With school starting and the real world looming, many of us are breaking out our planners and scheduling away. I used to advocate for strict planning above all else. But sometimes the best course of action is having no course of action at all. Pursue the balance of flexible scheduling instead.
A Time and Place
If you’re prone to scatter-brain or lead a life that simply requires scheduling by the minute, then by all means go for it. But if your schedule allows for a bit of wiggle room and you still plan by the hour, then maybe take a step back.
When it comes to getting work done and maybe even workout plans, schedules can be extremely helpful in keeping us on track. However, once those schedules start inhibiting us from enjoying the spontaneity inherent in life, that’s where the problems begin.
If you’re so married to the schedule you’ve created that you can’t make time for the occasional day off, random outing with friends, or even a nap, then it’s time for re-evaluation.
Upsides and Downsides
Just as with everything else, schedules can be positive or negative depending on how you go about them.
The obvious benefits of scheduling is simple organization. If you can’t seem to keep assignments or commitments in order, then planning out your days could be extremely useful. Moreover, reserving time for certain obligations can actually create more free time for yourself in the long run.
Now, the cons. Being a hyper-methodical individual seems like it only has benefits from the outside. Often, though, these individuals can’t live outside of their visualized plans for the day.
This used to be me and I didn’t realize how much times on a piece of paper were dictating my life until I let them go.
Releasing yourself from this binding mindset isn’t a free pass to not show up for work, forget assignments, and leave your friends hanging. Rather its adopting a new outlook that balances both the usefulness of schedules and the excitement of impulse.
Ask Yourself This
So you’re at a crossroads. Maybe it’s hitting the library because it’s your allocated study time (even though you’ve been preparing for this exam all week), or going to see your favorite band last-minute with some friends. Or perhaps it’s watching the ninth episode in a row of Always Sunny or starting a research paper that’s due tomorrow. Let’s embark on the ideal thought process.
When you encounter these situations think to yourself, “What, in this moment, will serve my highest self?” We can break the idea of ‘highest self’ into two parts.
The first being your most fulfilled self. The you that feels satisfied in knowing they are doing something worthwhile. Whatever task is at hand may not be enjoyable, but you know it benefits you on a deeper level than fleeting satisfaction.
The second part is the you who is on the path of the person you want to be. Which decision will bring you closer to the person you always imagine yourself being when you picture your ideal life?
Using this thought process, the aforementioned dilemmas have fairly obvious choices. The first situation’s solution is the concert. In 20 years, you won’t remember going over the same material for the seventeenth time. But, you will most definitely look back on seeing your favorite band live with your best friends.
Serving your highest self in the second set of choices would be (perhaps unfortunately) writing the paper. The short term satisfaction of mindless televisions doesn’t outweigh the future repercussion of a failing grade on a research paper. These situations require reflection on how we can avoid such rushed situations in the future as well.
How can you ensure that you pursue your highest self in the long-term? Maybe through scheduling ahead of time.
Finding What Works For You
Learning to see what decision serves your highest self in that moment takes practice. It’s difficult to see ourselves from the outside and in the long term.
Everyone has their own set of dilemmas and ways they could utilize more and less of strict scheduling. Reflect on when you feel the happiest. More often than not this is when you go outside of your comfort zone and that looks different on everyone.
For the schedule stickler, that means brushing off your 3 o’clock gym session and joining some friends for ice cream instead. On the other hand, for the person who deeply fears any type of routine, it could be writing in just a few times per week to study.
When we find ourselves compulsively doing one thing or another, it’s often a sign of a larger issue at hand. If you can’t veer from a set schedule, then perhaps you’re ignoring an issue you don’t want to face. Alternatively, if productivity and punctuality evade you at each turn, maybe you aren’t pursuing the right major or career. Or possibly this is just a different mask for suppressed issues as well.
Balance and reflection in everything are the keys to a fulfilled life. Pursue your highest self in each moment by striving to achieve this balance and reflecting on how you can best utilize your time to reach your highest, ever-changing, self.
Cover image via I Heart Planners
Also published on Medium.