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How to do it all: The Schedule

This is part 3 of the How to Do It All Series.

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You know those times when you feel like you have too much to do and not enough time? When it feels like you have a million things to do, and you aren’t even sure what they all are? When it feels like you need to freeze time or have several clones of yourself just to keep on top of everything?

Well, I have a 5 step process that I use to figure out:

  1. What are all the tasks that are on my plate?
  2. Is it even possible to do them all?

A little disclaimer

You may find that once you create a weekly schedule, you can get to work and get it all done. Or maybe not. This exercise is based on an ideal week – when you are not sick, you don’t have unexpected company, or emergencies pop up.

The reality is: Life happens. Things come up that you didn’t plan, or you get sick and can’t do anything.

But this exercise will make it clear if you are trying to do too much. And it will help you see some possibilities of how you can DO IT ALL.

If you find this process overwhelming or know that your life is chaotic or you rebel against schedules – you’ll like the next article. We’ll talk there about intentions and finding balance. But for now, remember that this is simply an exercise. You do not need to follow this schedule you make. It is one way that it might be possible to do all the things you want. Or you might discover that you are expecting way too much from yourself.

Today we’re going to talk about routines and go through an exercise to create a possible weekly routine or schedule.

We want to do it all and have it all

Remember back in part 1 of this series on How to Do It All? We talked about several reasons why we expect too much from ourselves:

  • We don’t understand time
  • We feel guilty about doing one thing instead of another
  • We think we can multi-task
  • We are impatient
  • We don’t draw the line between what we want and what other people want

And then in part 2, we talked about how to figure out what we want, instead of focusing just on what other people want for us or from us. We figured out our dreams, priorities, values, and a word of the year.

I don’t want you to forget any of the insights you had while reading and working through those exercises. If it has been a little while since you did them, or if you haven’t read those yet, I’d encourage you to go back.

Go ahead, this article will be here until you’re ready.

Ready? Good, let’s move forward.

Routines versus Schedules

I prefer routines to schedules. Schedules seem cold and rigid. Routines seem warm and cozy – and flexible.

The difference between a routine and a schedule is that a routine is when one thing follows another. A schedule uses chunks of time. In a routine, the work or activity determines when to move on. In a schedule, the clock and calendar decide.

Of course, you can have a hybrid of the two. But that is how I define each, for what it’s worth.

The 5 Step System to Do It All

I’ve put together a 5 Step System that will help you figure out a weekly schedule. This will allow you some peace of mind to know that there is a place for the things that are most important to you.

Today we’re going to look at a week. A week is long enough to do most of the things that you want to do but it is short enough that it is manageable to think about.

Having a schedule (or a routine) helps to cut out the worry, guilt, and disappointment around the stuff you are not doing right now. You know that there is a place for those other things that are also important to you.

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This system will help you discover if your expectations are reasonable. You’ll learn if you’re expecting too much from yourself and setting yourself up for overwhelm.

It can also help you figure out how everything fits together.

Essentially, we are going to do an exercise where try to block out time for everything that we want to do. You might think of this an ideal weekly schedule.

If you do try to follow this schedule for a time, remember to keep it flexible. You might never have a week that follows your ideal schedule perfectly.

Life happens. You get sick, or family comes to town, or the fridge stops working, or your favourite band comes to town… Life happens.

And now, without any further ado…

Step 1. Block out time to rest

Having enough time to rest keeps you energized for everything else you want to do in life.

a. Sleep

Set aside 8-9 hours for sleep. The general rule of thumb is that people need 7-8 hours of sleep. My advice is to set aside an hour more than you need.

Have you ever laid down in bed knowing that you would need to fall asleep immediately to get enough sleep? What sort of thoughts start running through your mind? My mind starts to go in circles. I feel stressed, so I struggle to relax enough to actually slip off into sleep.

And consider as we go along what you do just before bed. You might even consider a power down routine – something relaxing and restful before bed.

b. Quiet

When can you get a few minutes of quiet?

  • Take a walk by yourself (or with a dog) without music or podcasts
  • Journal
  • Letting your mind wander while sipping coffee or tea
  • Meditation
  • Reading a book that lets you reflect on life
  • Doing art – painting, drawing, knitting, etc

c. Time to connect with friends and family

When will you spend the time to really connect with your favourite people?

This may not be easy to schedule, but it’s important to have space in your routine for your people. Connection with others is crucial to having a healthy mindset. So go ahead and block off some time in your ideal schedule for your people.

d. Fun

This might overlap with your quiet time or your time with friends and family. The point is to set aside time for fun. We need to play in our life. Time to do something that is enjoyable and has no purpose other than fun.

  • Watch a movie or tv
  • Play some music
  • Do some art
  • Read a book
  • Play a game
  • Bake some goodies
  • Anything that is fun for you

Step 2. Know what you need and want to do

Write it down.

It can be daunting to see it all written down, but it is so much easier to deal with on the paper. The alternative is trying to keep it all in your head and worrying that you’re forgetting something. Or trying to ignore it all until the last minute and having to run around like mad to get everything done.

a. What have you already committed your time to?

For example, work obligations, any sports or classes you’re involved in. Block off those times.

The worksheet is structured around a week. But if you have a commitment that happens every other week or once a month, still include it. In that block of time, it becomes something else on the weeks without that event, of course.

  • If your life tends to be highly structured and planned, maybe this block becomes true free time on the off week. Do whatever you feel like at the moment. Maybe that will be something restful. Maybe you’ll play a game. Maybe you will get caught up on household tasks.
  • If your life tends to be less structured, plan something specific. Spend time on a hobby. Work on that project you never have time for. Read a book. Something you want to do, but never seem to make time for.

b. Eat and Move

Make a note of meal times. You might also want to make a note of when you’re planning to get groceries and if you want to do some meal prep.

Make a note of when you’d like to be active and move. There might be some overlap between this and things you like to do for fun or time that you connect with other people. For example, many people find it fun to play sports. Or you might go for a walk with a friend.

c. What else do you want or need to do?

If you are in a situation where you are moving your home or your job, make a list of everything that you’ll need to do for that move.

If you’ve got an event or a trip coming up, what do you need to do to get ready?

If you feel that you are behind in the stuff of life, what do you want to catch up on?

Are there hobbies you want to do? Do you want to read more books? Are there projects you’ve been itching to work on?

  1. Write them all down. Feel free to have one big list and sort it out after, or keep separate lists from the beginning.
    • Remember, it might seem like a lot once you’ve got them on paper. But this list already exists in your head. Now you’re putting it into a form where you can actually deal with it all.
  2. If you started with one big list, sort it into separate groups of tasks – whatever makes sense to you.
  3. How much time would you want or need to dedicate to each group of tasks to feel like you are making progress?
  4. Plot those times into your schedule

Step 3. Check your mindset

How do you feel when you look at this plan?

Do you feel confident and excited, or do you feel overwhelmed and scared?

If you feel excited or confident, you are ready to move onto step 4.

If you feel overwhelmed just making the plan, you might be trying to do too much at once. “Too much” is entirely subjective.

The line between ‘a little challenging’ and ‘too much’ is a fine line and it is different for every person. And it will change at different points in your life. Or you might be thinking like a perfectionist.

Look at the routine again. This time remind yourself that you don’t have to follow this schedule next week. You don’t have to follow it perfectly. Does this change how you feel about it?

What if I told you that this was a vision for how your life could look in 5 years? How do you feel now?

  • If you still feel overwhelmed, what can you take out? What is actually a priority for you, right now? What commitments can you let go of? Where can you get help?
  • What can you combine? Read back on the previous steps and pay attention to where there is a possible overlap. For example, can you go to the gym or for a walk with a friend. So you are being active and spending time with one of your favourite people.
  • If you’re unsure what to do next and excited at the same time, you’re ready to move on.

Step 4. Create a pathway to your vision

Use the ideal schedule you’ve created as your vision for a future you – weeks, months, or years from now. The bigger the difference between what you are doing now and the vision you have for the future, the more steps it will take to get there.

You might be able to do 1 or 2 of those changes you envision, without too much struggle. This is where you should start.

With any change, we want to have a vision, but break it down into several smaller steps. Each step then leaves you feeling confident and excited, and brings you closer to your vision.

Without that vision, the small steps can feel pointless. “How can 5 minutes of walking make me fit?” But when you know that 5 minutes is just the start, and you’ll build that time up as you build the habit and you get stronger and more confident… Well, that is exciting. I can do 5 minutes, and 5 minutes is just the beginning. I will become stronger.

So compare what you have written down with what you are doing now. What is one small change you can make that will get you closer to where you want to be?

Step 5. Take action

The perfect plan is meaningless if you do nothing with it. And, to be honest, the perfect plan does not exist. You will learn things once you start that you had no way of knowing when you were in the planning stage. Your life circumstances will change. Your priorities may shift. And you’re going to learn stuff.

The best plan is the plan that leads to action.

The best action is the action that you do.

Even if you later learn that it was a mistake, you are still further along in your journey than you would have been, if you had waited instead of taking action.

This is where we get sayings like, “Great is the enemy of the good.” or “Perfect is the enemy of done.”

Do something. Take one step. Try one thing. See what happens next.

Pitfalls on the path

Some people find it helpful to post their goals or create vision boards to remind themselves what their goals are. This can definitely be helpful sometimes. But it can also get in the way.

Creating elaborate vision boards can be a form of procrastination.
Seeing that big vision or goal can be scary and overwhelming. It can stop you from doing anything to reach it.

So if you’ve struggled with setting goals in the past. Take an extra dose of self-compassion. Remind yourself that you are human. It takes time to make changes in your life. And the path from here to there is rarely a straight path.

You might also enjoy focusing more on the processes, the intentions behind what you do. For example, if you want to run a marathon, focus on just running, and resting in your training schedule.

Focus on what you need to do today. You can know that you are working on a goal, but keep your focus on what you are doing now.


We’ve covered a lot of ground today, so let’s sum it up.

The 5 Steps to creating big change

  1. Plan for rest
  2. Write out what you want and need to do
  3. Check your mindset
  4. Create a pathway to your vision
  5. Take action

Remember to sign up for the newsletter and you’ll get a workbook that guides you through this whole process.

Let me know in the comments below: What is your next step towards living the life you want, towards the good life?

Until next time, be good.1

You are reading this because you are interested in improving your life. That means we have something in common. I’m still working on what the Foundations for the Good Life is all about, and I’d love for you to join me in this journey. I’d love to build a community with you. With people who are trying to figure out what “the good life” means, and how to set up their life to make it possible for them.

If this interests you, join the newsletter to be the first to know about updates, new articles, and to try out tools as they are developed and improved. I hope to connect with you soon.

Originally published Sept 30, 2018. Rewritten on April 14, 2019.
Edited on June 8, 2019 – Removed some background to add to How to do it all, and fit into a larger series.

  1. I was a teenager when I first remember my mom saying, “Be good,” when I left the house. When I left for university, and to this day, she ends most of our conversations in the same way.
    Yes, she meant, ‘I love you’ and ‘stay out of trouble.’ But she also meant, ‘do what’s right.’ Follow what you know to be true for you. Learn from life and how to do things better.
    Now that I’m trying to understand and evolve my philosophy of life; Now that I’m trying to help other people strive toward living the good life; I want to share that phrase, “Be good,” with you. Be good. Live the good life in whatever way you define that for yourself.


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