Does scheduling every second of your day put you at ease or make you nervous? Given only so many hours in the day, how do you manage it all without a calendar? What I call hyper-scheduling is when you block out time for nearly every hour of the day and put specific to do items in each block. I’ll be honest: I hated calendars for the longest time. In this article I’ll show you how to embrace scheduling without feeling stressed.

My father lives a very regimented life. He wakes up early and has a bowel movement, then a few minutes later he’s stretching and listening to Bloomberg news. A few minutes after that he has breakfast at about the same time every day and the rest of the day pretty much goes just like that. Of course, he’s retired now and gets to set his own schedule, but he worked for over 30 years at the same company and pretty much had the same routine over and over and over again. As he’s an engineer you may think, “well because he’s a type-A personality he’s more likely to have a regimen,” but you’d be surprised at how many artists and creative thinkers also have regimented schedules. The book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work is a thorough examination of many artists who created a strict regimen so the they made was shipped out the door. As Steve Jobs said, “Real artists ship.” Chances are YOU want to ship a few things too, right?

The problem all of us deal with is that there are so many things outside of our control that scheduling our day can seem like a burden and source of stress. We look at the calendar as some sort of concrete edifice, and if we don’t follow it to the letter we have failed ourselves. As Jonathan Vieker points out, stop treating the calendar as though it were the 10 Commandments. We’re trained to think this way, because most people put those “immovable objects” on their calendars. Medical appointments, live concerts, birthdays, sporting events, kid parties, etc. all go on the calendar and if we miss them, we’re screwed. But Vieker suggests being a little more flexible in your thinking here. Sure, you don’t want to miss a medical appointment, but if you block out an hour of meeting time and your boss moves the meeting, how is that your problem? Don’t be afraid to push things off to another time or day. As Vieker says, “see it as a plan instead of a promise.”

In an early season of The Simpsons, Homer believes he’s eaten some poison fish and thinks he only has one day to live. He creates a to do list of all the things he wants to do before he dies, but winds up spending most of the day with his dad. Of course, most of the things he wanted to do that he has to give up on weren’t really great things to do anyway. Think about how little time you have now, and overall. Scheduling makes you think about what really has to get done, doesn’t it? You’re not likely to schedule “stop by Dave’s office and talk about that football game last night,” are you? The trick to scheduling your day this way is to allow that conversation to occur if it does, and be OK with juggling things around. It provides a little friction to slipping into not getting stuff done, and it makes you think about prioritization (we’ll have another post on prioritizing later).

Something you may notice in Vieker’s article: He schedules events in 30-minute blocks. When I developed Kitten Stuff Done, I felt very strongly that 30-minute blocks are a good balance point. My days at AOL were highly reactive due to the nature of the news business, but scheduling time to plan, write, have meetings, and travel were also part of that process. I don’t know that what I call “hyper-scheduling” is for everyone, but in crunch times it can be a very effective way to make sure you ARE plowing through those to do lists. Kitten Stuff Done helps by giving you a good list of general items that will need attending to: email, chores, planning, focus time, etc. Then, if you have to abandon your schedule, you can just pick another card! Or shuffle them up. Or put them in the order you have them in your calendar. It’s flexible, just like a cat!

Next time I’ll dive a little deeper into the evolution of the cards, and why we chose the basic deck of cards. We’ll also look forward at some of the booster packs coming in the future. Now go get that schedule planned for the week!