the importance of under-scheduling

Montana Landscape from Courtney Grigg
Montana Landscape from Courtney Grigg
I get stressed out easily. I wish it wasn’t so, but that’s the temperament I was born with. I also tend to try to do too much and bite off more than I can chew. These two qualities make perfect ingredients for a bi-weekly freak-out cocktail.

When I over-schedule myself and think that I can cram productive activity into every waking minute I find myself feeling tyrannized by my calendar. I have a constant, nagging feeling that I’m ‘off track’ and not doing enough. I can’t enjoy the spontaneous moments and events that life brings and find myself snapping at my husband.

There is a great German word for this kind of thing: Selberschuld. The literal translation is ‘self-guilt’, what it means practically is: It’s your own damn fault.

And it is. Each week I have to remind myself anew to leave some ‘air’ in my calendar. I am only one person (for now) and it is just going to take time to get all the things done that I want to accomplish.

The ironic thing about all of this, is that I find it helps me to be more productive. One way to get your inner resistance monster into high-gear is to create an over-managed, over-scheduled, unrealistic plan.

When I try and do one to two really important tasks a day and then a little maintenance stuff, I find I’m much more relaxed and that I end up doing stuff that I wanted to do but didn’t plan for anyway.

Funnily enough, I find the work I do in the times when it isn’t on the ‘official plan’ is actually fun because there is no ‘I have to’ feeling associated with it.

I’m (slowly) learning to get just enough of the ‘must do’ stuff on my calendar, but allowing space for work to be fun or for no work at all. I’ve got a suspicion that this is a big part of learning the art of working joyfully, not just efficiently.

12 thoughts on “the importance of under-scheduling

  1. I can SOOOOO relate to this: the over-scheduling, biting off more than I can chew, constantly making lists of what I HAVE to do to move forward. Thing is, what I HAVE to do is usually stuff I really WANT to do at first. Then comes a time when I can tackle of this and all I can mutter is “meh, me want to go to bed”. Not so productive, eh?

    Your post has really got me thinking. My issue most of the times is that I am not patient. I want out of my day job as soon as possible. What about being out of it as sensibly as possible and without burning out? I have a deadline you see, but it’s not tomorrow. Maybe I should try to find the balance between procrastinating and finding excuses, and cramming my schedule to the brim, rushing out and crashing. Yup.

    Thank you for your post :)

  2. thanks for the wake up call. I am 7 months pregnant, and I am really struggling with the fact that I am can no longer plan on being productive every day. It is driving me crazy, because my body stops, but my mind does not, so I am constantly thinking of what I could be doing. Perhaps this perspective will help.

  3. Can I relate?


    I still haven’t gotten all the stuff I put on my JANUARY/FEBRUARY to do list done.

    And this ain’t because I’ve been slacking.

    I always think I can cram a week’s worth of work into a day…and never fail to be disappointed when I can’t.

  4. I so identify with this post! I am in the process of slowing down and creating more space, because that’s when those new ideas happen. Otherwise, I have no time or space for the new ideas to form. I just keep cranking on the old ideas. They are good, but they can’t sustain me forever. :)

  5. Oh wow, I SO relate to this! As a newly self-employed person and lifelong workaholic/overachiever, I’m having a hard time determining when I’ve worked “enough” for the day.

    So I end up pushing myself and — let’s be honest — turning out crap work because I’ve worn myself out, it’s late, and I’m exhausted. Great food for thought here — thanks!

  6. Yes its so difficult to call it a day because you have already put in a good quota of work hours rather than because the job is actually finished- the compulsion to create doesn’t seem to observe normal working hours.

  7. Since starting up my biz and working on new side-hustles, I’ve had to learn this one that hard way, too. I’m doing a whackload of stuff, but if I schedule myself for too much work, I wind up flipping out and having a meltdown. Not productive. What I wound up doing is writing a weekly to-do list instead of a daily, hourly schedule, then having a very generally-blocked-out weekly calendar. By giving myself “themed” time instead of down-to-the-minute schedules, I feel much more open.

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