Schedules are basically plans at work. While a plan answers the What (and preferably the Why too), schedule defines the Who and When. The first time anyone of us had a ‘real’ schedule is probably the 1st grade of elementary school. A little timesheet where the school designed your day from the moment you come in until it’s time to go home. Minute by minute you know what will come each day, which periods you’ll be attending, how long they are, when breaks are and when will is your lunch time. Everything was planned. The next important schedule usually comes with a job, whether it’s in outlook calendar packed with meetings, or shift schedule, route plan etc. The idea is the same, your work is planned and you have a reference or a guide to follow throughout your day. There is one more schedule that one is entirely in our hands – our day schedule. I assume most of people don’t schedule their days outside of work as well in calendars of other forms, but we all have an imaginary schedule in our minds. Although it is in our hands, but only to a certain degree as our work/school/sports schedules dictate major part of our working days and our private lives are planned around work/school etc.
Even though you can’t (or shouldn’t) remove meetings that you don’t need or want to attend from your calendar you can have a little word in the organization of your day. I started to block sacred timeslots to avoid 4 hour meeting lines but mainly 2 biggest pain points: lunch time and Friday afternoon meetings. I strongly believe there is a special place in hell or a 10th circle in Inferno for people who book meetings during lunch or on Fridays. The same technique can be used for dedicated focus times that you need e.g. before important deadlines for all finalizations you’ll need to do and this way you’ll know you have a reserved slot for last minute updates in case you need it. There are many other ways you can use to free up some time, but you still won’t get away from lots of unwanted meetings. The key issue started when my work schedule started to leak heavily into my regular day schedule – work was taking up too much time, leaving nearly no room for other activities. That’s when I started look for ways how to squeeze your personal life in between work.
I’ve found a book called Make Time by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky that had lots of useful tips. Two former Google employees have spent a great deal on redesigning sprints and their second book Make Time focuses on removing distractions, improving productivity and focus and time optimization. I highly recommend reading the book and visiting their blog – https://maketime.blog. One of the chapters talks about design your day and provides examples for work days of both authors – each being a different kind of person (morning vs night). The idea is to identify unused blocks of time in your day and make them a dedicated time for whatever you need to accomplish. Let’s say you work from home and you sleep till 8/8:30am and log in at 9 and work till 7pm and you want to start training for a marathon. Before and after this slot is your time that you want to use. Depending on your energy levels you could either start waking up early and have an hour or 2 slot before logging or heading after work or in the night if you got other duties in the evening. If your lucky you can sneak out during working hours to do the same but it’s more about reorganizing your daily schedule and make use of available time. I practiced my workouts like this for moths and couldn’t be happier. Weekends were for family and evenings as well so I’ve found 2 hour slots on Thursday and Friday in the morning and had workout sessions with peace in mind.
That’s how you can adjust your schedules if you have one, but what how do you plan a schedule for a sabbatical? In order to avoid unnecessary procrastination and chaos within my time off I sat down and tried to design a flexible plan that would include both things I wanted to learn or work on and activities for my own enjoyment as well. First, I’ve started with a blank week calendar to decide ‘work’ days. I wanted to keep the Mon-Fri structure with weekends off mainly to accommodate with my family and partner. It would not make sense to have a free day in the middle of the week and then work on Saturday if everyone in my life follows Mon-Fri work weeks. Then I looked at my day structure, ironically the 9-5pm slot is the best for, again accommodating to my family, but also I like to having things done for the day, so shutting off at 5 is perfect for me. My schedule needs to be flexible as 9-5pm works for most days I still want to be able to adjust as needed but keeping a certain structure. I created 3 blocks for my day: Work Focus (WF) – 4 hours, Enjoy Time(ET) – 4 hours, Lunch – 1 hour. I want my days split between learning and trying new things, but enjoy some time on non essential work skills as well. Work Focus is undisturbed time for projects, courses anything new to learn. Enjoy Time works for a hike, bike, cooking a new recipe, reading an interesting book etc. Last block is simply 1 hour break for lunch. These blocks are just a reference for me and I plan them either 1 day ahead or in the morning. Some days may look like WF-6, ET-2; WF-8, ET-0 (it was raining and I enjoyed the task at hand); ET-6,WF-2 (perfect weather for a long trip) and so on. Below is an example week structure I have maintained.