“That’s great for you, but you haven’t seen my schedule!”
When I speak on the topic of Capacity, there always comes a moment where I can “hear” the thoughts in people’s minds. It goes something like, “That’s great for you, but you haven’t seen my schedule!” Or, “How do I even begin to organize this chaos that is my daily life – it’s out of control.” So, I always try to give a few practical “handles” on that… things that have helped me.
For me it starts with lists. I love lists! They are ESSENTIAL to my functioning with any measure of success. Lists on my phone, lists on paper, lists in my planner. I also love the app called “Wunderlist” so you can organize your lists (like shopping lists for different stores, or planning lists by event, etc.). Life is crazy full! If we don’t manage our capacity then WE are being managed and dictated to by everything and everyone else that wants a slice of us! I believe the first step in managing your time is to make a few lists.
First, list your responsibilities. List anything you are committed to. Also note anything you need to un-commit yourself to! But remember to honor commitments you’ve already made if at all possible, and if not, graciously communicate to those this will affect and see if you can help in another way. (See previous post on PROTECT Your Capacity.)
Next, list those things that fill your tank. Things that you need to do regularly to keep yourself healthy mentally, physically and spiritually. Things like time with family, exercise, hobbies and spiritual disciplines. (Also see previous post for further explanation on that.) And write down the frequency needed for those things.
Finally, put some boundaries in place. For example, as a family we have committed to not have more than 3 nights in a week out or in meetings.
Now, sit with your planner.
What works for me is PAPER. I went digital for a few years and it was OK, but what I really missed was being able to see the whole month at once. I was getting into trouble by scheduling too much too close together with no margin. When I can see the whole month at once I can guard against overcrowding and if there is one really busy week I can make sure the weeks before and after that have more space to breathe.
On your planner (whichever form you use) begin by putting your responsibilities in – the things you’re already committed to. Then add in your “tank-fillers”. These are the “rocks” in your calendar. Now, you can begin to put things in around these items and manage better without losing control of your time.
Something else that works really well for me is to work on blocks of time in my week. For example, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I do my administrative work for the church and meet with folks as needed. Fridays I do a lot of planning and I shop for our household. Saturday mornings are for the kids and in the afternoon we prep for Sundays. Sundays are church and team meetings or getting with people. Mondays are our day off. Blocks help me because when something presents itself for my time, I already have space for it. I may not have space for it that week, but I can find space for it in a week soon. It’s incredibly empowering and keeps me from feeling overwhelmed by life’s demands.
What happens when “emergencies” or even unexpected wonderful things come up? Like a friend visiting from out of town on an already busy week? You have to weigh those things. Sometimes you legitimately need to move something. But if you do give up one of your tank-fillers or a block set aside for something else, try to recover it if possible. Look ahead on your calendar for moments to recapture your time.
My darling friend, Ang Morgan talks about having savings of time and strength (wording she borrows from the Amplified Bible in Proverbs 31:16). Isn’t it incredible that if we learn to plan properly, we can can actually have these reserves!?
Ang works from a weekly planner sheet – creates a new one for each week. This is her template – artwork done by her daughter, Hannah. (Click on pic to see a larger view.)
The six tabs in the middle are for each of the six family members in her house, where she writes items each of them need to remember that week. The other list headings are pretty self explanatory and the days of the week at the bottom are for meal planning. Pretty nifty I think!
I’ve learned to write everything down. If I don’t write it down, I WILL forget it! It’s the only way I can make sure that I’ll actually be responsible with my responsibilities. There’s just too much going on in my head. But I try not to make endless lists that never seem to get completed. I try to immediately write the item on a date in my planner (not on the whole-month-view page, but a page that gives more space per day). I assign the item to a date when I will realistically get it done. If I don’t have my planner with me, I’ll make a list on my phone and then later dump the items to my paper planner onto dates when I’ll do those items.
As I work through my day, I go by the list on that date, checking things off as I go. It’s important to “close off” each day. At the end of each day or the beginning of the next morning, I’ll look at that list. Everything completed gets a check mark ✔. The things I haven’t gotten to get an arrow –> and I move that item to the next realistic date for that task. This system is quick, practical and it makes sure that things don’t fall through the cracks.
Manage your capacity and it will grow!
“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.” Matthew 25:21