06 February 2012

Step 5: Simple Scheduling and Planning Routines

A full list of the Simple Living Challenge steps can be found here. 

I wonder why scheduling and planning gets so much bad press nowadays. It seems like it is hip to go with the flow but while this looks cool and leisurely on the outside it hides the danger of loosing your purpose.

True simplification can be achieved when we rid our lives of the unnecessary. How can we do that if we don't know what we are doing? To identify what is the most important, to be able to free up time to do what we love, to stay focused on our goals and dreams we need organization. The more chaotic and time constrained life is, the more important it is to integrate some kind of routine. 

Photo: foreverdigital

When I was a kid I had trouble organizing anything. I always diligently took my daily schedule to show at school but never actually followed it. I must have been good at pretending because no teacher ever realized I was cheating and yet, this inability to follow a routine has always been in the back of my mind as a goal to achieve.

It took me years of busy and stressful life to finally get it: Whatever the bohemes tell you, don't listen to them. You need a schedule. You need a routine. You need organization.

Why you need a plan?
  • Planning your day rids you of stress.
  • Following a plan helps you get organized naturally.
  • When you create a daily routine, you actually free up time.

Planning your day the evening before
While a morning routine is especially important for starting out on the right foot and defining your day, an evening routine has an even higher value. When I read Leo Babauta's tip for jumpstarting his day the evening before I realized that was what my mother taught me to do when I became a 1st grader: I always had my clothes and school bag ready in the evening. Things have slightly changed ever since but unwittingly I am still following an evening routine.

While it can be different for you, you can easily adjust, add or remove bullets from the list of the evening routine:
  • Clean up, do the dishes (if you haven't cleaned as you go), so in the morning you get the pleasant surprise of a tidy home.
  • Prepare your/your kids' clothes/breakfast for the next day.
  • Plan the meals for the day.
  • Write down your most important tasks for the next day.
  • Get to bed and evaluate the past day.
  • Go to sleep thinking of your dreams.
I have noticed how much my daily routine has changed after I started listing my tasks the night before, while I am still in the vibe and have them on my mind. Many of you shared in the comments of Step 2 of our simplifying challenge that it would be great if we women are able to shut off our brains like men do and simply fall asleep in the evening. I must say that this is very much achievable. Once you make your list for the next day, your mind is free, there is no need to remember anything, the notebook has it all. Now your mind is ready for positively charging dreams!

Photo: kanelstrand

How to stay focused
You simply need to write your tasks on a piece of paper. I usually get about five important tasks. Much more can be done in addition of course, but being able to see your most important tasks several times during the day will keep you stress free and focused on completing them.

I used to get carried away quite often while researching a topic on the Internet, jumping from idea to idea. I sure did get lost a couple of hundred times, resulting in wasted days with nothing achieved. But now I have my tiny notepad on my desk which I consult and make sure I am on track.

After introducing the notepad (which is not even fancy) to my daily routine and desk I must say that not only I am more focused on achieving my goals but I take the steps to fulfilling my dreams in much shorter time.

I have mentioned that the first step to fulfilling your dreams is to write them down. The funny thing is that it doesn't appear on the surface that you need to do anything more than that. Reading them, going through your daily tasks gives your mind the incentive it needs and soon the whole machine of miracle making gets going without you consciously taking part.

You can do this!
Follow the evening organizational steps I’ve listed above. It is important that you list no more than five tasks for tomorrow. Your aim is not to get overwhelmed with too much things to do but to exercise in planning.

Share your experience: How did you sleep? Was there any difference on the next morning? Do you think you saved time and freed it to do something you like?

See also:
Step 1: Embrace Your Imperfections
Step 2: Simple Living as Men's Trait
Step 3: The Rules of Simple Home Organization
Step 4: Simple crafting for Happy People
Step 6: Spend More Time With the People You Love
Step 7: Spend More Time Alone
Step 8: Connect to Your Inner Self
Step 9: How to De-Stress 
Step 10: Learn to Live With Less and Enjoy it
Step 11: Start a Debt-Free Life
Step 12: How to Overcome Consumerism 
Step 13: Declutter Your Life 
Step 14: Get Rid of Toxic Cosmetics and Reclaim Your Natural Self  
Step 15: Wean Off Plastic  
Step 16: Celebrate Your Story  
The Final Step: Gratitude 

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  1. I do have my little notebook, with lists. Now if I could just follow them :)

    1. You can, I am sure. Once you set your mind...

  2. To have a plan is the best way to get multi tasks done. I rely on my planner book and my lists. I love your hop..

    1. Multiple task yes, but not at the same moment for sure. I've found out that multitasking is a plague, not a precedence.

  3. I love my evening routine for setting my mind free for dream sleep and a fresh start. I am also a fan of the " not more than 5" important tasks for one day. That's plenty and allows for enjoyment of your daily rounds as well as an accomplished feeling at the end of the day! I also keep a note pad the phone for writing down items we run out of so my grocery list for the week is always in progress.Keeping the to do's short and attainable agrees with my keep it loose philosophy. I also carry a notebook in my purse for jotting down creative ideas for the coming year, blogging and writing goals, house hold goals etc... I like looking back at it at the end of the year and seeing what I checked off throughout the year!

    1. Wow! It seems like you are a great organizer, Deb!

      Checking off the list is the best part, isn't it?

  4. Planning is an intregal part of simple living and a major factor in reducing stress. It may seem silly, but if I haven't decided what to wear to work, what the kids will have for lunch, what we need to take with us etc., the night before, the next morning I will be stressed out, not have enough time to do those things and generally start the day off on the wrong foot.

    Another fantastic post Sonya!!

    1. It doesn't sound silly at all. For me, it is the only way I can function properly. I can't think of important stuff early in the morning, so getting ready the evening before allows me to sleep stress-free and not loose time in the morning!

      Thanks, Laurie!

  5. Scheduling for me is practically medication. Im a really really bad insomniac, and one of the steps i had to do to fix it was keeping a very strict schedule in the beginning. Once i started doing that (alongside diet and excercise) the insomnia eventually cleared up without any medication. Its amazing how much our body craves a steady routine.

    1. You are the living proof how lack of organization affects our sleep! Thank you for sharing such important information, Rachel!

  6. I laughed when you wrote about having your schedule as a kid but never actually following it; that's me too. :) I do make lists and try to get as many things ready the night before (I'm not a morning person, so this is important), but I still struggle to manage my time some days. Maybe I need fewer things on my list.

    1. Mary, yet another proof that we are really like each other :)

      I think it is normal not to be able to perform brilliantly each day. Neither do I... but you know, since I started fighting perfectionism I learned to be more laidback about those days. Sometimes we need them too!

  7. I love this post. I feel so much better planning my weekly menu, prepping meals that can be prepped, getting the kitchen clean after dinner and all the lunch and breakfast stuff ready for the next day. By doing this I have so much more time in the morning to do my yoga, meditate, take the dog for a walk and enjoy breakfast with my honey before work. The whole day is set on a positive note with a simply stress-free morning.

    1. Yes, that sounds so organized. It is obvious that you have got to rips with your daily routine and it sounds so refreshing that you are using the time you freed to do something good for yourself! I must say there is much to learn from you, lady!

  8. Oh, gosh, I am lost without scheduling out my days! If I don't write things down to happen on different days, then it all just floats around in my head and makes me feel anxious. It then all seems like it must be done Right Now, when it really doesn't. I write out a list and go, "Okay, I'll be cleaning on Monday, I work on Tuesday, then Wednesday I must do x and y" and everything is much better.

    I also make out a menu of food we'll eat for the week because then I know exactly what to go grocery shopping for and what we already have, which saves time, money, and rarely having to throw food out because it went bad.

    On some days, I must say, I schedule more than five things, but these are usually the days when I don't work and I don't have school, which leaves me about 9 hours in which to do things and then I want to relax. ;o) I also make sure I always get some time for myself because otherwise I'd go crazy!

    1. Reading your comment is like reading my mind. Indeed, if I don't schedule I get lost and head for a burn-out.

      Making a weekly menu is a great way to organize your shopping. I stick to an imaginary menu when I do my major shopping on Saturdays.

      Thanks for sharing your organizing tips!

  9. When I run my weekly laundry, I line up a week's worth of clothes for work at the front of my closet. As long as I'm putting the clean clothes away, I take the time to match things for work. Then I never have to decide what to wear in the morning!
    I pack my lunch about 50% of the evenings. I can use a bit more structure there.
    I do make lists, and they do keep me organized.
    Thanks for another great post!

    1. Preparing your weekly doze of clothes is another great idea indeed! I think I am going to adopt it :)

  10. I need to do a to-do list every night before I go to sleep, or I can't sleep thinking about all the things I need to take care of the next day. Thanks for all these good ideas.
    Everyday Inspired

  11. I love routine. I love organization. Having both allows me to make a "plan" each day, but I'm well aware that life often has others ideas in mind for me and my time. Being flexible enough to go with the flow has made a huge difference in my life. On the other hand, I'm learning that going with the flow doesn't have to mean giving up all I wish to accomplish during the day, or week. I'm still figuring this one out and how it applies to my days. ;) One thing I do know, having a routine creates free time to do those things that I really love. And yes, I sleep like a baby. :)

  12. I definitely like to be organized and have at least an idea of a routine...obviously, not everything always gets done, but I feel very productive when I know I have several chores to do and then accomplish them all. It's very satisfying. :) So yes, having a schedule and routine, even a vague one, can be very useful! Still, though, sometimes the funnest things are the unexpected and spontaneous ones. ;)

  13. Argh, I had a good comment and the 'cloud' ate it up!

    1. Well, it was basically: perfect timing and I need to simplify, and organize my focus to decrease my anxiety. Still mad at the internet...

    2. Ah, I know how you feel. Since it has happened to me quite some times I usually select and copy my comment before hitting Publish just in case...

      But, on the other hand, the gist of your comment tells me that you are in the right place at the right time.

      I am sure that you will totally get over your anxiety if you start writing down your tasks. Such a small change that's doing such great difference!

      Thanks for stopping by!