This is the first post of an occasional series that will touch on some of the best pieces of advice I’ve received throughout my life.
A fall day, sophomore year of college, behind a goalie net with two other goalies, chatting while the forwards were being given directions in the drill (our mission was straight forward – stop the ball!) – this was when I received one of the best and most transformative pieces of advice, not just for college, but for life.
My teammate, Lynn, was sharing that she scheduled her school day like it was a business day. Classes were business meetings you couldn’t miss, homework in the library or academic building was scheduled between class meetings, and she worked as hard as she could between 8am and 5pm. The rest of her day was left for field hockey practice, friends, and other extracurricular activities.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was where I first learned about the power of scheduling and the benefit of working intensely rather than working longer. It was probably a year later that I implemented this concept, when I was struggling with harder classes, too much on my plate with the activities on campus, and consequently not getting enough sleep. My Google calendar became my best friend because I could access it anywhere with my laptop and wifi (this is pre-smart phone!).
Here are a few things I’ve learned about scheduling my days:
- Scheduling is useless without prioritizing. What good is an assignment with a due date if it isn’t done on time?
- Break down tasks into realistic chunks of time. Three hours straight of one task is too much to take mentally – a short break every hour can help refresh and re-frame.
- Write down what needs to be done and allot time for it, whether it is for 15 minutes, an hour, or done a little bit each day for a week.
- Leave time for fun and relaxing. This makes the hard work worthwhile as a reward at the end of the day.
There are other tools I utilize to help make this scheduling work, like keeping a detailed and dynamic to do list, putting personal appointments on the calendar to make something “more real” as a need to get done, and collaborating and communicating with others to make sure I am in touch with changes.
The scheduling of appointments and work time is important to work and, back in the day, college success. Some beneficial outcomes I’ve experienced as a result of attentive scheduling include:
- Becoming known as a high performer and high-level producer
- Make a name for myself as someone who “gets it done”
- Gaining reputation for reliability
- Creating balance and consistency in my own life
- Producing higher quality work that isn’t rushed
Sometimes I use my calendar, sometimes I handwrite my schedule, and sometimes I use Excel to break the day into 15 minute chunks to make sure I am realistic about how much time an activity or task takes. The flexibility with the tools I use to make the theory work in practice is key to success. While structure is good, the scheduling itself is the structure I need. How I design my day isn’t as important as if I do it at all.
Scheduling my day made sure I got the important things done when they needed to be with proper attention to detail. It also brought me balance and peace and developed my habits for the workplace.
What was one of the best pieces of advice you’ve received that’s stayed with you for a long time?