Having a schedule and sticking to it makes it possible for me to fit in everything I need to accomplish. I have daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly tasks. Knowing that these are things that must be done routinely takes away any decision-making that might sap my energy.
Should I run this morning? If I asked myself that every morning, I’m sure I would convince myself that this morning is not the morning to run—and then I’d regret it for the rest of the day. Putting it on the schedule eliminates the decision. I will run in the morning. End.
It may seem like having a strict schedule leaves no room for down time or spontaneity. This isn’t true. On the contrary, having a set amount of hours that I devote to a specific task leaves more hours open than I’d have if I kind of worked on something for oh, an hour or so, maybe with a snack break, so then maybe an hour and a half because I stopped for a snack.
It might also seem that having a set routine doesn’t allow for new experiences. That’s exactly why leaving room for down time, or “flex” hours, as I call them, is important. If something new and exciting comes up, I try it.
Sure, I might need to swap two hours of writing for two hours of flex time, but a swap doesn’t mean I eliminate writing that day. Having a malleable routine is crucial to expanding my comfort zone and experiencing new things. It’s a discipline, but it’s important to leave room for the oddballs in your schedule.
Personally, I don’t like to be unprepared or faced with the unfamiliar. If I never ventured into new territories, however, I would be extremely limited. Does this sound familiar?: A new opportunity will arise, whether work-related, social, or personal like a new dance class, and you excitedly put it on your calendar. Maybe it’s two weeks away.
The day before it happens, you wonder why you decided to do it, perhaps looking at how much other work you have to do that week. The day of, you think about what you would be doing if you hadn’t agreed to do it. But since it’s on your calendar, and you have already committed to it, you stop thinking about it and do it. Afterward, you are happy that you did it, had a great time doing it, and want to do it again. This has certainly happened to me.
So why is it necessary to put things on the calendar in order to make them happen? Because trying new things is a discipline. Walking into a room full of strangers and striking up a conversation is a discipline. Stepping out of that ever-small comfort zone is a discipline. But the more it’s done, the more natural it becomes.
These days, if I don’t do at least two things per week that are unfamiliar or out of the norm for me, it feels strange. It’s become a habit to expand my boundaries, and it enriches every aspect of my life. I may not want to do something, but I know that it’s the one thing that I don’t do that will be the thing that would have made all the difference.