Productivity Hacks: Scheduling Repeating Activities

In our last post in the productivity hacks blog series we worked a to-do list (which was more of a brain dump) into an actionable list of items with narrower scopes. While our final list was a good deal longer than our first list, it gave us a lot better idea of how many tasks we had in our day and allowed us to see the separate items that go into getting an overarching task done.

On that final list, there were a few items that happen regularly and instead of being just something I put on my to-do list, I should really think about carving out time to do those items specifically.

Those two broader items were a blog post and support tickets. I should get a blog post together to publish every week and support tickets are something that I need to do on a daily basis. And yet, week to week getting my blog post written seems like the trickiest thing to squeeze in, and day to day getting support tickets answered actively gives me some anxiety. It’s definitely two things I need to figure out.

Time management gurus always advise to “schedule it”. If a task doesn’t get scheduled, it doesn’t get done. For many entrepreneurs or business people in charge of their own schedule, however, this advice is ill-received and potentially unhelpful as it doesn’t fit in with their general modus operandi.

Entrepreneurs and business people in charge of their own schedule will frequently just “know”, in the back of their mind or through the messages in their inbox, what they need to get done and will simply tackle one problem at a time. I’m not saying this is the best way to handle things, but it ends up being the way many people do. How do you get people who don’t schedule things (besides, maybe, what they do with other people) to schedule time in for tasks?

That’s a tricky situation to deconstruct, but I think the answer is to make the time you do set non-negotiable. If I’ve set Tuesday morning aside for writing that blog post, then I must shut down all other applications when it’s time to write and cannot accept my friend’s invitation to get coffee right in the middle of my scheduled writing session.

Even for the most un-flakey of us, it’s pretty easy to flake on ourselves because we’re the only ones who flaking will end up affecting. Sure, it will affect our business, too, because we decided to forgo the task in lieu of something else that (at least in the moment) seemed more important, but we justify the decision, assuring ourselves we’ll be able to catch up.

And maybe you, dear reader, will catch up. I, however, know for sure that if I don’t start just writing a single blog post every single week, I will never catch up to my goal of publishing a blog post every week. I know that I will never find a day where I will have time to write 10 blog posts that I can then space out for the next 10 weeks and not have to worry about it anymore. It isn’t happening.

So, I have made the decision to carve out an hour and a half every Tuesday morning and dedicate it to writing a blog post. I decided this was the best time because I usually work from home in the mornings, Tuesdays aren’t Mondays, and it will keep me well-occupied as the traffic clears for me to have a quick drive into the office after I finish writing:

Scheduling in blog writing on Tuesday morning

Scheduling in blog writing on Tuesday morning

Now for the process of making that Tuesday morning timeslot I’ve set aside non-negotiable. Part of how I’m doing that is posting that I’ve made it non-negotiable right here on this blog. This way, if I fail to live up to my own advice everyone will know when a blog post doesn’t get posted on Wednesday.

I’ve also set aside 15 minutes on Monday afternoon to do blog post brainstorming. I’ll take just 15 minutes of pen to paper time to quickly outline a rough draft of my post. This will make getting started the next morning a bit less tedious and also lower my chances of backing out on myself or feeling overwhelmed. Also, I really love brainstorming and I love getting away from my computer with just a pen and paper in my hand, so I know that this will personally be a really easy thing for me to do:

Scheduling in my 15 minute brainstorming session

Scheduling in my 15 minute brainstorming session

That is a good thing to look for in making things non-negotiable. Have at least one aspect of the non-negotiable item that is something you thoroughly enjoy. For me, that is brainstorming on a piece of paper instead of being on a computer (which is what I feel like I’m doing all the time). Depending on what aspect of your schedule you’re trying to make non-negotiable, this piece of enjoyment may be different for you. Getting a blog post done will be easier for me because I get to spend some time doing what I love in the first place: scribbling out notes, literally.

Finally, I’ve also posted a 3rd item on my calendar in regards to writing blog posts every week. With writing, it’s typically a 3 stage process: brainstorming, composing, and editing. I have also put an item on my calendar every Wednesday at 9:00am to edit and actually publish the blog. This should also only really take between 15-20 minutes to complete, but it means that after my hour and a half on Tuesday morning I can stop writing without worrying about grammar and such because I’ve scheduled time to look at that on Wednesday:

Making sure I have time to edit will keep me from getting overwhelmed while writing

Making sure I have time to edit will keep me from getting overwhelmed while writing

The thing that I’ve learned from having tasks that will seemingly go on forever is that the task is easier if I can break it down into parts. Instead of just having a one time item on my calendar called “Blog Post” having 3 separate items on my calendar spaced out to where no single component of it is taking me too much time helps me to feel less overwhelmed and dread the task less:

Full blog posting schedule

Full blog posting schedule

While this clears things up for something that is within my control and repeats week to week, I can’t handle the repeating task of support tickets in the same manner. Our next blog post in the productivity hacks series will be addressing repeating activities where components of the repeating activity are outside of your control.

I hope this post has helped give you ideas about how you can break down and space out tasks that repeat week to week. Let me know in the comments below if you have some tasks you dread doing week to week and what ways you’ve found to actually get them done.

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