Next to maintaining a clean house, having a daily personal schedule helps keep everything running smoothly because I love efficiency.
Ash will tell you that I get annoyed in the store if other customers navigate the aisles inefficiently and interfere with my shopping experience. Likewise, when I feel inefficient in my day-to-day routine, I get frustrated with myself. I am constantly trying to figure out the best way to manage my schedule in order to get the most efficiency and productivity within my day.
Having a toddler makes this doubly difficult because I have to be mindful of his needs and flexible to his own schedule. If he refuses to eat a meal when it’s time to eat, that can throw the day off because I will have to make sure he’s fed when he’s ready an hour later.
MS & Scheduling
With MS and any chronic illness that has some sort of energy or movement inhibitor, there are a limited amount of hours each day a person has to get things done. Those hours aren’t guaranteed because of the nature of the illness, therefore you have to account for the possibility of spending the day in bed and being okay with that scenario.
I’ve mentioned how important scheduling can be when dealing with children and MS. The key is to be mindful of when I have the most natural energy (un-caffeinated and no early morning exercise), what I want to get done during that period, and how I want to get it done.
My reasoning for this mindfulness:
- Knowing my daily natural energy peaks provides a baseline for the most I can expect to get done without any “outside” help. Drinking my morning cup of coffee or going for an early morning run/yoga session give me energy boosts that may not be there every day. If I set my daily goals based on my natural energy when I have days with an energy boost, I feel more productive which might help me get even more done.
- MS has forced me to prioritize my life where I have to set 3 major goals for the day during my high-energy periods. The first item is the most important where the third can be pushed back to tomorrow’s top item. Anything on my list that I complete beyond that helps feed the productivity ego boost.
- Figuring out how I am going to get something done is equally important. With my MS and a child, simply stating I will sit down and write a bunch of emails doesn’t cut it. I have to squeeze communications in while Jai is asleep or decide to multi-task laundry while I clean the kitchen during nap time.
Additionally, being mindful of my energy valleys is important. I know that around noon I start to get fatigued and after Jai eats lunch I am ready to lay down for a nap or rest between 2 – 4pm. On days where I am out of the house or so busy with a project that I miss my rest means that Ash has to take over parenting as soon as he gets home from work until it’s time to put Jai to bed.
I try to not overdo it, but I do find that because of the unpredictability of MS, it’s like a light switch. I will be fine, fine, fine, and then something flips and I am immediately exhausted with no warning. I try to be aware of any warning signs so I can rest before I overdo it, but most days I am too busy to pay attention.
I am still not sure if I have any warning signs.
Below are my tips for how I create an effective schedule that works with my MS:
- Take a week or two to track your natural schedule. This will include your energy peaks and valleys, what you do when, and how you feel when you do it. Try to be mindful of whether or not you take an energy boost and how that affects your energy (medication, coffee, exercise, etc.).
- Analyze your schedule and see if you can find a pattern. This is difficult with MS because each day can be completely different, but you might be able to see that around 10 am you have more energy than you do at 2pm.
- Try to adjust your new schedule to reflect these high energy periods and schedule a rest during the low energy ones. Prioritize the more important items/appointments during a peak period of your day and not stress if the less important stuff doesn’t get accomplished until tomorrow.
- If you work outside the home, napping at your work may not be a possibility, but finding a quiet space where you can sit with your eyes closed and undisturbed for 10 minutes might be something you can fit in. Scheduling meetings and important projects doing your high-energy periods work as well.
- Embrace the productivity energy boosts when you get them. I find it invigorating when checking items off my to-do list. Those little boosts can be so energizing that it feeds into itself to get more done. Just be mindful to not overdo it and wear yourself out.
I think these tips are helpful for people without MS or an illness that interferes with energy levels, but it wouldn’t be my go-to set of suggestions for them. What follows are some broader observations/techniques that have helped me boost my productivity.
Figure out what Works
If you are clearing clutter from your life and your house, then the next step is creating an optimal schedule to maintain the clean and help check off those “life” to-dos. I find that getting a clean house and setting up a solid personal schedule goes hand-in-hand. Without one, the other falls apart very quickly in my life.
Being aware of what works best is optimal.
Because I am an older millennial, I bridge the analog/digital gap. There are certain things that must be digital because it’s easiest for me to look it up on my phone. But there are other things that need to be written down on paper because the act of physically writing something, not typing, commits it better to memory.
That’s why I have a digital calendar but a hand-written to-do list. But there are times where I want to switch this and when I do that, everything falls apart.
Some tips I’ve picked up for creating a productive personal schedule:
- Review your daily calendar when you wake up and create a daily to-do list based off of that. Keep both items near your bed or coffee maker – someplace where you can sit for a few minutes to think about what you want to do.
- Reviewing the calendar will help you decide what you can add to your to-do list, when you’ll do it, and how you’ll prioritize it.
- Assign a priority to everything on your to-do list. Many digital lists give you a 1-5 ranking ability: 1 for being a high priority; 5 for being a low priority.
- This is a little different from order added because if you are like me, it’s easier to list everything as it comes to your brain, not in order of priority. Working down the to-do list in the order added is ineffective for a person like me because I’ll clump items I hate/don’t want to do together.
- Write in when you plan to get something done. This may not be for everyone, but it helps to know that I want to go grocery shopping in the morning because the store will be quieter and saving meal prep in the afternoon when I get back.
- Block out to-do list time every day in your calendar. It can be 15 minutes to an hour but making a conscious effort to schedule a time to get things done will help ensure you get it done.
- Likewise, schedule most aspects of your life (without overscheduling) in your calendar. Google has the option of creating multiple calendars for each account so look into creating a “daily schedule,” “work schedule,” “to-do schedule” that is separate from your personal calendar. Because they can be different colors it will be a quick reference of whether or not you can move that item around.
- Don’t over schedule yourself because that can be overwhelming, but work in blocks of time (half hour to an hour). This method can help keep you focused on getting the stuff done you want to avoid.
- Do one thing every day that you hate (and try to make that the first thing you do on your to-do list). If you find that you can’t move forward because you hate that item so much, push it back to the second item on the to-do list. Reward yourself with a break after completing that task.
- This will help you feel good about getting something you hate done and it’s off your plate for now.
- Add things immediately to your calendar as they come up throughout the day. So often I’ve said, “I’ll add this when I get home” or “I’ll add this after I respond to this email” and then completely forgotten about it. I’ve missed appointments or double-booked because I didn’t add something right away.
- Add things to your to-do list as you think about them and add things before going to sleep that you want to do tomorrow. Once it’s written down somewhere, you don’t have to think about it.
- Don’t re-invent the wheel. Chances are someone created a nice printable schedule that fits your needs, so do a quick search online for productivity blogs. I will be sharing some of the printables I’ve created for myself on Friday.
If I have a personal mantra on this blog it’s “be balanced and be flexible.” I repeat these two ideas as often as I can because I have found most of my personal success in them.
Flexibility when it comes to personal scheduling is imperative because it limits my chances of getting frustrated. I like to schedule everything in hours, not to the minute. What this means is if I have a doctor’s appointment that I know is only going to take 15 minutes of my time, I block out the whole hour regardless (especially if it happens at a “weird” time like 11:35am). This accounts for traffic and the office getting behind.
The last two times I went to the doctor they sprung tests on me which required an additional 15 minutes of my time. But I already scheduled for that.
Keeping everything by the hour builds in a lot of flexibility into my schedule. I also overestimate my time that I will spend someplace too. If I am hanging out with a friend that we plan for an hour, I will add an additional hour to my “event” just in case we have fun and go over.
Not overscheduling my time also works best. With MS, I can only do one to two major things every day. When I start adding in extra stuff, I get overwhelmed. Anything beyond the two major things I put a mental asterisk next to it of “I will do/go if I can. It depends on my energy levels.”
With that in mind, if I am scheduling an outing with a friend and I already see that I have something planned, I try to find another time to fit my socialization in. It doesn’t always work out perfectly, but I try to be mindful of what I am able to do because I want my friend to get the best of me when we’re together.
It’s not perfect, but this is what helps keep me on track especially with MS and a toddler. Productivity and efficiency are important to me and so keeping that in mind helps limits my personal frustration on a day-to-day basis.
How do you create your best daily schedule? What works for you to keep you on track and productive every day? Lists or calendars? Share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments. I am always interested in hearing new tips.
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Featured photo credit: Michelle Melton Photography