A professional coach explains a method that is all about creating a calendar that works for you, not against you.
In a world that feels out of our control, we need to learn how to roll with the punches. Flexibility and acceptance of life’s ebbs and flows are crucial in this current climate. The more you can be flexible, the more you can embrace that life isn’t constant. And this level of flexibility is especially important in the new work-from-home economy.
Maybe you’re already a pro at working remotely, or maybe you’re navigating your new normal. Either way, it’s easy to get distracted or guilt yourself for not being “productive enough” during this time. We’ve been fed productivity hacks for years and told that there is a right and wrong way to achieve success. But the truth is, what works for someone may not work for everyone.
Sometimes routine feels like a safety net, but that doesn’t mean that you always have to stick with it. Routine can help you set up consistency, but flexibility is incredibly important to weave in above all else. For people who’ve never operated well under a rigorous schedule or anyone who feels overwhelmed setting up an agenda, the Intuitive Scheduling Method may be exactly what you need.
The Intuitive Scheduling Method is a heart-centered methodology that asks you to plan your days according to what would bring you the most joy and ease. Practicing intuitive scheduling goes hand in hand with connecting to yourself to understand what your needs are, personally and professionally. To simplify it further, it’s all about creating a calendar that works for you, not against you. For instance, if you’re tired, make space for rest. If you know you get burnt out from meetings, schedule them further apart from each other. Instead of being hard on yourself, you intuitively become more flexible with yourself and your life.
BENEFITS OF INTUITIVE SCHEDULING
When people are learning this, they often struggle with giving themselves permission to do it. Once they do, something they all find is freedom. When you let go of standards, it helps you find relief (especially for perfectionists). We are all human, after all, and this enables you to be just that. While this method certainly doesn’t (and won’t) work for everyone, those who have adopted it found themselves embracing it pretty quickly.
WHERE TO START
Start by taking inventory on your day and notice how certain habits and routines affect you. With this knowledge, you can better manipulate and adjust your schedule to suit your unique needs. We are creatures of habit, but we are also humans who change, and it’s important to let our daily schedules reflect that. Know that this may be different every day! Try things out, one step at a time. Whatever you find doesn’t work for you, try something new.
For instance, maybe you like to do your workouts in the morning to bring you energy for the workday. But then, one day, you wake up and find yourself naturally feeling more energetic than usual. On this particular morning, perhaps you jump right into working on those heavy tasks that require your mental attention and save your workout for later when you need an energy boost. Get in the habit of always asking yourself what you need.
CREATE YOUR SCHEDULE AND CHECK-INS
The first step to embracing intuitive scheduling is to write down anything that brings you joy and peace of mind. Identify and name what makes you feel happy and peaceful. Use this list as a resource, without the pressure of a to-do list. But if you’re someone who operates better with a list, there’s still a way to check this box. Every day, write down three things that you want to get done and write down three things that bring you joy.
Each day, refer to this list and tap into what you need—at that moment. Think of it as a schedule where the order is adjustable. As for where to put this list? You can have it on paper, you can have it in an email draft, you can have it in notes on your phone, or maybe text it or email it to yourself. How you write your schedule should be like everything: flexible.
From there, take stock of what you need throughout the day. For instance, if you find yourself blindly turning to check your phone or going into the next task, pause your instincts and use that moment quickly to check in with yourself. If you find yourself losing motivation, ask yourself why and what would motivate you right then. Could you use a walk? Or just pump-up music?
Similarly, if you were on a roll and then got a wave of drowsiness, pause and check in: are you tired because you’re hungry? Or would you benefit from a quick meditation? The answer may not be clear at first, but, over time, you’ll become better at learning what it is you need. When in doubt, refer to your resource list.
MAKING INTUITIVE BOUNDARIES
If there are days where you don’t feel physically, mentally, or emotionally capable of tackling the things on your schedule, let yourself be flexible—even if that means cancelling an entire afternoon (that is if no one is waiting on you). If someone is involved, ask yourself: Is there a way I can negotiate this time, make it up, or swap it out? Before you immediately tell yourself “no,” pause to wonder why the answer is no. Is it really impossible, or have you just not tried it before? Shift your mindset away from, “I’m giving this up,” to “Where can I make this up?”
In general, fit in what you can and always be flexible. It’s okay to shift your expectations because there really is no “right” or “wrong” way to do this. By giving yourself permission to intuitively shift and go with the flow, you give yourself more space to find motivation, gain confidence, and discover your own version of productivity. Do what you can and let that be enough. Oftentimes it’ll be the tiny goals that’ll help you make the most of your day.
This article first appeared in www.fastcompany.com
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