The key to consistency

Sandro Maglione

Sandro Maglione

Free thinking

Doing things is not easy. The simple act of starting some task can become daunting at times. It is often true that the hardest step is starting the work. Everything else from there will most of the time just flow smoothly.

We can summarize the secret of getting things done in one rule: how to make sure I will be able to start.

There could be many reasons that stop you from starting something. Some reasons more valid than others.

Generally, though, the main source of resistance is the mind. People conjure intricate excuses for why they should not do something. One of the most frequent is the maxim: "I do not have time right now, maybe later".

We also know that, in order to achieve a goal, oftentimes consistency is more important than intensity.

It could be learning a new language, exercising, eating healthy. Consistency means doing a little bit of work every day to ensure success in the long run.

There are mainly three problems with this model:

  1. Consistency means starting a task every day
  2. The results of your work may not be visible for a relatively long period of time
  3. Doing something every day means forgoing some other activities to find the time to work consistently

The solution is simple

The key to solving the riddle is called scheduling.

Scheduling means assigning a specific date and time to a task. It is as simple as opening an app (or using pen and paper) and picking a time frame in which you commit to doing the work.

Scheduling solves all the three problems we identified:

  1. When you schedule a task, you assign it a time slot every day. You won't need to think about it anymore. The trigger will be the clock: when the time comes, you know what to do. There could be no reasonable excuses.
  2. Scheduling allows you to look into the future and plan how long the whole process will take. Every day you show up will be another success. You will visually see yourself getting closer to the day in which all your discipline will bear its fruits.
  3. Scheduling is not limited to a single task. You can easily schedule all your day to make sure you will be able to complete all the activities that you want. This process is liberating. It frees you from the burden of thinking what and when to do something in any given moment.

How to schedule

There is no specific secret about scheduling. It is all about observing your day, from when you wake up to when you go to bed, and writing down what you will do in this time window.

It will take you 5 to 10 minutes to organize your activities and assign to each of them a start and finish time. Then you can simply stop bothering and go about your day.

Basically it all comes down to:

  1. List all the activities you need to perform, with an estimate of how long each activity will take to be completed
  2. Sort your activities by priority
  3. Choose when you are going to wake up and go to sleep
  4. Build your day like a puzzle, assigning a time frame to each activity in order of priority

These four steps are the basic blueprint. Many strategies and tricks exist to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your scheduling.

Nonetheless, the core of the process is all about prioritizing and executing.

Some secrets to help

Some guidelines exist to help you with scheduling. Simple rules you can follow to increase even more you productivity.

Reduce context switching

Context switching is the time that it takes to switch from one activity to another. This time may vary based on the specific activity you perform.

For example, switching from studying to working out takes time: you need to reorder your books, prepare your clothes, go to the gym, etc.

In order to increase productivity, you should try to group similar task together, one after the other. This will help to reduce idle time and completing more tasks during the day (or maybe completing them faster and having more leisure time).

Schedule in the evening or in the morning

The process of scheduling may not be exciting at times. Scheduling must become a habit during your day. It is important to pick a moment during the day devoted to your scheduling plan. The same time every day.

Generally, first thing in the morning or last thing in the evening is ideal. That is because you will always have time in these moments of the day (by simply waking up a little earlier or going to bed a little later).

Furthermore, scheduling in the evening or morning allows you to take a look at your day before starting it, so you will know exactly what you are going to achieve for the day.

Never schedule on task after the other with no time in between

This rule refers back to the problem of context switching. No task can usually be started with no idle time from the previous one. And it shouldn't be.

We need to give some time to our mind to reload. Therefore, always consider some time in between each task to relax.

Review the results at the end of the day

No matter if you write your schedule in the morning or evening, reviewing your results is paramount to your success. Take some time in the evening to look at your activities during the day.

This process will help you to estimate better your times and also have a critical look at what you do during your day.

Learn to estimate the time it takes for each activity

Scheduling is an estimation. We cannot know how much time each activity will actually take. Nonetheless, we assign it a time frame, from start to finish.

With time, our ability to estimate the amount of time to assign to each task will improve. Eventually, you should be able to schedule your day with a high degree of accuracy.

Schedule leisure time

Scheduling does not mean 24 hours of work. Scheduling is all about avoiding procrastination and improving efficiency. If you schedule your day properly, you will accomplish more in less time.

And guess what? All the time you gain in your day can be used to getting more things done or just chill and relax. You can literally increase your free time. All it takes is a little bit of planning and a little bit of consistency.

What are you waiting for?

Scheduling is really a superpower. You will start seeing results in no time. You will feel less stressed during your day. You won't need to think about what do to next. This habit will also give more meaning to your time. I cannot recommend it enough. Just try it and see how it goes.

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