The organizing and time management books that I read ALL seem to miss the mark on scheduling. The biggest mistakes they all make is suggesting that you schedule time to do certain things, like workout or clean the counter or return phone calls. The problem, of course, is that mood, well-being, and need to return phone calls (or do anything else) has to factor in or the scheduler is wasting her time doing all the wrong things. For my new job (Tuesday, people...it starts freakin' Tuesday which is like tomorrow only three days away gawh!), I am making a schedule (much like I did for every other job), but it's much more flexible than you see in your typical time management book.
The first step in my schedule is my calendar. The key to a workable calendar is to schedule only the necessarry stuff. Routines and goals go elsewhere. So far, my calendar has one entry. I have HR Orientation from 9 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. on my first day. That's it. Note that my calendar does NOT say "return phone calls" or "check e-mail" or "workout." I will make a FLEXIBLE daily schedule, but my calendar will stay filled with ONLY appointments. A meeting with the executive staff Monday mornings at 10 a.m. makes the cut and goes on the calendar. Working out goes on the calendar, but only if I am meeting someone to workout or attending a certain class. Otherwise, working out three to four times this week goes on my goals list.
The next step in scheduling is to have a basic outline of my day that will take into consideration meetings and things that must be done, but will also give me time to work on long-term issues. In making this *outline* of my day, I take into consideration my patterns of wakefulness. The outline is much like the *schedule* time management books suggest, except that it is more flexible, works in my tasks list, and does not clutter my calendar. (I keep it in a memo in my pda and I tape a copy to my desk/bulletin board).
Here's my basic outline. Keep in mind that I'm starting a new job, so it will change as needed. Also, if I have meetings, I start from the beginning of the outline, stop for the meetings, and then move on to the rest of the outline.
*Arrive at work, unload anything coming back from home, make breakfast/coffee
(This goes early because it can be done while I eat breakfast and, frankly, because I am picky about an empty e-mail in-box. I will treat e-mail as I do paper that comes to my office - trash it, refer it (assign it to my assistant, pass it on to my boss), act on it (for example, respond if it is brief or add an assignment to my task list or a meeting to my calendar and RVSP/delete it), or file it (if I can't easily get it reproduced from anywhere else or if it is very important).)
*Clean up after breakfast
*Make/return phone calls (as needed)
(I find this is better done early, so people have time to call you back during the workday.)
*Do anything overdue or due today
(The hope is that nothing on my task list falls into the category. The reality is that doing things at the last minute happens, either because I am slacking or because someone else is or because of emergency. Might as well build it into the plan!)
*Process in-box until it is EMPTY
(I use TRAF again - Trash, Refer, Act, or File.)
*Do anything due tomorrow
***IF THIS IS ALL I GET DONE, I AT LEAST KEEP UP.***
*Work on anything due within the next two weeks.
(I start with the most dreaded project and get it out of the way. Then I usually try to do some easy stuff that I can cross off of the Task list. I limit this step to about two hours, max. That's about how long I can truly concentrate on the Tasks that need to be done. Exceptions are made, of course, if there is a big deadline.)
*Work on one long-term project (time-permitting)
*30 minutes before end of the day - put everything away, pack anything that is leaving the office with me, and, if time is left, process more e-mail/in-box