How to Make a Schedule You Will Actually Follow in 4 Easy Steps

Does it seem like no matter what you try, you can’t stick to your schedule?

You have every intention of tackling your to-do list.

You even plan out your day with time blocking.

But for whatever reason, you can’t seem to get everything done.

Or maybe you want to use a calendar with consistency.

You keep purchasing planner after planner, hoping you’ll find the one that will keep you organized.

But what you’re left with is a stack of partially used planners and you feel less organized than ever.

If you can relate to either scenario, then you’re in the right place.

Today I’m talking about a simple, 4-step process that you can implement today to help you finally create and stick to a schedule.

Put this iteration process into practice, and you’ll see steady growth in your productivity and efficiency as you discover what works best for you.

You can listen to episode 65 below, or stream it on your favorite podcasting app here:

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

Listen To The Podcast Here!

In This Episode, You Will Discover… 

  • Why the iteration process is so effective for establishing a consistent, productive schedule
  • The 2 essential parts of the process you might be missing
  • How to use the iteration process in your life so you finally follow through on the schedules you create. 

Links From The Podcast

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Episode 65: How to Create a Schedule You Will Actually Follow in 4 Easy Steps (Transcript)

Hey everybody. Welcome to episode 65 of the podcast. Today we are talking about all things scheduling, calendaring, and figuring out how to make a system that works for you.

Free Training

But before we dive into the material, I want to remind you that if you are listening to this episode in real-time, I am teaching a free training on Wednesday, October 21st at 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. It’s called how to make your ideas a reality. And I am so ridiculously excited about this training. 

I’m going to teach you some tools and strategies that you can use immediately after the training to start taking action and making your ideas real. 

You will learn how to organize all of your amazing ideas and decide what to work on first. You’ll learn how to create a plan so you don’t slip into overwhelm and you can get started without confusion. I’m going to teach some of the most sneaky pitfalls that keep us from moving forward on our big goals and how to avoid them. And finally, you’ll learn how to overcome any obstacle that gets in your way as you work toward making that idea reality. 

Seriously, it’s going to be so fun.

A lot of you busy-awesome listeners have already signed up, which is amazing! And if you want to join us, make sure you get your name on the list. I’m going to send out the zoom link and all the information to those of you who have raised her hands and said you want to join me. So it’s not too late to raise your hand, too, if you’re listening to this before October 21 at 2:00 est. Just head to imbusybeingawesome.com/training, add your name to the list, and I’ll send all the information your way.

Replay

Now, I know that I have listeners from all over the world. Which, by the way, is so awesome and mind-blowing. I love hearing from all of you all over the place. 

But I also know that this makes the whole time zone thing a bit of a challenge. So I will send out a limited-time replay for those of you who did sign up but couldn’t make it to the live training. If you can’t make it because it’s 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning your time, or you’re working, or whatever, no sweat. Just add your name to the list and I’ll send you the replay. 

But, I encourage you to attend the training live, if possible. Because I have an awesome bonus workbook that’s going to take this work even deeper.  So go add your name to the list: imbusybeingawesome.com/training.

Sticking to a Schedule with Iteration

All right. As I said, we are talking about all things scheduling, calendaring, and figuring out how to create our system but actually works for you and your schedule.

Because here’s the truth, 99.8% of people that I work with, wish that they had better control over their time. They wish they were more consistent about using a planner. And they wish they could create a schedule and actually stick to it. But for whatever reason, they don’t. 

Maybe they forget to create the schedule. Or maybe they have an unpredictable schedule because of their type of position or their current circumstances as a work-at-home parent or something. Maybe they always underestimate how long things will take, so they are always behind on the schedule that they do create… that was one of my biggest challenges as I figured out my calendaring technique.

But whatever the reason, the majority of my clients struggle with organizing their time, structuring their days and their weeks, and figuring out a schedule and routine that works for them. And this is especially true for my ADHD clients since we have the added bonus of having something called Time Blindness, where we literally have no idea how much time has gone by.

Today I want to share with you a really powerful approach to navigating this obstacle of struggling with your schedule. And learn how to finally overcoming it. And we are going to learn this through the process of iteration.

The Backstory of Iteration Inspiration

But let me give you a little backstory to explain my inspiration for this iteration approach.

I want to explain this approach because I have a feeling that some of you may be familiar with the iterative approach in other areas or other fields of work. And if that’s the case, you might be wondering how on Earth it would fit with calendaring and scheduling. Now, others of you might not be familiar with the concept yet, which is where I was a few months ago, too, so no sweat. Stick with me and I’ll explain.

I was talking with a friend of mine a couple of months ago who is a designer for an app. So she does all of the different design work to make this app…work. Honestly, that’s the extent of my understanding. But when she told me about a particular project she was working on with her team, she explained this iterative process that she and her team like to take when introducing a new design feature to the app.

Iterative Design

And the general idea behind iteration in the design world is that you have a new idea or a new concept that you want to introduce. When this happens, you then move into the first phase of iteration, which is the initial planning. So you decide what you want to do, how it’s going to look, what the features will be, etc.

After the planning phase, then you move into the actual design phase. You do the work to make that new design happen. 

After the design phase is completed, then the design goes into testing. So the app goes out, they test the features, they find the bugs and they gather data. 

And following the testing, the team then regroups and they evaluate how well this new design idea worked. During this evaluation process, they figure out the things that could be improved. They figure out the things that worked really well and can stay consistent. And they begin the loop again.

So they take that evaluation process, which leads to a new planning phase as they plan for ways to improve the components that didn’t work. And after they have their new plans, they put those into the design. After those new designs are created, they run tests again. And then they evaluate the app once again with the newly updated fixes to the previous problem. And this loop continues until they have exactly what they want and things are working smoothly.

Iteration in a Nutshell 

So in other words, you have a new idea, and you create a plan to make it happen. Then you take action to do that work. Then you test the product or concept you’ve created. And then you evaluate to see the results. Do you like your results? Are the things you would want to change? Was it a total success? Was it a crash and burn? You learn from the evaluation, and then you rinse and repeat.

Now like I said, this is a very common practice for people in both the design world as well as people who are in marketing and business. So if you are in either of those fields, you’re probably listening to this thinking, duh. Of course, that’s what iteration is. Of course, that’s how things work.

But for those of you like me who did not know there was an official process with a special terminology, welcome to the club. Turns out there is. 

Iteration For Everyday Life

And what’s more, it turns out it is hugely effective. And I’m not just talking about effective for people who are in design or marketing. I think that this is a concept and an approach that expands into so many different areas of our everyday life, especially if you are a busy awesome go-getter who is always looking for a new way to up level their life or reach the next goal. And since you are listening to this podcast, I have a sneaking suspicion that’s exactly who you are.

So today we are going to talk more specifically about why I think you should consider incorporating this iterative process in your life as you navigate establishing a consistent, effective schedule and routine. Because once you get that nailed down, I’m telling you, it not only allows you to get things done as efficiently as possible, but it also allows you to create more space in your day for both rest and play.

Work, Play, and Rest

Because as I am finding myself more and more, it is so important to have a combination of both. We really need that combination of work and play in our lives. And since so many of us are still – at the time of this recording — both working and living at home, that division can feel even more difficult to decipher. And in fact, that’s why I think it’s all the more important to create and establish a schedule and routine that works specifically for you.

Now if you already have your schedule locked in. Or if you are already doing well on your daily routine and your nailing your time blocking schedule. First of all, kudos to you. But second of all, stick with me. Because although I am teaching this concept through the lens of scheduling and planning, the iterative process is something you can use in any area of your life. You can use it as you work toward a new goal. You can use it as you try to stick to a new habit. And you can use it as you learn a new skill. So whatever is going on with you, I assure you that this strategy will be a highly useful tool to keep in your tool belt. 

Iterative Mindset

The first question I want to explore takes a step back from tactics. Now, don’t worry. I am absolutely going to talk with you about how to use this strategy specifically, step by step to see that growth in your life. But in addition to the tactics and the correct actions to take, there are a few very important components that we need to consider first.

And if we think about the model – the self-coaching model that I’ve talked about on the podcast and then I teach to my clients – you will remember that the answer to any problem is not in the action. The answer to reaching a goal or being more efficient or creating more time for play and rest is not in what we do. Instead, the answer is in what we think and how we feel.

Now, if you are new to this podcast and you have NO idea what I’m talking about. First of all, welcome! Second of all, don’t worry. I have plenty of other episodes that talk more about this in depth. But a general rundown of this concept is that we have thoughts about – in this situation our calendar our schedule – and those thoughts that we have about our calendar make us feel something. Maybe we feel excited, or we feel dread, or we feel stressed. And how we feel makes us act in a certain way. So if we feel excited, we act much differently than if we feel stressed or discouraged. And the way we act is what creates our results. 

So in other words, if we do not have our thoughts generating the feelings that we need to create the results we want, we’re just going to be doing a bunch of busy work, and taking a bunch of action, without any clear plan of where we’re going.

Sticking To Your Schedule

So let me ask you this. When you think about sticking to a calendar or maintaining a schedule. When you think about mapping out your day and using time blocking, what do you think about that practice? If I said to you, the secret to reclaiming your time starts with mapping out your schedule into clear blocks of time so when you look at your plan for the day, you know exactly what’s happening each hour throughout the day. You see from 8-10 you’re helping your daughter with her school work. From 10 to 12 you will complete your presentation slides, from 1 to 2 you will answer all the emails in your inbox, from 2-3 you will rehearse your presentation twice, etc. What is your thought about that approach?

Your Thoughts

With many of my ADHD clients, I tend to get three different categories of responses. 

The first is, I hate creating a schedule and following a plan. It feels incredibly restrictive, and it just doesn’t work for me. I am a free spirit. I just don’t do schedules.

The second response I tend to get is: “Time blocking and maintaining a schedule just doesn’t work for me. I’ve tried it before. It just doesn’t work. I can’t stick to it.”

And then the third response is usually of genuine interest. Maybe they haven’t tried it before, and they’re willing to give it a try. Or they have tried it before, but they’re willing to play around and see but wasn’t working or what was holding them back the last time they tried it.

Exploring the Thoughts and the Results They Create

So let’s think about these three different scenarios. 

Example 1

If your thought about creating and following a schedule, or creating a plan for your day, is something like: “Creating a schedule is way too restrictive. I hate doing it.” How are you going to feel? Are you going to go into this practice with an open mind? Are you going to go into the practice ready to figure out what works for you? Probably not.

I know for me, when I think a thought like, “Creating a schedule is way too restrictive,” I feel incredibly closed. I feel dismissive. I feel resistant. And when I have emotions like that, I can assure you that I am not going to dive into this approach ready and willing to go. 

Instead, I’m going to be judging it the entire way. And I’ll be constantly looking for evidence that it doesn’t work. And of course, the result that I create for myself is that it doesn’t work. I am way too restrictive in my thinking, I do not keep an open mind, and therefore, It doesn’t work for me, because I close down to any options of making it work.

Example 2

And when I think something like, “I’ve tried this before but I can’t stick with it,” that thought makes me feel helpless. And when I feel helpless, I also don’t go all-in. 

Instead, I probably half-heartedly try. I don’t put much effort into creating my schedule. I’m not thinking about including breaks when throughout the day or thinking about when I’m at my peak energy levels. And I use any mistakes that happen with my scheduling not as a learning experience but as further proof that I can’t stick with my schedule. So at the end of the day, I’m looking at an incomplete schedule while telling myself: “See? I told you you couldn’t do it. You can never stick with the schedule.”

Example 3

But the third type of client response is often the one that finds success. Because when I offer to them a new scheduling or calendaring approach, and they think to themselves, “Hey, I’m willing to try anything. Let’s see how to make it work.” Or, “I have tried it before, but maybe I missed something, or maybe there’s a different approach I could try.” That response is going to yield an entirely different result. 

Because when I think to myself, “let’s figure out how to make this work.” I feel open. I feel curious. And I feel willing. And when I think maybe there’s a different approach I could try, or maybe there’s something I’ve missed, I also feel committed and determined to figure it out.

Let me tell you, when I go to work on a project or a new goal or something that is a challenge to me. And I go in with feelings of openness, curiosity, a willingness, determination, and commitment, I’m going to get that thing done. 

Because I am open and curious about different possibilities and solutions. I am willing to try new things. And I am committed and determined to see it through. And that mindset he’s going to move me so much further than the mindset of, “this is too restrictive or it’s never worked before,” which leaves me super closed and resistant to anything new.

What Do You Think About Keeping a Schedule?

So before we even dive into the actions. Before we explore the tactical strategy, I encourage you to check in with yourself. What are you thinking about as you approach this schedule? How are you feeling when you think about establishing a routine or figuring out how to create a schedule that actually works for you? 

I encourage you to play around with some sentences – play around with different thoughts that make you feel open, curious, willing, committed, determined. Because those feelings are going to generate some incredible results for you.

Okay. So we’ve talked about the mindset component. And please, do yourself a favor and do not skip this step. That is the secret sauce to making a new strategy work. Otherwise, you will try it once, you’ll tell yourself it didn’t work, get frustrated, close down to the possibility, and go back to your old routine. Believe me, I know because I speak from experience. I’ve been there.

How to Apply Iteration to Your Creating Your Ideal Schedule

So now let’s talk about the actual strategy of the iterative process as you discover out how to create a schedule that works for you.

Now, I’ve talked about different approaches to scheduling in several different podcasts, so I’m not going to go into extreme detail about the scheduling process. The real focus of this episode is on applying the process of iteration to your scheduling approach.

That being said, I will link to a few different episodes in the show notes that talk more in-depth about strategies for scheduling and time blocking.

Scheduling Strategy

But for now, here’s a general overview of what I suggest you try. At some point on Sunday or on Monday morning, I suggest that you take about 30 minutes to an hour to plan out your entire week ahead.

Begin by doing a giant thought download of all of the different tasks that you want to complete that week. Get everything in your brain down on paper. Once you have everything listed out, then I want you to take your calendar or your planner and schedule your downtime, your time with family, your time for self-care or exercise, or whatever first. And then I want you to schedule the appointments that you’ve already committed to.

What you have left in your calendar after that should be open pockets of time throughout the week for you to schedule in your other tasks from your to-do list download.

Using the strategy of time blocking, you can then schedule those tasks on your list into the open pockets of time in your calendar. So if you have papers to grade, maybe you decide you want to do them from 2-5 on Thursday afternoon, for example.

Now again, I have talked about different ways of scheduling. I’ve talked about time blocking in episode 3, I share strategies for scheduling with unpredictable schedules in episode 30, I talked about batch working in episode 43, if you’re a client of mine, we have probably talked about my favorite approach to scheduling out my week. So you have tons of different approaches that you can pick and choose from.

But the most important thing is to get all of your tasks down on paper. Schedule in your downtime and the appointments you’ve already committed yourself to in the calendar next. And then with the time that remains, schedule in the rest of your tasks from your to-do list download.

The Iteration Process

Now here’s where the iterative process comes in. Because the truth is this. Chances of you nailing your perfect schedule the first time are pretty slim. 

But chances of you either over scheduling or under scheduling certain tasks. Chances of you forgetting about certain tasks. Chances of you taking longer to complete certain projects that you thought. Those chances are pretty high. And if we slip into all-or-nothing thinking. Or if we tell ourselves, we either have to get it perfect right away, or it simply doesn’t work for us. That’s when we close down. That’s when we give up.

Get Curious

But what if rather than getting frustrated, giving up, and believing that you are not good at keeping a schedule. What if you got curious instead? And what if you implemented the iterative process?

Plan and Design

So here’s how this looks. You have your initial idea, which is creating a schedule for the week. And you go into steps one and two of planning and designing. So you plan out all the things you want to do this week. And then you design it by putting it into specific times in your calendar.  

Test

Then you go into the testing phase. You test out the schedule you created for yourself. And you test out whether you left enough time for certain projects. You test out whether you left enough time for breaks. And you test out whether you left time for things like making dinner or doing the laundry or walking the dog. In short, you test whether this schedule works for you.

Evaluate

And at the end of the day and the end of the week, you can take what you’ve learned and evaluate the process. What worked with the schedule you created? When did you stick to it? What did you get done? When were you most efficient?

And what didn’t work? Where did you not get things done? Where did things take longer than you anticipated? Where did you find yourself getting distracted? And most importantly, how can you adjust next time? What is the small tweak or the small change you want to try going forward so that the next week you make some incremental process forward?

Repeat

And then you repeat this process over and over as you continue learning what works well for you, and creating and adjusting and establishing a schedule that fits that approach.

Iterate Often For Success

And as I mentioned, the more often you do this iterative process, the more effective it will be and the faster growth you will experience. If you stop and evaluate your schedule once a month, you’re not going to catch what’s working and what’s not very quickly. And in fact, you’re probably going to slip into your old habits without even realizing it.

Now if you start doing it every week on Friday at the end of the workday, on the other hand you’re going to gather more information. You’re going to be able to survey what you got done, what you didn’t get done, and how your schedule and folded. You will know what worked and what didn’t. And you’ll have data to implement for the next week’s schedule.

However, I encourage you to take this even further. In fact, I encourage you to do this every night; or at least as often as possible. And here’s why.

My Iteration Experiment

So my scheduling approach is a little bit more in-depth than the one I used for our example, but it is generally the same idea. 

I start the beginning of the week by planning out my schedule. But then each night I map out the day very specifically in front of me. I look at all the things I want to get done, and I break them up into a very clear time blocked schedule where every step is broken down specifically – sometimes into 15-30 minute increments – so that I stay on track. 

At the end of each day, I then look back at what I completed and what I didn’t. And I do a quick assessment by asking myself: what worked? what didn’t? And what do I want to try differently tomorrow?

Three Powerful Questions

Those three questions have been so impactful. They’ve helped me achieve remarkably fast growth not only in terms of my efficiency but also in terms of understanding when I’m at my most productive. Of knowing exactly how long it takes me to complete tasks. And having a more complete understanding of when I am going to finish each long-term project on my list. No more guessing, “oh I hope then I’ll get this done by next week.” Instead, because I have practiced this four-step iteration process, I have gathered enough data and done enough reflection to recognize my patterns and know how long things take. 

And because I do this every night, that growth and discovery is exponential. It happens so quickly because I’m learning and adjusting every single day.

Give It A Try

So if you are trying to make calendaring or scheduling work for you. If you’re trying to figure out how to incorporate time blocking in your schedule. Or if you’re trying to work toward a goal or establish any habit and you’re feeling a bit frustrated because you’re not seeing the growth that you want. I cannot recommend enough implementing this four-step iteration process.

Figure out your plan by creating your to-do list download. Design the plan by mapping it out on your calendar for the week. Test the plan. And evaluate your results every night. Ask yourself, what worked? What didn’t? And what do I want to do differently next time? Then repeat the process while implementing that valuable information. I’m telling you, you will be amazed by the remarkable growth you see from practicing this process regularly. 

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