole week. This helps you allot the time you need to reach daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals, while preventing you from just going through the days in mindless inertia.
2. It Allows You to Budget Your Free Time Realistically
When creating their resolutions and goals, most people make the mistake of assuming that just because their resolution is important to them they will be able to make time for it through sheer will. Of course, this assumption is false and often leads to guilt. The internal dialogue goes something like this: "I want to get fit this year and I am incredibly motivated to get to the gym. That's doable. I can just go in the morning on my way to work." That seems reasonable enough, but in practice, perhaps you stayed up a few hours later than you intended because that movie you have been wanting to watch was on HBO, and the next morning you hit the snooze button a few too many times so you missed your chance to go in the morning. You think, "Oh well, that's fine, I'll go after work today." But it turns out you must attend a meeting that runs late, just like it does every Tuesday, but you forgot it was a Tuesday when "planning" for the gym. And now you are getting home hours later than expected, exhausted and hungry, and you forgot you had to pick up pasta and kale from the grocery store, and the gym is the last thing on your mind. Despite your best intentions, things can quickly spin out of control if you have not adequately prepared.
This is not a matter of being weak-willed, but a matter of not budgeting time efficiently. With a zero-based schedule you would have known that a specific time in the morning was the only time you could have made it to the gym that day because all of your other time was booked with essential and work-related activities. You would have realized early on that you needed to turn off the television, maybe adding it to your schedule for another, less busy day. While using a zero-based schedule, you might have instead packed your gym bag and slept soundly, allowing yourself the time necessary to get ready for the gym in the morning before work, making for a much less hectic day.
3. It Makes Your Time Feel More Abundant and Useful
When you write and practice a zero-based schedule, it will amaze you how much time you are blessed with each day. Even on the days when you run behind schedule, you will notice that an hour is a huge chunk of time and more than enough to make a considerable dent in your work. Unexpected emergencies will inevitably occur in your life, but you know exactly which activities the emergencies cut into and you can easily schedule those for another day, by cutting at the less essential blocks of time later in the week.
With the sense of direction that a fully-planned day will give you, you will feel more at ease and be better able to focus, ultimately leading to a greater volume of better work. The first few times you create your zero-based schedule, you may forget to schedule in the more menial tasks of everyday life, but eventually, it will become second nature, and perhaps the most useful habit in accomplishing your resolutions this year. Just be sure to set aside some time to plan your week, my favorite is Sunday evening!
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If you have any questions on how to get started or would like to share how zero-based scheduling can help you accomplish your goals, contact me here.