5 Steps to Making an Adaptable Daily Schedule (Podcast or Post #4)

How can you make a daily schedule to adapt to unexpected life changes? Here are the 5 steps you need to make a daily schedule, in Podcast or Post #4.

To get started, I recommend using what I call a sample schedule. You’re welcome to download the sample schedule worksheets I’ve designed for free along with the included instructions.

But today we’re also going to walk you through all these steps to making a daily schedule, one at a time.

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2 Things to Keep in Mind When Making a Daily Schedule

1. Understand the difference between a routine and a schedule.

A routine is by definition according to Cambridge Dictionary, “a usual or fixed way of doing things.”

A schedule is defined by Merriam Webster as “a procedural plan that indicates the time and sequence of each operation.”

So basically a schedule is the time you plan the things you want to do. And a routine is more about doing things in a certain way or order versus when you do them.

As an example, I now have a cleaning routine, where I clean the same things every day in the same order. I can then put my cleaning routine into my daily schedule. So I may say I’m going to start my cleaning routine at 8 AM.

So hopefully that clarifies the difference between the 2 a little bit. Because there definitely is a difference between a routine and a schedule. But both also work hand-in-hand.

2. Base your sample schedule off of your current circumstances.

a family sits at home doing schoolwork with their children at the table since their kids are currently needing to school at home

Know there will be seasons where you need to make adjustments & times when your schedule will need to be different- either temporarily or permanently.

So if you’re struggling to keep up with recent life changes, just know it happens. But it is possible to adapt.

And I get it.

Right now as I’m writing this, my sample schedule is totally different than it was 2 weeks ago. I’m posting this during March 2020; I live in New York State. And we’re living in the middle of a health crisis right now.

In my region, a lot of businesses are closed, and the schools are closed. I have my 2 stepkids home all day now due to the school closings, (in addition to 2 toddlers who aren’t school-age yet.)

And we’re having to supervise them doing their schoolwork on Google classroom. My husband is out of a job currently, because he can only work while the schools are open.

So my current sample schedule is based on the fact that the kids are home from school. That’s our current circumstances for the next few weeks, at least. So when I plan out my day, I’m planning it with these circumstances in mind.

Just to clarify, by current circumstances, I mean whatever your general situation is for the time being, not something unique to today or this week.

5 Steps to Making a Daily Schedule

To make these steps easier, I’ve designed free downloadable printable sample schedule worksheets.

And they will help you do all the steps I’m sharing right now.

If you can’t print these out right now, you can also do this in a notebook. (The printable sample schedule pages just make it easier.)

1.) Write out the main categories of tasks/activities in your life.

What these are will be dependent on your personal situation and the current aspects of your life that are important to you.

I know we’re talking about how to make a daily schedule. But the fact is every day of our life is affected by our week as a whole.

Most of cannot realistically have the same exact schedule each day. If you work, it may not be all 7 days.

If you have kids, whether they’re in school or they homeschool, they probably are not doing schoolwork every day.

There may be certain days you go shopping, stay in touch with friends, have certain religious activities, have family nights, or do recreational activities.

Since not every day is going to be the same, in order to make an effective daily schedule, it’s essential to make a sample weekly schedule as well. And that’s why my sample schedule worksheets include a sample weekly schedule for 7 days.

Things to Consider About Your Life Categories

For life categories, think about what things are a part of your weekly life, not just your daily life.

On page 2 of my free printable sample schedule pages, you can write down the main categories in your life.

For example, some categories might be:

  • family/marriage
  • spiritual/religious
  • health & fitness
  • work
  • self-care, personal care & development
  • recreation
  • cleaning
  • home organization and decor
  • meal planning
  • education
  • etc.

You can also choose to put smaller categories of your life into bigger categories.

For example, I put all of my cleaning, organization, meal planning, shopping tasks, and the like under a homemaking category, (instead of doing a separate, smaller category for each.)

Just a note: I do recommend including a category where you list things for recreation/fun hobbies you enjoy. Or things you do/want to do to refresh yourself when you need a break.

I personally include these things in my larger self-care category, which also includes other important things I do to take care of myself, like eating, bathing, exercising, etc.

When you’re done, rank each category by level of which is most important in your life, by numbering them. 1 is what comes first, and so on, until you’ve numbered all of them.

2.) Next, list related tasks that go under each category.

a young woman sits making out a list of tasks for each of her life categories before planning out a sample schedule

So under your life categories on my printable sample schedule pages, you have room to list several specific things you regularly do or want to do related to that aspect of your life, (whether or not you have made time already to do them.)

So for example, under my category of ‘marriage/family/kids’, I listed things like date night with my husband, family night, and reading to the kids. The goal is to list specific tasks/activities that fall under each category.

3.) Start to fill in your sample schedule with tasks & responsibilities that are non-negotiable as to when they can be done.

a woman sits at her work desk

On pages 4 & 5 of my free sample schedule worksheets, you’ll find a blank sample schedule for a full week. The purpose of this is to give you a ‘schedule template’ that you can use as a reference when planning out your schedule each day/week.

There are hour time blocks. This doesn’t mean you actually need to follow a schedule hour by hour each day.

But by filling in time blocks, it forces you to think about how much time regular tasks realistically take. It also made me realize how much I could reasonably accomplish during a day.

It’ll help you to see how you can manage your time, so you can schedule your most important tasks. And it helps you also include things you enjoy or never seem to have enough time for.

I suggest doing this in pencil, at first, so you can erase/change/move things around as needed. And be sure to base your sample schedule on what is realistic for your current circumstances.

You can always change your sample schedule and redo it later when your situation changes again. But focus on coming up with something that works for now.

The first things you should fill in are tasks and responsibilities that have to be done at certain times each week and are non-negotiable. (For example, things like a consistent work schedule, taking the kids to school at a certain time, or them doing schoolwork at home at a certain time, or other tasks set at specific times you can’t really change.)

Next block out the times you need to eat & prepare meals for any days you normally eat at home.

Keep in mind you want to give yourself enough time to prepare them without rushing. And give yourself more time than you need to actually eat. For myself, I usually block out a couple of hours on the days I cook. And for every meal except breakfast I will block out at least 1 hour to eat.

Consider if you want to prep and cook food every night, if you’ll make enough for leftovers on certain days, if you have a typical night where you order pizza, etc.

Some people choose to prep multiple meals, (such as freezer meals,) on one day, to save time on other days. Remember you can also make meal times a little earlier or later on certain days if needed, depending on your schedule and what works for you/your family.

4.) Pencil the other tasks you wrote down into your sample schedule, starting with what’s most important first.

Look back at the page with your prioritized categories and tasks. Then start to pencil in the remaining tasks under your categories in order of priority.

A word of caution: You don’t want to cram too much into one hour. If anything, give yourself a little extra time to get things done. You don’t want to expect more out of yourself than is reasonably possible. Also, you don’t want to burn yourself out.

When it comes to errands/places you need to go, remember to block out enough time for getting ready, travel time, and extra time in case there’s traffic, if things go wrong, etc.

Keep in mind the timing of your tasks as you fill in your sample schedule. Make sure things are in a logical order and at the best time of day for you to do them, when possible.

So for example, when I put in my schedule to give my toddlers a bath, I want to make sure it isn’t during the time my son might still be taking his nap.

5.) Use your sample schedule as a basis for making out your schedule for each day & week.

a young woman uses her sample schedule to make a daily schedule for each week of the current month

Once you have a solid sample schedule completed, use this as a basis for planning out each day and week. As you are scheduling things out, take into account any unique tasks/errands/activities that day or week. Then fill in the rest of your schedule around it, starting with the most important things you have in your sample schedule.

If you work better with physical planners AND you like using hourly time blocks in your schedule each day, I strongly recommend using the Living Well Planner from the Living Well Shop.

I have tried several physical planners and this is by far my favorite. It is a full-size physical planner and in addition to hourly time blocks for each day/week, it also has areas to fill in your meal plans, a list for each week, monthly & yearly goals, extra notes, monthly budget worksheets and more. It’s undated- you fill in the dates yourself, so you can start using it any time of the year.

Regardless of which planner you use- whether physical or electronic- remember that this sample schedule is not set in stone. It’s just a tool to use as a reference when making out your current schedule for the day and week.

Think about what a typical week is for your current circumstances.

It’s really important to start a schedule on the basis of what you typically want to include in a day and week instead of what is simply going on today or this week.

There are always going to be urgent things we need to do and unexpected responsibilities. But sometimes in the midst of trying to accommodate the latest twist or turn in our life, we actually push aside things that are consistently important to us.

Earlier I did talk about how you should base your sample schedule on your current circumstances. But by this I still mean circumstances that are generally consistent for the time being.

If you have an annual appointment to do your taxes tomorrow, this is something you don’t normally do every week. So this should be on tomorrow’s schedule. But you don’t need to put this on the sample schedule you base each day/week off of.

So when you make a sample schedule, yes, I do recommend having extra time blocked out to make room for unexpected or currently urgent tasks or errands that arise. But your sample schedule should focus on the aspects and tasks in your life that are consistently important each week.

If Your Schedule Changes Throughout the Year

Sometimes you may need to have different sample schedules for different times of the year or for different ‘typical weeks’. For myself, I use a sample schedule for when the kids are off of school. And I use a different sample schedule for when the kids are in school.

If you have an inconsistent work schedule from one week to the next, you may want to do a typical work schedule for when you have more hours in a week and one for less hours. If the days vary that you work, perhaps you can flip around what days you do what tasks you’ve listed on your sample schedule, to apply it to your current weekly schedule.

So those are 5 steps to take to design a daily sample schedule that’s adaptable. Remember that this can be used as a basis for your actual daily and weekly schedule. And you can always switch things up as your circumstances change.

Don’t forget to download the free sample schedule worksheets so you can customize your own personal sample schedule.

You may need to update your sample schedule from time to time. But it’s a great tool to help you manage your time, and to help you be realistic about what you can do.

And you can base your current day’s or week’s schedule off of this without forgetting things that are important to you, even when there are extra things going on.

**These sample schedule worksheets are part of my 30-page Maximized Motivation Workbook which you can grab in my Premium Resource Library for a low one-time fee, along with our Printable Meal Planning Packet, in addition to access to our full resource vault. And you’ll continue to get access to additional resources we add there for no additional cost.

So thanks for listening/reading and have a great day!

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