“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” Michael Altshuler
Yesterday I wrote about Why I Go to Bed at 8:00 and apparently I raised quite a few eyebrows. Several people asked me to provide more details as to how I schedule my days and how I use my time. So as a blogger of course I am happy to share.
But let me preface it by saying that there is no right way to schedule your time or a right time that everyone should sleep and wake up. I’ll share what’s worked for me but please realize that – as my wife always tells me – there’s no one else in the world like me.
So here goes - my top 3 principles when it comes to staying on a schedule.
Principle #1: SCHEDULE YOUR WEEK, NOT YOUR DAY
Several people asked “how do you wake up at 5 am every single day?” or “how are you able to go to bed at 8 every single night?” My answer… I DON’T. No one said that you have to do it every day. We need to change our way of thinking.
Usually we ask “can I wake up at 5 am every single day?” And the answer to that is an overwhelming NO. But instead, the right question to ask is “can I wake up at 5 am tomorrow?” Now you are much more likely to answer YES.
In fact, one of the reasons I am able to get up at 5 on several days is because I intentionally don’t try to wake up that early every day. In other words, be realistic about what you can handle. If you’re used to waking up at 7 every day, it is unlikely that you’ll be able to jump to 5 am right away. So try to work it in slowly.
Start with 2 days a week – and on those two days be extra vigilant about sleeping early the night before. Then if you are enjoying it, try to squeeze a third morning in there after some time. You might never get to 7 days a week, but if you got to 3 or 4, wouldn’t that be a success?
For me, my typical schedule is this: Sunday is your Sabbath but Monday is mine so I try to sleep in, relax, get rest on Mondays. Then I aim to get up pretty early on Tuesdays and Wednesdays [either 4:30 or 5 am]. By Wednesday evening I’m probably tired and I usually stay up later on Wednesdays anyway, so Thursday I give myself another sleep in day – waking up at 7 or even 7:15. Then it’s back up at 5 on Friday. Saturdays and Sundays are variables depending on what’s going on but usually Saturday is a late day and Sunday an early day.
This principle is so important in every aspect of your time. Think weekly not daily. Let’s say you want to exercise regularly. Can you do it every day? No. But can you find 3 or 4 pockets of time per week to do so? Yes. Same with reading or Bible study or spending time with loved ones. You may be frustrated because you can’t find a way to do these things daily. But we need to stop thinking in terms of daily and start thinking in terms of weekly.
Principle #2: ADAPT SEASONALLY
Life is not the same year round. Just as the weather changes from season to season, so do the commitments and responsibilities of life. Give yourself room to change with them.
For example, if you’re an accountant, tax season might be your busy season. So March/April might not be the best time to start that new workout program or commit to coaching your kid’s soccer team. Or if you’re a mom, you might not be able to commit to serving in Sunday school during the summer but maybe when Fall comes around you will. Adapt seasonally.
Here’s what I try to do. With every season of life, I come up with a schedule that works for that season. A lot might be the same, but a lot won’t. For example, now we are in Lent. When Lent comes, I put my exercise plan on the shelf because I usually like to exercise in the morning and it’s hard to do so and still maintain fasting. So therefore, I give myself permission to stop exercising for the season. Once Lent is over, I will reevaluate my schedule and come up with a new schedule for the next season of my life.
Also, these days I am preparing for the launch of St. Timothy’s church in a few short weeks. Because of that, I am trying to spend more time alone in strategic thinking and planning. I realize that once the church starts, there’ll be a lot less time for strategic thinking so I am trying to do more of that now – more time reading, more time writing, more time getting God’s vision for this new mission. Once the church launches, I will reevaluate and things will change again.
Principle #1: Schedule your week, not your day
Principle #2: Allow your schedule to change seasonally
Principle #3: BE FLEXIBLE
The biggest mistake people make when they try to start a new schedule is being overly aggressive and unrealistic [fyi – this applies to dieting as well]. We try to schedule every minute of every day to maximize productivity. We do ok for the first couple of days but of course we can’t maintain that pace. So what do we do? We quit and go back to the chaos we were in before.
Be flexible. Don’t schedule your week in 7 minute increments. Always budget more time than you think you need because you never know what interruptions will come up. Factor them in, get ahead of the schedule and then give yourself room to relax and enjoy life.
For example, last night was NCAA Men’s basketball championship game. Now while I am not a huge college basketball fan, I can’t resist a championship game in almost any sport. No sports fan can. But there was a problem – tip off was at 9:23 pm. That means the game won’t finish till probably midnight – 4 hours past my bedtime!
So what should I do? Break my rule and stay up late? Or deny myself the enjoyment of the championship game?
Neither. I went to bed at 8:00 and was asleep by probably 9:30 or 9:45. I woke up at 4:45, got dressed, did my quiet time as usual till 6. Then at 6, I would usually exercise or get some important work done before the day begins. But instead, I sat down and watched the game that I had DVR’d from the night before (DVR is the greatest invention EVER!!!).
So instead of staying up till midnight or so watching the game and totally ruining the next day, I maintained my routine for the most part and was still able to give myself a treat this morning (of course the real treat would have been if Kentucky lost, but that’s another topic for another time). My point is that you can be flexible and still maintain your schedule.
Schedule your week, not your day.
Allow your schedule to change seasonally.
Discussion: What other tools, principles or resources have helped you maintain a balanced schedule in life?