Written by Pranav Singhania
Have you seen “successful” people on social media sharing how they spend their day accounting for every minute of the day? Something like, 02:00 to 02:10 PM, stare outside the window? Has this fascinated you? Boggled your mind? Made you a little anxious as to how has this person got their life in such great control? Ever since childhood, we’ve been forced to make strict timetables to maximise productivity. And as a kid, I would do the same, but somehow it never worked for me. I could never stick to this beautifully crafted timetable after a few days, even though I was aware this was supposed to help me get my life together. Have you been in the same boat too?
The above is what I call “micro scheduling” where you plan every single minute of your day. And honestly, it makes me feel a bit edgy. As a kid, I could never tell what was “wrong” with me, or point out why it never worked out for me, maybe I’m just lazy and can never be that disciplined in life. Now that I understand my mind a little better than before, I believe I’ve found an alternative to this. For people who find micro scheduling naturally overwhelming, it might actually do more harm than good. The undue pressure created by the brutal timetable might lead to the person just not getting anything done. You start off enthusiastically, get two items done in time, you get slightly delayed on the next one, and boom, you have a cascading domino effect killing all the enthusiasm you began with. It was the timer associated with the task and the pressure of getting on with the next task in time which made it daunting, and not the task itself. But the mind wouldn’t really be able to see through them. Additionally, you become more focused on getting things done in time versus getting things done right. It’s a constant chasing game.
Is there a better way? I believe so, because it seems to have worked with me. Does it allow me to conquer all the 110 things I would try to squeeze in every single day? Probably not, have I sustainably been able to keep up with most of the things I wanted to do? Yes. So, I unknowingly, started to macro schedule where a particular task isn’t governed by a fixed time frame in a day. It is scheduled at a macro level, by first realizing that I wouldn’t be able to achieve EVERY single thing I wanted to do. Hence, attaching deadlines like 3-5 times a week or once/twice a month (anything beyond this becomes tricky to keep in your mind) to tasks. I don’t formally mark the 3-5 times a week on paper, it’s fairly easy to keep them in your mind. This helps me maintain a balance where I’m not beating myself when I’m meeting those goals, but I’m still keeping myself accountable, cause deep down I know at the end of the week/month if I hit the mark or not.
Now taking it a level deeper, how do we do it on the daily granularity. I found that it was easier to get something done, if I just allocated a section of the day instead of a particular time of the day. So, instead of saying, I’ll exercise at 5 PM everyday, I try to macro it up by saying, I’ll exercise during evening anytime before dinner. The benefit was that if I was working on something important at 5 PM and I was in the zone, I don’t have to drastically switch context, because the clock said so. And I don’t have to deal with the mental barrier of completely ditching an activity simply because the designated time is now past. I get done with whatever it was at 5:37 PM and now I am doing jumping jacks at 5:41 PM. Evening? Check. Before dinner? Check. Exercise done? Check. Completely agreed that this level of flexibility was one of the gifts of the pandemic. But we all should still be able to carve out something on these lines, as the world goes back to the original normal (if it ever does).
This approach has helped me get something done instead of getting nothing done. And maybe macro scheduling is a stepping stone towards micro scheduling or maybe it’s not and one or the other framework fits your personality better than the other. Nothing’s right or wrong, just a personal preference, at the end of the day it should get the best out of you. Let’s be honest, no one really knows the right way which works for all. Give it a shot, assess if the macro style works for you in a couple months, diligently evaluate if you’re getting more done than before and are able to sustain everything you had planned. Time could be an ally, if we chose so.