You have a beautiful, clean, new day planner. You’re ready to get your time organized. What do you do now?
First, think through your areas of responsibility. What do you have going on? Where is most of your time spent? Where should parts of your time be spent? Grab a blank sheet of paper and write them down. For example, Work, School (Class 1, Class 2, Class 3), Family (Date Night, Game Night, Housecleaning, Dinner with parents), Church (Sunday School, Bible Study), Health (Workout, Nap, Devotions), etc. These are the big chunks that you need on the page and don’t want to miss. These include both scheduled commitments and priorities.
Second, start writing down your set commitments (i.e., work schedule, school schedule, regular meetings or events). Because these things are at certain times, you need them on the calendar first. You will be working around these times for everything else.
When you are done, double-check your list from the first step to make sure you covered every area. Pull out school calendars, team schedules, whatever you need to cover all the bases.
Third, fill in time for your priorities. If you have school work, you’ll need to schedule time to do assignments, not just attend class. Map out your week, doing the hard things earlier — both in the day and in the week — so you are fresh and have plenty of time if you need more than you thought. If you attend a book club, block out time before each meeting to have the book read in time. If you have chores that need to be done regularly and take a good chunk of time (30+ minutes), put it on the calendar. Make sure you include enough time but not too much. Your estimates need to be reasonable. Again, double-check your list to make sure you have everything included.
This is a great time to see how much you have committed to and how much time you actually have available. You have laid out your time and what you need to do with it. Do you have any margin around all that? You need room to breathe. You need room to be. You will also need time to take care of the little tasks that accumulate. Take a look again and see if you need to make any changes.
Now you have the framework for a useful calendar. You have the time-sensitive events and your priorities assigned to different parts of the day and week and month.
At this point, the key is to review often and keep to your schedule. Adjust when needed, but don’t ignore it. You’ve made the plan, now work the plan.