Mindful scheduling might sound like an oxymoron. Mindfulness is all about living in the present moment, not getting carried away by the future or the past, right?
Yes, present moment awareness is at the heart of mindfulness, but so is intentionality, clarity of purpose, and skillful living.
As I’ve become busier (in a good way) with my purpose work in recent years, I’ve had to become more intentional with my time management. When the spotlight shifts to intentionality, scheduling becomes a powerful mindfulness tool indeed.
After setting my personal and professional goals for 2018 at the beginning of the year, I’ve spent the past couple of weeks strategizing exactly how I’m going to meet them. For the first time ever, I started by looking at the big picture first.
Specifically, what are my goals for the year and what do I need to do on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual basis to meet those goals?
Last year I added to my mindful work habits the practice of creating a checklist each morning of my 5-7 priority action items to accomplish that day. The system helped me stay much more focused and feeling good when I went to bed most nights. (For me, “feeling good” means feeling like I have shown up for my life and made the most of my limited time here.) Mindful breaks are also part of my scheduling system, which keeps me grounded and fends off overwhelm.
The problem, though, is that under that short list of daily priorities, I have a running list of about 35 other tasks that I also need or want to do. Focusing only on my daily priorities tends to keep me in the weeds, where it’s harder to stay on track with medium- and longer-term priorities.
Task Batching = Mindful Scheduling
Batching is a scheduling method that designates blocks of time each day or each week to work on a specific task or project. In other words, you’re doing a lot of the same type of thing each day, rather than jumping haphazardly between different types of tasks, losing focus and time in the process.
The batching project was fun to think through. After giving myself a good long time to brainstorm, I’ve decided to organize my week this way:
- Mindful Mondays will be devoted to mindfulness work: writing content for my own blog and other platforms, reading mindfulness thought leaders and research, and talk preparation. (My personal mindfulness practice will continue to be a daily priority, of course, not limited to Mondays.)
- Artful Tuesdays will be for developing art content: taking photos, editing photos, and creating social media images to build up my library. I will undoubtedly take photos other days of the week as well, but Tuesday will be the day I review, edit, and bring my full focus to my photography work.
- Welcoming Wednesdays will be for inviting people to learn more about my offerings: tasks will be marketing, meetings, and social media. Viewing these tasks as “welcoming” helps me shift my mindset and let go of my aversion to marketing.
- Chatty Thursdays will be for communicating with my circles: posting blogs, sending emails, and, in line with one of my 2018 goals, also the day that I’ll devote at least 30 minutes to community action of some kind – phone calls to elected officials, community service, or some other activity that I feel contributes to solutions. As well as I hide it, I’m an introvert, so scheduling my chatty time somehow lightened the weight of this area of my life.
- Financial and Friendly Fridays are for checking in with financial stuff (including cleaning out my wallet) AND leaning into the weekend with social tasks: meetings, following up with leads, and more social media engagement. Despite my former life as an economist, I don’t enjoy financial work, so framing the social tasks as “friendly” gives me something to look forward to on Fridays.
- Soulful Saturdays will be for unplugging from social and other media (another 2018 goal): stepping away from the noise will allow me to reflect, not only on work but also on soul-nourishing activities that I want to prioritize in the coming week.
- Home and Garden Sundays will be for, well, devoting time to my home and garden. So even as I look out at the frozen, bleak tundra of my garden right now, this system allows me to envision meeting the goal I set to grow my garden further this year (but as I’ve said so often in the past, it’s really my garden who grows me).
Now that I have this thematic framework, I can easily assign my long, disparate list of to-do’s into the appropriate thematic day. I know I’ll have to remain flexible with time sensitive work and event scheduling that’s outside of my control, but I found this batching exercise to immediately give me a sense of spaciousness, intention, and greater control over my work habits. Rather than my work being reactive, it feels like I’m starting off the year ahead of the game.
Also, I don’t only have work tasks scheduled on my calendar. I schedule any activity that I feel is crucial to my wellness, including my daily meditation sessions, workouts, a couple of reminders throughout the year to track my progress on my goals, etc.
My meditation practice has given me the clarity of mind and purpose to put this plan together. Mindfulness has also helped me cultivate the discipline to follow through with the system, and be agile when and where I need to be. At a very minimum, mindfulness allows me to approach my goal setting and implementation (because that’s what scheduling is, right?) with a sense of curiosity and playfulness. If it feels fun, it doesn’t feel like work.
If you’d like to cultivate your own daily mindfulness meditation practice, consider joining my next 30-Day Mindfulness Meditation Challenge on February 1, 2018! Click here to learn more and to register.
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