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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Monday Morning Check In: Got a moment to spare?

It’s Monday Morning and the last day in January. I took time yesterday to go through my calendar for February. I have two calendars: my iPhone and a regular weekly paper calendar. I primarily use my iPhone for just about everything in my life, especially my calendar, but I have found that using a paper calendar as well helps me to plan out my week better when it comes to scheduling certain activities that I want to do, like exercise and writing.

Because we are at the end of the month and February is around the corner, I took about an hour yesterday to note on my paper weekly calendar all of the activities and appointments that I have scheduled for the month already. Then I looked at my available morning times to schedule my exercise blocks (I like to run or do my weight or cross training in the morning before my day starts). Then I looked for areas during the week when I could schedule writing time. Some weeks are more generous with time blocks for this activity than other weeks, but even busy weeks provide opportunities to grab a few short blocks of time (10-20 or 15-30 minutes). I even realized as I looked through my paper calendar that there were times when a regularly scheduled rehearsal had been cancelled, so I quickly grabbed that block of time and claimed it for my writing time.

To keep this straight in my mind and make it easier for me to see at a glance, I drew colored boxes around the exercise (blue) and writing (purple) activity blocks. Now all I have to do is refer to my “at a glance” calendar for a visual orientation as I start and end each day.

It helps me to check in briefly at the beginning of each week to be sure that anything new that was added to my iPhone calendar also gets added to my paper calendar as well. And I have already noted on Sunday, February 27, that I should spend another hour planning out my March calendars.

I learned about this scheduling technique from Neil Fiore and The Now Habit. Now I will warn you that I’m not exactly following his technique, but I have it in the back of my mind. You might find his technique interesting. Just go to Google and search for “unschedule” or “Neil Fiore” to find out more information.

It is very helpful in terms of time management to have a good sense of how the week will flow. I have made a few “to do” notes on various days regarding a birthday or paying a special bill. I can also see how little or how much free time I will have this week or next, which can help me to pace myself in terms of other activities or taking on other commitments. For example, I can see that I have an easier evening schedule this week, but that I will have evening commitments during the two following weeks. I have a heavy performance or gig schedule on the last three weekends, and so I will want to jealously guard any free time that I have during those three weeks and before. It’s not enough to just think, “I’ll wait until spring break to take some time off.” I need to think now about how to give myself the down time that I need to get through the busy times, not just spend time recovering from them later. A calendar review system like this can be invaluable for this purpose.

My husband likes to say that I have an allergy to “white spaces.” By white spaces, he is referring to any blank space on my calendar. If it’s empty, then he thinks I work to fill it up. He’s probably right. By reviewing my calendars today, I was able to identify 5 “white space” days and block them out on the calendar. In some cases, the day was not a complete day but maybe just the afternoon and evening.

My basic rule on a white space day is that I’m not to schedule any work project or chore. I am allowed to do chores if I want, but I cannot plan them in advance. When a white space day arrives, I just do what I want to do when I want to do it. I know I’ll continue my exercise program, but I won’t be scheduling any appointments unless it’s for fun, like horseback riding, taking the dogs to Wiener races, going out to dinner, or something similar. The purpose of white space days for me is to have a relaxing time doing whatever or going wherever my desire and passion takes me.

One of the Ten Commandments is to observe the Sabbath day and set it apart as a day of rest from work.  The Sabbath refreshes our spirits. In my line of work as a professional musician, I am not fortunate to have a consistent day off each week. Sometimes I am working on days that others have free time. I have looked through my calendar for February, however, and I have identified five “Sabbaths” (white space days) this month. I think it’s going to be a great month and a terrific week!

In my next post, I am going to continue my discussion about how to start a beginner violin student. I last left off with holding the bow. I plan to discuss the topics of how to hold the violin, whether to use a real violin or a box violin, how to make a box violin, and when it’s time to switch from a box violin to a real violin. Stay tuned!

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