The Mental Necessities of Timetabling

The effectiveness of your timetable depends entirely on how you see the world and what you want to achieve.

It may not seem important, but the way you plan your future can impact just as heavily on your success as the planned actions themselves.

For instance, if you’re the kind of person who enjoys seeing an empty timetable, it’s no good filling it up with small tasks throughout the day.

photo by nosheep

Before you start making plans for anything, ask yourself how you will best make use of those plans.  Not all to-do lists are the same!

Even with summer approaching, your time is best used with some form of timetable, so you are best prepared for the time to come.  You may have a summer job, a reading list for next academic year, holidays planned, thoughts on going out with mates, personal goals, fitness regimes, and a lot more in sight.  A good timetable will bring all your thoughts together and let them take shape without overwhelming you.  A bad timetable just makes you feel like there isn’t enough time for everything.

So what are the possibilities?  Here are some ideas:

1. Every last action written down and dealt with – If you need to take stock of everything, no matter how big or small, you should first outline your longer-term goals and intentions.  Then all you need is persistence, a good diary and a solid technique for getting your extensive daily to-do list sorted quickly at the start of each day.  Don’t try to plan much further ahead than this, as it will become too difficult to comprehend each and every issue you want to handle each day.

2. Bare timetable, only listing lectures, seminars, meetings, job hours, and any unavoidable deadlines – This method is suitable for those who have the focus and  determination to work without procrastinating, but who do so by seeing large sections of free time available.  Clearly, this doesn’t work if you treat it as free time.  Neither does it work if you don’t give yourself a break…  If you’re serious about your work but don’t like to restrict yourself with plans, a bare timetable can pay off.

3. A timetable, plus a to-do list – You might not want to schedule your to-do actions for the day.  Perhaps you sort those tasks much better when you find small pockets of time.  For a bit of flexibility throughout a generally ordered day, it does no harm to consult two forms of forward planning.  Just make sure the to-do list doesn’t involve items that must be timetabled, otherwise you’ll duplicate yourself unnecessarily.

4. Simple to-do list only – While we all need some sort of timekeeping, if you’re happy to remember the one or two appointments you need to keep in the day, you may prefer to keep the times in your head.  Instead, all you may want to write down is a basic list of jobs you need to do.  Although basic, you should still be more specific than to list “Write essay” and “Visit library to research topic X”.  You could list “Write 200 words for Introduction” or “Use reading list to find relevant books and scour for quotes based on this week’s essay”.

5. Boxed 24-hour timetable, like David Seah has designed – Even if it doesn’t work for you, you’ve got to admit it’s kind of awesome.

There are many ways of scheduling your day/week/month/year/life, but only you can find what works for you.  It’s important you do find a working method though, because it makes a big difference to who you are.

Please feel free to suggest any other timetabling and scheduling methods that work for you in the comments.

photo by spekulator