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Tip: Don’t Overfill Your Schedule

This, and many of these other tips, are really just reminders to myself. I am notorious for overfilling my schedule and being optimistic that I can accomplish more than someone actually could in one day. Which is why I haven’t done a podcast in a couple of days!

I plan my day, I add approximate times it takes to do everything, and oftentimes, before noon, I’m behind and I want to work through my lunch, which then creates stress because I’m feeling like I’m behind and I’m not taking time for myself to do something like eat. But really what I did was I’m expecting too much of myself.

A good rule is filling only 60% of your schedule for the whole day with things to do. I know this, and when I practice it, I get everything done that I plan to, and sometimes I get more done. Yet I still try to overfill my schedule.

The reason why you only want to fill 60% of your day is because the other 40% naturally fills up with everything else you’ll have to do.

In your job, it fills up with phone calls, customers, needing to put out fires, and everything else that might come up. Sometimes the internet stops working and you have to either wait or you’re the one who has to fix it by unplugging it and plugging it back in, and then waiting until all of the little blinking lights are blinking correctly.

In your personal life, that 40% gets filled up with needing to call the doctor to make appointments and being put on hold while trying to verify insurance coverage.  If you have kids, it’s filled up even more with things you don’t plan! Depending on the stage of your kids, it could be filled up with surprise bath times and exploding diapers. It can fill up with helping them with last minute school projects they neglected to tell you about. And countless other interruptions.

If any task in interrupted, it actually takes an average of 23 minutes to get back on task!

I know that’s crazy, but it’s true. Your brain is thinking one thing, and then it gets distracted, then you have to retrace where you were before the interruption before you can continue. It’s the same as if you were hiking and decided to veer off the trail to look at something else, and then you have to find your way back to that spot on the trail—you can’t just jump ahead! And sometimes, your backtracking takes you back a few feet or a few yards from where you were, and you have to retrace those steps before you can move on.

That number is more for some complicated task that requires a lot of brain power like writing a proposal or doing research on a report or something. If you are cooking, you can generally quickly return to where you were stirring.  But on average, it takes that long for your brain to get back into the groove you were making beforehand and find that momentum you had before you were interrupted.

The only time interruptions actually help you with a task is if that interruption directly correlates with the task you’re doing. Gabbing about the weather pretty much never helps a task, unless you are a meteorologist.

Not only do unforeseen things pop up that need our immediate action, we sometimes forget that we are humans who need to take breaks! We need the bathroom on occasion. We need to yawn. We need to stretch our legs and go for a walk. Sometimes, you just need to talk to someone!

So make sure you’re not over scheduling yourself and that you’re taking the time you need for yourself throughout the day. Only schedule 60% of your day, and you will be able to accomplish everything you need to.