Episode 30: How to Make an Inconsistent Work Schedule Work For You

Do you struggle with an unpredictable schedule?

Is it keeping you from finishing your to-do lists or moving forward on your goals?

I hear you. I’ve been there, too.

An inconsistent work schedule can seriously hinder both your productivity and your progress. And recently, I’ve heard from several readers who are struggling with this exact obstacle, which helped inspire the topic of this podcast. 

So whether you’re a work from home parent with a child who won’t nap; you work in an open office plan with a bombardment of distractions and requests; or you work in an on-call position with unpredictable hours, this post is for you.

We are going to explore how you can work with your inconsistent schedule.

What you can think about it.

How you can plan for it.

And most importantly, how you can move forward even when your schedule changes.

Are you ready? 

Great!

Then be sure to stream the podcast below or check it out in your favorite podcasting app!

Prefer to read? No problem! Keep scrolling for the full transcript.

Let’s do this!

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST HERE!

IN THIS EPISODE, YOU WILL DISCOVER…

  • How to think differently about your inconsistent schedule
  • The importance of remembering your ability to choose
  • My favorite strategy to plan for an inconsistent schedule so you can stick with your goals no matter what

LINKS FROM THE PODCAST

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QUESTION:

Do you struggle with an unpredictable schedule? What is your favorite strategy to work around changing plans? Let me know below!

Transcript: How to Make an Unpreictable Work Schedule Work For You

Hey, friends! Welcome to episode 30 of the podcast. How are ya today? 

I’ve got to tell you, I am feeling so stoked right now because I am gearing up to teach an amazing webinar called Mastering Your Motivation both this Wednesday and Thursday. 

Mastering Your Motivation Webinar

So if you’re listening to this episode the week the podcast comes out, the week of February 17th, and you haven’t yet signed up, make sure that you do! Head to imbusybeingawesome.com/motivation and grab your spot to learn all of my favorite tools for generating motivation for yourself as you work toward your goals.

6 Weeks to Success Course Launch

And in addition, I am also super excited because my 6 Weeks to Success course is launching this week. This is my 6-week goals course, which teaches you all the strategies you need to know in order to both set and reach your goal in six weeks, which is SO fun! 

And the doors open on Tuesday and all of the fun bonuses and specials will be available for one week, so if you are ready to finally move forward on your goals and see the results that you want in your life, definitely head over to 6weekstosuccess.com and it is the number 6 – 6weekstosuccess.com and check out all of the details. 

Or you can head to the show notes for today’s episode, imbusybeingawesome.com/episode30 and you will find the link to all of the course and launch details right there.

Alright, onto the podcast for today.

How to Make an Inconsistent Work Schedule Work For You

So today I am super excited to talk with you about working around unpredictable, inconsistent schedules and unexpected plans. And more specifically, how you can stay on track with your goals and your to-do list even when your schedule is less-than-consistent.

You see, I’ve been hearing from a lot of people recently on Instagram, and over email, and in the I’m Busy Being Awesome Facebook group – which, by the way, if you’re not in there yet, what the heck? Come join us! Just search for I’m Busy Being Awesome on Facebook and request to join. Super simple.

Anyway, I have been hearing that one of the biggest challenges when it comes to working toward goals and staying consistent with your schedules is that many of you have unpredictable schedules. And because of that unpredictability, it is hard for you to plan your schedule let alone stick with it.

Unpredictable Schedule

So maybe you are a parent of a young child who’s not in school yet, and since you work from home, you have a hard time predicting when you’ll be able to sit down and work on the projects that you set for yourself that day.

Or maybe you are in an open office situation where people are constantly coming and going and dropping by your desk and interrupting what you’re doing. And perhaps your job requires that whenever anybody comes up to you and asks for help, you need to immediately drop what you’re doing and tend to that person’s request.

Or maybe you are working in a position that is on call. For example, I recently spoke with an on-call doctor. And while she tries to set a schedule to work toward her personal goals outside of work time, she also finds herself feeling frustrated because she feels like she has no control over her time. She doesn’t know when she’ll get called in. She doesn’t know what her days will look like. So she feels like planning is just a waste of time and energy.

How to Handle Unpredictable Schedules

So we all have these different situations pop up in our lives at one time or another. And some of us more often than others. And when these situations do come up, if we’re not careful, they have the potential of slowing us down. Or at least it certainly feels that way.

And that’s exactly what I want to talk about today. How can we work with these unexpected situations? What can we think about them? How can we plan for them? And most importantly, how can we continue moving forward even when they happen?

You Are In Control

Now, the first thing that I want to talk about when it comes to unexpected changes in our schedule or an unpredictable work environment, is the simple truth that you don’t actually have to do anything. 

But before you jump through the podcast and tell me I’m wrong, let me explain what I mean by that.

Because if you really think about. And you’re really honest with yourself, there is nothing in your life that you have to do. Now, I am not saying that there won’t be consequences if you don’t choose to do something. But really, you don’t have to do anything you don’t choose to do. That’s the entire idea behind the concept of human free will, right?

So you don’t have to go to that meeting. You don’t have to say yes to joining that committee. You don’t have to drop what you’re doing and tend to your boss’s requests. These are all choices that you choose to make every day. And while it might seem like you have no choice, in reality, you do.

You could say no. Again, you may have negative consequences. But you could say no.

Human Free Will and Choice

Now please hear me – I am not saying that you should say no to everything. And I’m not saying that you should only do the things that are easy and feel good. That is not what I am saying.

The reason why I am telling you this information – and reminding you about this idea of free will –  is that I want you to take back the power in each of your situations. I want you to stop feeling like the victim to your circumstances. And I want you to instead own each of your situations. 

Take Back Your Power

Because when you take back that power, you are able to take action from a place of confidence. And when you take back that power, you are often able to follow through on the different tasks, appointments, meetings, and projects, with a better attitude.

Let me give you some examples.

Taxes

Let’s think about something like paying taxes. Now let’s be honest, most of us don’t get super excited about paying our taxes, right? And technically, you don’t have to pay them. But, you will have consequences if you don’t. And chances are you would rather pay the taxes than deal with the consequences. 

So rather than thinking to yourself, I have to pay my taxes and I don’t want to, why not think about that differently? Why not think to yourself, I want to pay my taxes. I want to avoid getting in trouble with the IRS. I am choosing to do this for myself.

Now, of course, taxes are an extreme example, but the same is true for every situation.

Child Home from School

Maybe instead, your daughter has a cold and she had to stay home from school. And while you had originally planned on working on a project all day for work, now your plans have changed and you’re going to take care of her and bring her into the doctor.

Now, remember, these plans didn’t just change without you making a decision about it. You didn’t have to do this. You could have had your partner stay home with her. You could have had your partner take her to the doctor. You could have called your mom, or your sister, or a friend, to help you out. But you didn’t. 

Instead, you chose to take care of your daughter. You wanted to take care of your daughter. You made the decision to shift your priorities for the day.

Work Request

On the other hand, maybe you have a big project that you’re creating for work. And yesterday, your colleague came up to you and asked if you’d be willing to add another project to your list. They told you they’re feeling a little bit swamped, and they could use the extra help. 

Now, you have zero interest in working on this project, and your time is already dedicated to working on your current project, but you’re feeling a little bit obligated. You think you need to say yes to this so that you don’t disappoint your colleague. 

Now, in this situation – and in all the situations I’ve mentioned – it might feel like you have no choice in the matter. It might feel like your colleague is calling the shots. But once again, you are the one choosing. You are the one choosing to say yes. You are the one choosing to put aside your current project and make something else your priority.

Own Your Decisions

And taking a moment to get really clear on your decisions is so important. Taking a moment to truly own your decisions and recognize why you are choosing to do these different things in your life is key. 

Because it not only helps us recognize where our priorities are, but it also helps us get honest with ourselves. It helps us recognize where our time is going and how we are choosing to spend that time.

Because when we do this, it allows us to check in with our reasons and make sure we like them.

Do You Like Your Reasons

In fact, this is something I ask myself often when I am faced with a decision. Do I like my reasons for making this decision?

Mother Caring for Daughter

If we are thinking about the mom who decided to take care of her sick daughter and take her to the doctor, we could ask her: “do you like your reasons for doing this?” “Do you like your reasons for taking care of your daughter instead of focusing on that project for work?” 

Chances are, she does. Chances are she would say yes. I do want to do this. This is my priority. This is a choice that I am happy to make.

Co-worker Request

On the other hand, if we ask the woman who felt obligated to drop her project so she wouldn’t disappoint her colleague, she might have a different answer. If we asked her whether she liked her reasons for doing this, she might not.

And knowing this about yourself is so important. Because knowing that you are in control of every decision you make allows you to take back so much power in your life. It allows you to make a decision from a place of confidence. And it allows you to think about your circumstances in new ways.

Frustration About An Inconsistent Work Schedule

Because a lot of the clients I work with often beat themselves up when they don’t follow through on a plan. Or when something comes up and they change their schedule, they feel really frustrated. They either feel frustrated at the circumstance, or they feel frustrated at another person who “made” them do something different.

But by simply reminding yourself: “Hey, I have a choice here. I am the one who gets to make a decision. I get to choose how I proceed.” This knowledge helps to alleviate some of that negativity. Because it allows you to tune into yourself and to check in with your priorities.

It helps you ensure that you truly like your reasons for why you are allowing that unexpected event to alter your plans.

Check-In With Your Priorities 

So whether your boss asks you to add another project to your to-do list. Or your child doesn’t nap in the afternoon. Or a friend drops for an unexpected visit, you can remind yourself: I have a choice here. I get to choose what I want to do. And I am going to make sure that I like my reasons for the decision that I ultimately make.

How to Work With an Unpredictable Work Schedule

All right, so now that we’ve taken back that control and we recognize that these decisions truly are our own, what are some practical ways that we can work around these more unpredictable situations?

What can you do if you are an on-call doctor, or a work-from-home parent with small children, or an employee with a very demanding boss and an unpredictable schedule? How can you ensure that you still have time for the projects, goals, and activities, that are important to you?

Create an Ideal Schedule – Macro View

First of all, I like to create an ideal general schedule for the week. It’s basically the macro view of your weekly schedule that includes both when you’re working and when you’re resting. And in fact, I recommend scheduling in when you are resting and practicing self-care, and having family time first and then including the work time after that.

And this ideal schedule might change, and that’s okay. But it gives you a general framework in which you’re going to work.

Work Schedule

So maybe in an ideal world when all goes according to plan, you are done working by 5 and you have the evenings for family time and quiet time once the kids go to bed. Maybe your weekends are open for going to the gym, doing an outing with the kids, a coffee date with a friend, etc.

And for work, on Monday Wednesday and Thursday mornings until noon you work on the major tasks that will move you closer toward your long-term goal. Perhaps Tuesday and Friday mornings until noon you work on the smaller tasks that need to get done but aren’t necessarily a focus on the long-term. Or maybe Tuesday and Friday mornings are the times that you work on projects that concern other people.

Maybe Monday and Wednesday afternoons are saved for meetings and client calls, and Tuesday Thursday and Friday afternoons are saved for something else. You get the idea.

Personal Schedule

Alternatively, maybe you have a side business or side hustle in addition to your regular nine-to-five. Or maybe you are working on personal goals like weight loss, or learning a new language, or learning a new skill like photography or painting. 

You can take this same approach, and create your ideal schedule in the hours that you are not at work. What does your Monday evening look like, what do you do ideally on Tuesday evening or Wednesday evening? What does your Saturday look like?

So again, it doesn’t matter what type of goal you working toward or what type of position you’re in. You can still apply this strategy of creating your ideal schedule. And you first schedule in your ideal rest time followed by your ideal work time. 

Identify Your Top Priorities for the Week

Once you have that worked out, then each week, identify the main results that you are going to produce each day or each week depending on what you’re working toward. We talked about this last episode, episode 29, about the importance of being results-driven. So rather than just listing a bunch of tasks that you need to do, you are now focusing on creating a result. You’re not just working on an expense report, you are producing a completed expense report and submitting it by 5 on Tuesday.

Now as you identify these top priorities, remember, you are identifying the most important things that need to get done each day. 

So make sure you’re asking yourself: “What are the top one to three things that are non-negotiable?” What will you get done no matter what? 

And as you create this list – I encourage you to check-in with yourself and ask: why am I choosing these as my top tasks for the day? What are the results that they will create for me in the long run?

Ideal Side Hustle Schedule

So let’s consider an example.

Let’s say you are balancing a side hustle and a regular nine-to-five, and you are working toward building up that side business. And maybe you’re non-negotiable projects for the week sound like this:

Monday evening I will write the draft of one 750 word blog post. And I will share one social media post that advertises last week’s article.

Tuesday evening I will create two email templates for sponsorship opportunities. I will also compile a list of 10 potential collaboration opportunities, which I will contact next Monday.

Wednesday evening I am getting a massage.

Thursday evening I will create the images, edit, and post Monday’s blog post.

Friday evening I am going to share one social media post about my freebie download to build my email list and relax the rest of the night.

Remember, these are your top priorities

Once you have that list, and you have identified the most important things that you need to get done throughout the week, then it’s time for the last step. 

Though before we go there, I also want to remind you that these results that you put on your list are the most important tasks. These are the things that you will get done no matter what. This doesn’t mean that you can’t do more once you have them completed. But these are the things that you must get done every day to ensure that you are progressing toward that end goal.

Inconsistent Work Schedule Strategies

Okay, so now what do we do when things pop up and we choose to interrupt our ideal schedule?

This is where the strategy of backup plans is key. And this is what is so critical for people who have more unpredictable schedules — like work-from-home parents, or on-call professions, or whatever it is that often demands your time.

And this is also why I made a point to highlight the importance of both scheduling your downtime first, and also identifying only the top one to three things that are most important for you to accomplish each day. 

Remember, we did not say, “what are all of the things that you would love to get done every day in an ideal world?” No. We identified the most important things.

And this is because you are going to create at least one to two backup plans for each of your top tasks. 

Back-up Plan Strategy

Now, of course, you know your schedule best. You know your children best. You know your demanding boss best. So keep your unique situation in mind, and create backup plans each week that will allow you to check those top priority items off your list even when you choose to change around your schedule.

Writing Schedule

So for example, if you are a writer, and you normally plan to do the bulk of your writing during nap time, but your kid will not go to sleep no matter what, what is your back-up plan for that day? When can you do it instead? 

Can you write in the evening after bedtime? Could you write when your partner gets home from work and you head into the office to write for a little while? Can you have a babysitter or your mother-in-law come over while you write for a little while?

Fitness Goals

Alternatively, if you are working toward a fitness goal and your plan is to go to the gym after work on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and also on Sunday morning, but you learn about an early evening meeting for Wednesday at work, what is your back-up plan? How will you work around this situation to ensure that you can stick with your non-negotiable plan? Can you go even later in the evening? Can you get up early and go before work on Wednesday? Maybe you could go on Tuesday or Thursday instead. And also, do you like your reason for changing your plan in the first place?

When you take time to deliberately consider each one of your main priorities for the week, and when you create a clear, realistic back-up plan for each one of those primary tasks, you help ensure that you get them done. Even when your schedule is unpredictable. Even when you don’t know whether or not you will have that time you’re anticipating.

Importance of Scheduling Down Time First

And again, this is another reason why we schedule our personal time first. Because often our back-up plan will involve working during that downtime. And most of us want that downtime, right?

So this way, when somebody asks us to change our original schedule to accommodate their new request – whether that is a boss asking you to stay for that late meeting, or a request from your kid’s teacher to volunteer for a field trip – it challenges you to really make a decision carefully. Is their request or is this new task important enough for you to rearrange your schedule and cut into your downtime? It this new situation important enough for you to shift things around and use your backup plan so you stay committed to those top priorities you set at the beginning of the week? 

And again, only you know the answer to this question. And as I mentioned earlier in the episode, one of the best ways to find that answer is to make sure that you like your reasons.

Do You Like Your Reasons?

Do you like the reasons why you are changing your plans? Many times you will like your reason, and other times you won’t. 

And by reminding yourself that you get to make those decisions every single time, you take back that power. 

And when you take back that power, you start making decisions deliberately. You no longer feel like a victim. 

Instead, you approach each day with confidence and control over your schedule and how you’re living your life.

6 Weeks to Success

Now, if you are a person who has some exciting goals, but you are struggling to navigate your busy schedule and the demands that come from all different directions. And if you struggle to juggle it all, then I also want to talk with you for just a minute about my 6 Weeks to Success course, which I mentioned at the beginning of the episode, is launching this week.

So if you are a person who keeps hearing that phrase “work smarter not harder,” but you can’t really figure out how to do it. Or if you find time to work on that personal goal or that project that lights you up, but you struggle with guilt because you think you should be doing all of the other tasks on your list. Or if you have started working toward one of your big goals, but you are overwhelmed with fear, and stress, and imposter syndrome, and you find yourself procrastinating instead, I’m telling you, this course is meant for you.

It’s For You

So 6 weeks to success is a course that combines all of my best strategies so that you can implement them immediately and start making progress toward those goals in your life.

Seriously, just imagine if you stopped procrastinating on the hard tasks, and you approached each of your days with focus and excitement and determination.

And imagine if you eliminated feeling confused, and overwhelmed, and stressed, and instead, you approach your goals with clarity and passion every day.

And imagine if you actually had time to work on these goals while also completing your to-do list and finding time for self-care and your family.

Because that’s exactly what I created in six weeks to success. It is a combination of practical strategies, mindset work, accountability, and coaching, that will help you take your goals to the next level. I’m telling you, you will blow your mind with what you accomplished in six weeks.

What is 6 Weeks to Success

So this is a comprehensive 6-week online course that helps you set and reach a major goal in six weeks. And as I mentioned, it’s not just productivity hacks and tips. I do share those strategies, but I also teach you the skills that you need to manage your mind, and to cut out the drama, and to start getting things done.

You learn how to finally stop procrastinating, and stop getting distracted, and you will learn my favorite ways to stay focused and effectively manage your time.

My Experience

These are strategies that I’ve used for years as I juggled my doctoral work with two to three part-time jobs, and they are the strategies I use now as I work both as a life coach and as a professor. Plus. they are strategies that I use with my own clients and have seen incredible results in their lives, too. 

And I am so excited to share these tools with you as well. So if you want to learn more about 6 weeks to success, I would love to have you head over to 6weekstosuccess.com. Again, that is the number 6 weekstosuccess.com all one word. 

You can learn more about the program, all of the different courses and modules and specifics, and if you’re listening during this week, you can also see all of the fun bonuses during launch week.

Mastering Your Motivation

And as one final plug, if you haven’t signed up for my Mastering Your Motivation webinar on either Wednesday or Thursday of this week, make sure you do! I offer some new, fun, actionable tools that you can use to start boosting your motivation that day as you continue moving forward on your goals. And to sign up for that webinar, just go to imbusybeingawesome.com/motivation.

And of course, you can get all of this information in the show notes at imbusybeingawesome.com/episode30

Alright, my friends, that’s gonna do it for us this week. So tell me, are you busy being awesome? If so, snap a picture, put it up on your Instagram stories, and tag me @imbusybeingawesome. I would love to cheer you on.

Also, if you want to keep getting more great strategies to increase your productivity, manage your time, and start living your best life, then be sure to hit the subscribe button on your podcast app now. And while you’re there, would you leave me a quick review?

And finally, do you know of anyone who would benefit from hearing this message? Or do you know of anyone who would love to learn more about Mastering Your Motivation or 6 Weeks to Success? Then be a rockstar and share it with a friend! 

Until next time, keep being awesome. I’ll talk to you soon.

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