On Creating (Flexible) Schedules

Photo credit: RHiNO NEAL on Flickr
So a couple days ago, I tweeted a realization I had about just how incredibly busy I'll be in November. I suppose I already knew that logically, but after picking up a part time job, remembering NaNo is days away, and booking editing clients for next month, it all started to sink in. But it was a good realization—because while my schedule will be, let's face it, a lot, it's all stuff I really enjoy doing.

The tweet, however, inevitably led to people asking me how I plan to manage it all, which got me thinking about scheduling, yes, but more specifically flexible scheduling to make the most of my time every day.

I've written before about how I'm a morning person and get most of my writing done then. This worked well when I had afternoon classes or worked nights as a waitress—I got all my writing done in the early morning hours then tackled whatever commitments I needed to get done. Looking at my schedule for the first week of NaNo, however...I can already see that's going to be a little more challenging.

Right now, out of the first six days of NaNo, I have commitments in the morning on three days. I'm getting the sense this is probably going to be a common thing next month, so I've already started making necessary plans to fit everything into my schedule. The building block for busiest days next month will probably look something like this:

5:15 AM: WAKE UP (I've been getting lazy with this and pushing this closer to 6AM, but next month I need to be stricter about it because I'm going to need the time.) 
5:30 - 7:15 AM: Write, blog/vlog stuff 
7:15 - 8:30 AM: Get ready for day's commitments 
[Do day stuff] 
2:00 PM - ???: Editing work, work out, whatever else I need done for the day.

This of course is a really rough sketch and will need to be adjusted daily depending on my needs for the day, but I find that it helps to plan out my busiest days, so that on days I have extra time or more flexible hours, great, but if not I know I can still squeeze in what I need to. I'm also thinking it might be a good idea to plan my blog topics in advance because it tends to take me longer to figure out what to write about than to actually write the post. Maybe I'll even write some posts in advance...hmm.

Then, of course, there's a very important second component to this: built-in breaks. Traditionally, I've established Sundays as my day off, in which I don't allow myself to do any work. This will remain true next month, though I've already decided if I fall behind on my NaNo writing, Sunday is the day I'll allow myself to make it up, mostly because it's work I find the most enjoyable, so I wouldn't stress too much over it. Even if I manage not to fall behind, I'll likely NaNo on a Sunday or two to give myself wiggle room for those days where I just can't squeeze the writing in.

The keys to flexible scheduling, I find, is to plan for the worst (i.e.: least time), take minutes where you can, and be kind to yourself. That last part means don't forget self-care, because when you're in the grind, forgetting self-care can be pretty disastrous. For me that means Sundays (mostly) off. For you it may mean something else—just make sure you don't neglect it.

I'm wishing you guys all the best next month, whether you're NaNoing or not!

Do you use flexible schedules? 

Twitter-sized bites:
Tight on time but want to get some writing done? @Ava_Jae shares tips on making flexible schedules. (Click to tweet)

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