How to Stick to You Schedule and Actually Do What You Plan
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Are you tired of making grand plans in your planner and your calendar only to not follow through with them and have your to-do list get even longer and longer? Read this article to learn how to go from planning in vain to sticking to your schedule and actually doing what you plan.
If you’re new here I’m Dr. Tiffany Shelton Mariolle, neuropsychologist, published author, and founder of modAmbition. I post every week about how to plan, manifest, and enjoy your dream life. If you’re into that tapity tap that subscribe button.
There have certainly been times in my life that I the discipline to follow through with what I plan or I let life take control of my schedule. over the years in order to manifest big accomplishments like getting my phd, writing three books, and running a side business with full-time job and two babies I really had to learn how to follow through with what I put in my planner.
In today's episode I'm going to teach you how to do exactly that so you can stop procrastinating and rescheduling on the things that you put into your schedule.
So let's dive into these easy ways to actually do what you plan.
So the first thing I want to discuss with you is the topic of realistic planning. if you are going to stick to your schedule you need to have a schedule that's realistic in the first place. This is where many of us fail before we even get started. I know for me this has been a huge game changer. Maybe because I'm an optimist or maybe because I have a weird sense of time when I first started my PhD program I would really underestimate the time it would take me to complete a task. this led me to constantly feeling behind and then feeling guilty at the end of the day when I didn't get to everything on my to-do list.
So let's talk about how you can plan for success. the first thing I want you to do when you're planning is to break up large projects into smaller tasks. by doing this you're going to be able to better time block and a more accurate way. so for instance if you want to work on writing a report on a day in your schedule instead of time blocking out write report over several hours, I want you to time block writing each component of that report for instance one hour for the introduction maybe 2 hours for the body and maybe 3 hours for the end of the report.
Another thing that can help you be more realistic with your planning is to add buffers into your schedule. buffers allow you Grace and also help compensate for our tendency to think that we can do more with the time that we actually have. essentially buffers kind of bring you back down to earth and give you some breathing room just in case you don't get to finish the task in the time you thought you would finish it.
Another thing that's going to help you plan more realistically is lowering the bar. Now this is something you won't hear me say very often but when it comes to planning I think it's really effective to help you actually stick to your schedule. so when you think about what you want to plan for that day based on your goals and your intentions for the week I want you to plan in a way that makes it very easy for you to complete what you need to do. that way when you go sit down to look at your schedule doesn't feel overwhelming and it feels like I could do that very easily, “let's get it.” This is something that I use a lot when I'm trying to start a new habit for instance when I started meditating I set the goal of meditating just 2 minutes every day. this way when I sat down to do it I knew that it's something that I could easily do and it wasn't something daunting. so setting the bar low in this way is a way to get yourself going on a task and the great thing is you'll likely be able to get more done while also sticking to your schedule.
also a helpful way to make sure that your plan for the day is realistic is to use the Eisenhower matrix. this is going to help you prioritize what's urgent and what's important so that when you sit down to work you know you're going to be working on the most valuable task which is going to add to your motivation to actually stick to your plan for the day.
lastly when it comes to realistic planning I want you to focus your schedule for the day on goals that are going to help you move closer to your Larger than Life goals. specifically your schedule should be filled with task and projects that are what I like to call Smart C. so this means not only are they specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, And Timely, but they're also controllable. so in the mod ambition planner it guides you through setting what I call Moon goals and star goals. moon goals are those Larger than Life goals of where we want to be one year from now, 3 years from now, etc. and then our star goals are the Stepping Stones along the way that we can focus on in our daily lives that are going to bring us closer to those Moon goals. and I think it's helpful to not only make these goals by the popular acronym of smart, but you also make them things that you can control. and like I said the modAmbition planner walks you through all of this in the goal setting planner at the beginning of the planner, and it also helps you implement it throughout your quarter. So as it relates to realistic planning, make sure that your schedule includes things you can control in your journey to getting where you want to be. for instance if you want to gain a thousand followers on Instagram in the next 90 days, a smart sequel could be post one time a day everyday for the next 3 months. so while you can't control how many people actually follow you you can control showing up consistently and track that progress. and focusing your daily schedule on these things it's going to be more motivating for you each day to stick to what you planned.
okay now that you have a realistic schedule, let's move on to beating procrastination. sometimes our plan is realistic and we have our most important task line up but we just can't get it together to sit down and do what we planned. and last week I made a whole video about this called unmotivated to work? how to get ish done anyway which I will link below and Link at the end of this video. however, in this video I wanted to speak more specifically on how to beat procrastination as it pertains to sticking to your schedule. and first I want to dive a little bit into the mindset strategies that are going to help you be procrastination and really hunker down on what you need to do.
First your and be mindful of your emotions and thoughts. what I mean by this is to become more aware of what pools you away from your schedule and the triggers that inhibit you from doing what you planned. is it that you get distracted with shiny object syndrome? is it that you're feeling unmotivated? is it that you don't feel competent or have some type of anxiety about what it is that you have planned for yourself to do? or is it that the task just feels too daunting? and then once you have a good idea of what's triggering your procrastination this is going to empower you to plan for it and to personalize your strategies for beating procrastination. this is also the time to become mindful of the thoughts and emotions that are showing up when you're triggered. when you become aware of exactly how you're feeling in these moments and the thoughts, meaning the words going through your head at that time, you can use tools like thought restructuring to help you work through the procrastination. for instance if you sit down to do a task and you realize that you're trying to procrastinate because you feel bored and you think about the thoughts in your head at that time you might be thinking something like I hate that I have to do this, I wish I could just be free to do what I want with my time. if you dive a little bit deeper into that but you may realize that it's coming from this limiting belief of feeling trapped in your life. I'll give you an example in my own life, there was a time that I was working at administrative job that simply put I really hate it and I would procrastinate in the work that I had to do there because it was so boring to me and I really just didn't enjoy it. and when I did the conscious work to really realize why I wasn't productive at this job I realized that I was feeling trapped by the job. I almost felt like I was in a cage if I had to use an analogy stuck at a job that I hate it. and so I was able to discover that my limiting belief at that time was I don't have freedom in my life. and being in the psychology world I was able to use tools to restructure that limiting belief and come up with a mantra that I could tell myself in that moment that helped me reshift to my positive beliefs. and for me that belief was I'm creating freedom so what I would do in those moments that I would feel triggered to procrastinate I would say to myself sometimes I feel like I don't have freedom in my life but I know that I'm creating Freedom by working a job that pays for my cost of living and gives me experience while I also make plans for and work on the side to create a life that I love. and just making this shift and consciously tuning into my emotions and my thoughts helped me stop procrastinating and get my work done.
Another mindset shift that's going to help you stick to your schedule and actually do what you plan is something called committed action. committed action is a concept within acceptance and commitment therapy where you learn to accept difficult emotions and experiences instead of avoiding them, while also simultaneously committing to actions that bring you closer to what you value. for instance let's say that you are sitting down to do a new task that you've never done before in the anxiety of not feeling prepared and that the task is really daunting makes you want to procrastinate on it and push it off to another day. utilizing the concept of committed action instead of avoiding this anxiety by putting the task off you are going to accept how you feel and and commit to doing the work anyway and service of moving closer to your value of let's say evolving even if you have to carry that anxiety with you in the background. and you might be thinking well how do I accept that anxiety? emotional acceptance is a combination of mindful awareness, so being aware of the emotion you're trying to accept in the first place. and then it's also a combination of self-compassion and patience. so in this example, you would become mindful of the anxiety and Dread that you're feeling have compassion for yourself by maybe taking a few deep breaths and highlighting to yourself that it's normal to feel anxious when you're doing something new, and then finally having patience with yourself to know that with time you'll be better at this thing and won't feel as anxious when you start to do this type of task.
The last mindset trick that I want to share with you when it comes to beating procrastination comes from the book The War of art. and in this book the author discusses having a professional mindset versus an amateur mindset. He says that by assuming your role as a professional, you are better able to push through resistance that fuels procrastination. He says, “I mean the Professional as an ideal. The professional in contrast to the amateur. Consider the differences. The amateur plays for fun. The professional plays for keeps. To the amateur, the game is his avocation. To the pro it’s his vocation. The amateur plays part-time, the professional full-time. The amateur is a weekend warrior. The professional is there seven days a week. The word amateur comes from the Latin root meaning “to love.” The conventional interpretation is that the amateur pursues his calling out of love, while the pro does it for money. Not the way I see it. In my view, the amateur does not love the game enough. If he did, he would not pursue it as a sideline, distinct from his “real” vocation. The professional loves it so much he dedicates his life to it. He commits full-time. That’s what I mean when I say turning pro. Resistance hates it when we turn pro.”
And another helpful thing that you can do to kind of trick your mind into beating procrastination is just taking the first step. so decide on the minimal viable action that it's going to take to do what you have planned for your day and just commit to doing the first part of it. There are a couple great things about this. Firstly, research show that those that commit to just taking the first step is the quintessential difference between productive people and those that are not. Secondly, it is common that once you get started on a task it’s like a domino effect that you just get into a flow and keep going.
And speaking of flow, getting into a flow state quickly while you are working is a great way to beat procrastination. Steven Kotler, a flow state researcher, says that “Flow is technically defined as an optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and we perform our best.” I like to call it the work version of meditation. And Kotler says that if you find yourself procrastinating a way to activate flow state so you can get things done is to make boring tasks more challenging, or if the task is too hard and making you anxious to break it down into smaller tasks. So essentially you are increasing dopamine to overcome boredom, and decreasing cortisol when you feel anxious about a task.
Now once you have your mindset and check when you are facing procrastination that's taking you off track of your schedule, you can focus on some of these other things to nip procrastination in the bud and actually take the action. the first thing you can focus on is injecting your task with pleasure. some ways to add Pleasures to things that you have to do can be gamifying the task so setting a challenge for yourself Such as competing with your partner to see who can clean a room faster. another thing you can do to infuse pleasure into what you're working on is to reward yourself after you get a hard tasks done. I also find it valuable to reflect on the meaning of the work that you're doing. when you connect with your why that has been shown to increase our motivation to get things done and to take action. aAnd then lastly when it comes to beating procrastination, I certainly have to mention techniques to eliminate distraction and impulsivity.
Here's some quick things that I do to make sure that I am not distracted while I'm working:
- I stick to only checking emails at designated times of the day so that I stick to my priorities throughout the day and not other people's.
- I put my phone away while I'm working out of Arms Reach for obvious reasons
- I work with a full screen so that I'm not tempted to start clicking into other apps and the internet
- And I say no which means I have non-negotiable time blocks within my schedule that I don't let other people impede upon and I do my very best to protect
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Now if you're distracted, I want you to come back to me and listen up because these next tools for procrastination works so well you'll be wondering, why don't they teach us these life hacks in school?
Here's some tactical strategies to respect the deadlines you set for yourself and actually do what you plan:
- First is visualization. Envision your day before you get started on the work that you're doing. so in the modern ambition planner within the daily planning there is a prompt to set your intention for the day. and what I like to do is after I set my intention I take a look at everything I have planned for the day and I take a minute to visualize how I would want that day to look. I envisioned myself working through all the tasks I have set for myself on my schedule and also tuning into how I want to feel as I'm doing these tasks.
- The second tactical strategy is to use timers. Parkinson's law dictates that a task will expand to the time that you allow for it. and you can use this law to your advantage by time blocking and using a timer to be conscious of time in the moment.
- another tactical strategy to beating procrastination so you can get everything done in your schedule is to use background music. specifically I always recommend Alpha wave study music that helps your brain get into a flow state. Just
- Another helpful strategy to getting things done is accountability. I know for myself this is an excellent tool when I really want to make sure I get things done I tell someone else about it and it is usually a guaranteed way to make sure I don't procrastinate.
- and the last text strategy I have for you to make sure you stick to your schedule is to write down your squirrels. you know that popular euphemism that people with distraction problems get distracted anytime a squirrel runs by? well I want you to start writing down what you're distracted by instead of following it. I like to use a desk whiteboard on my desk too just jot down things that I want to do but I don't want to distract me in the moment.
Also here is a book list for further reading on tackling procrastination that you can screen shot now:
The Now Habit by Neil Fiore
The Procrastination Equation by Piers Steel
Solving the Procrastination Puzzle by Timothy Pychyl
Getting Things Done by David Allen
The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal
Like I said earlier I have teed up for you my video from last week about more strategies to help you when you're feeling unmotivated to work and if you're interested in using the modern ambition planner with many tactical strategies infused in it to help you achieve your goals and you can click the link below.
I would love to end this episode by offering an intention for you this week:
May you offer yourself love by respecting the deadlines you set for yourself.
Cheers to planning, manifesting, and enjoying your dream life.
If you liked this episode please follow the podcast or subscribe to my channel, and until next time Namaste!