Scheduling Motivation

My sister told me the other day that I’ve “gotten too used to being able to do whatever [I] want all the time.”

At first I thought, well isn’t that entire point of life? Just to be able to do whatever you want? That sounds awesome! So does that mean that I’m awesome? Why yes, I guess it does!

But in reality, it’s not like I can do WHATEVER I want. There’s not jetting off to France for a week of wine drinking in the world’s best vineyards. Sigh.

But it is awesome in the sense that I can create my own schedule. I CHOOSE when to do things. Anything I want (within reason of course). Whenever I want.

That doesn’t mean I’m free from all responsibility. It doesn’t mean I still don’t have to do things I don’t want to. But I do have more flexibility in choosing when to do those things.

Sometimes though, I think that flexibility can lead to stagnation. It’s hard to get motivated to do the laundry, or water the lawn, when there is always time to do it later. I could start that load of whites now, or I could start it later. I could turn on the sprinkler now, or I could do it later.

That’s why I find that even though I have what might appear to be oodles of free time, for those of us that are unemployed, it still helps to be on some sort of a schedule. It doesn’t necessarily have to be anything rigid, but having a schedule will help give a sense of structure to your day, and it will help you feel a sense of accomplishment.

You might want to use a calendar to help you organize your schedule. A day timer is nice, or you can be all crazy awesome at technology like I am and use Google Calendar.

The first step is to establish a good sleeping pattern. I realize that it may be tempting to sleep in until all hours of the day and then stay up late (just because you can!) but you are a grown up, and it’s time to get on a good, normal sleeping pattern. Try to get at least 8 hours a night, because that’s going to help you be your best, and you want to be your best don’t you? For me, I find that 9 hours is optimal, and I usually sleep from about 11 or 11:30 until 8 a.m. or so. You might find you operate better sleeping from 12 to 9, or 10 to 6, or even 1 to 10. Just find what works best for you.

After you’ve established your normal sleeping pattern, try to find the periods of the day in which you are the most productive. This is no different for those of you that are employed, so perk those ears up if you’ve been nodding off during most of this post (maybe time to evaluate your sleeping habits, no?).  I find that I am most productive during my first hours of waking, so I try to schedule chores, errands, job-searching, and any other activity that requires a higher level of motivation (read: things I don’t really want to do but have to) during my morning hours, leaving the afternoon for more leisurely activities such as reading, writing, etc.

Now that you have a basic routine to your day down, it’s time to look at the bigger picture. For me, a large job search Web site that I follow here in Denver comes out every Monday, so I dedicate a good chunk of Monday to researching companies, drafting cover letters, and sending out resumes. When it comes to the more mundane tasks of daily life, I try to schedule them into my calendar so they don’t get put off and build up.

Sheets need to be washed once a week no? So let’s add that to the calendar, how about every Thursday? Floors should be vacuumed at least every two weeks, how about on Friday mornings? If it’s housework your focused on, take a look at Flylady.com, she’s got a very helpful calendar for almost any type of housework you can think of.

After I’ve scheduled necessary tasks into my week, I find time for the things I WANT to do. For me, this includes writing, which I’m trying to do on a regular basis. However, I find that if I don’t make time for my writing and actually insert it into my schedule, the stuff of daily life can often come up and trump that time I thought I might spend on it. You might not think you need to block off two hours on your calendar to do things you WANT to do, but trust me, if you don’t, something else will come up . So schedule the time to go to the gym, to work on that craft project, or even just to take that bath. Calgon anyone?Because even though you can do “whatever you want, whenever you want,” sometimes life just gets in the way.

So does unemployment mean footloose and fancy free? Sometimes, yes. But working off a calendar can help you stay motivated and productive, and the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel after crossing those items off of your to-do list will reduce any guilt you might feel when it comes time to just veg out in front of the TV for a little while.

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