On Scheduling or Lack Thereof

So the past couple of weeks, since my term ended, I’ve been trying to heavily schedule my days so that I don’t end up idleing or wasting my time during this leave. Yes, this was partly a medical leave which means I should be resting, but I’m not sure how easy that will ever be for me.

What I’m realizing, though, is that trying to schedule out my days in advance just really doesn’t work. I started doing it because, as I’ve written about before, I have a hard time keeping continuity in my ideas over time and making sure I don’t drop threads. I try to schedule out, a week or so in advance, all the tasks on all the various pieces of ideas that I want to keep alive. The biggest problem I’ve been having is that I can’t really predict, on any given day, what I’m going to be capable of accomplishing. This means that on most days I wake up, check my org agenda and then have to postpone most of the 12 hours of work I end up scheduling myself each day. That’s rather disheartening at first blush, but then I started thinking harder about the problem after reading Sacha Chua’s post on having a relaxed routine.

I think the real issue is not of laziness that I’ve been making a few major mistakes on trying to schedule things:

  • I’ve been pretending that there’s a way to know in advance what mental disability will allow each day
  • I’ve been overscheduling by a factor of two or three
  • I’ve had my tasks be huge things rather than small steps, e.g. “read this 120 page article on game semantics for PCF” as a single task

So I’m thinking that I need to follow something a bit more akin to the Zen To Done style of picking three important things to work on each day (or two…or one on the really bad days) and just do them. I already have all of my ideas and proposed tasks in my .org notes and a custom org-agenda view that brings up any headline starting with the keyword NEXT. That means it should be pretty easy to bring up an agenda view each morning that will let me pick a couple of things to work on each day.

When I’ve accomplished those few things, then I can take stock of how much I have left in me for the rest of the day and, if I’m all tapped out, then rest knowing that I’m still making progress. That’s one of the problems I’ve been having a lot of trouble with. At the end of the day I’m just thinking about all the things I’d hoped to do yesterday and it’s hard to just stop and take a deep breath.

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One thought on “On Scheduling or Lack Thereof

  1. I’m glad that reflection was useful for you. I find that I’m much happier when I schedule or commit to very few things. Instead, I think about what I feel like doing, and I pick a good task from a long list of TODOs (or I come up with something new). =) Sometimes I might think of a few things I’d like to focus on for today (or for the following day, if I’m thinking about this at night), but I treat them as suggestions rather than commitments. As a result, whenever I do get something done, it feels like a bonus. And yeah, even if you just do one to three good things a day, that’s already progress. Somewhat related: Making the day count – does a tactic like that work for you?

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