What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘scheduling’? Even the word itself sounds pretty boring: maybe you think of bus timetables or train schedules; it’s not exactly an exciting word. I think it’s life changing!
In the video and blog below I share some of the benefits of planning ahead to help you live your best life.
It helps first to clarify what scheduling is. A great definition is that scheduling is actually just making the decisions that you know you are going have to make later, in advance, so you make a series of decisions in one go, rather than making lots of little decisions as you go along.
So why is it good to make decisions ahead of time?
First of all, you make better decisions in advance, because by doing that you’re actually using your ‘adult’ or grown-up brain, that part of you that can see the bigger picture, that knows what balance looks like, that knows what’s important or urgent and what’s not important. When you schedule ahead of time, that adult is making the decisions. But when you leave decisions to the moment, they’re very reactive decisions and you are using your ‘toddler brain’. Your toddler brain will prefer to do what makes it happy at that moment in time. And you’ll either give in to it, or you’ll have a battle in your head, where you really want to do the thing that will make you happy in the moment, but you know that you ought to do something else and you end up with a constant unease between those two competing thoughts. So, if you make your decisions ahead of time, you’ll have a much more balanced day, or week, or year.
The same principles can apply to meal planning. If you plan your meals ahead of time, you’re more likely to take a bigger picture approach, making sure you get a wide range of vegetables, some protein and some healthy fats into your diet. You can work out what sort of meals will suit you best for different evenings, depending what else you have going on and what time you have to prepare. And all these decisions will be made with an adult brain. But if you don’t plan ahead, you’re much more likely to make decisions with a toddler brain, you’re going to reach for a pizza instead of a kale salad with quinoa, or you’ll go to the freezer, or go for easy options.
You also save time when you schedule your time properly. You know that you have to allow a certain amount of time for each activity if you’re going to plan them into your diary, so it’s really good to start off doing with a big brain dump, listing the things you want to achieve in a day or in a week, or meals you want to plan or exercise you want to do. Then work out how long each thing will take you and fit them into the time you’ve got. It’s important to write very clear time boundaries for each thing, as this can help eliminate faffing! If you’re the kind of person who works well to a deadline, this approach makes you work much more effectively.
It can also be really helpful is to be mindful of the consequences if you don’t get your activity done in a certain amount of time. If I don’t get all my work done in the time I’ve allocated, then it means an extra evening of work or staying up late one night to get it finished. So, if I don’t want those negative consequences, I need to get my work done in the time I’ve set. When you schedule, you’re not going to put in 20 minutes for Facebook scrolling, or 5 minutes for faffing around wondering what to do next, but instead you’ll be using that time more productively. By being very clear on what you have planned to do in what time, you’ll avoid having those days where you finish work thinking: “what did I achieve today?”
And finally, scheduling saves you brain-space, because you spend less time throughout the day actually making decisions. Taking exercise as an example, if you haven’t planned it in, you may find yourself in a conversation in your head that goes something like this: “Well, I’ve got my kit on, but I really don’t fancy it now… actually it looks like it might rain. And I’m a bit hungry, so it’s is probably better if I eat now rather than exercise, then maybe I’ll fit it in later, before dinner, but I don’t quite know what I will do. By then it might be too cold to go out to exercise, so maybe, instead I’ll….” And so that endless conversation in your head goes on.
But, if you make your decision and plan in when you are going to do things and how it’s all going to happen, you can avoid that constant dialogue that gets you nowhere fast. This is also why accountability is so good. If you plan into your diary that you are going to exercise 3 times this week, then you tell a friend, or you actually book onto a class, then you have to show up! You don’t have to think about it, and that’s your exercise sorted.
Freeing up brain-space by making some early decisions is why you see some people, like Simon Cowell for example, who wear very similar clothes the whole time. In Simon’s case he’s always in the same dark jeans, white T-shirt and maybe a navy jacket. He’s made that decision to free up some brain-space, so every morning, he’s not thinking, “What am I going to wear today?”
You may not want to go to quite that extreme with your wardrobe, but it can be helpful to pare things down to your key, most-loved clothes and just stick with those to free up time to think about other things in the morning. Similarly, with meal planning, when you make those decisions at the beginning of the week and you’ve written out what you are going to have for each of your 7 days’ meals, then as the week goes on you are saved from that internal dialogue: “What did I say were going to have tonight? What do I need to do? What have I got in the fridge, the cupboards or the freezer?” You’re not using that brain-space to think about it all through the week, because the decisions have already been made.
So, don’t put off scheduling and getting things planned into the diary, because spending the time up front to plan can free you up to do so many other things and help you to live the best life you are meant to be living.