With lockdown easing, many of us find ourselves with busier diaries than we have had in months.
But with dinner dates, gym classes and days back in the office to keep track of, it is easy to feel overwhelmed.
Fortunately FEMAIL has spoken to experts from across the UK who have shared their tips on how to keep your diary organised and easy to manage.
From ‘bullet journaling’ to setting up standing dates with friends, each of the tips is easy to follow at home.
PRACTISE SCHEDULE BLOCKING BEFORE BED
As lockdown eases, many of us are seeing their calendars fill up with appointments and social events for the first time in a while and experts have revealed how to stay organised when your life gets busier (stock image)
Stephanie White, owner of educational platform and copywriting company By The Way Creative, credits schedule booking with helping to keep her life on track.
The idea is simple: make your day easier to manage by ‘blocking’ out periods of time for different tasks, whether that is lunch with friends, an exercise class, or a big presentation. This is how to make it work:
- Write a to-do list every night before you go to sleep so you can sleep better with the knowledge everything you need to do the following day is stored somewhere. If you’re worried about it keeping you up, do it a few hours before bed instead
- When you wake up, write next to each item on your to-do list how long you think it’s going to take (it’s better to overestimate). For example, an online workout might be ‘one hour’ while writing a proposal might be ‘three hours’
- Once the tasks are broken down into specific times, input them into your paper diary or digital calendar
- Remember: don’t forget to block out time for breaks, which are essential to staying productive
Stephanie said: ‘I have 121 things going through my brain at any one moment and, if I’m not enjoying a task, I can be easily distracted from it.
‘This single, life-changing tip has enabled me to almost double my productivity, gain clarity and (crucially) start to relax in my busy copywriting business.’
SET UP STANDING DATES WITH FRIENDS
Stephanie said: ‘If you have a bestie that you’re dying to see more often, give them a night. I see my best friend every single Tuesday. If I’m invited to something on a Tuesday… it’s a no from me!’
BRING FRIENDS TOGETHER TO SAVE TIME
While becoming organised is a habit that you can teach yourself fairly quickly, Vanessa said that you need to make sure you are repeating the habit on a regular basis.
She added: ‘Make sure your social plans are a priority and only make plans you really want to attend to ensure you see them through.
‘It is no secret that life is busy, and unexpected things crop up, but being selective with the plans you make can help you to stick to your social calendar instead of having to bail.’
If you are in the situation where you have too many things on, one way to get around this is to bring the people you want to see together, Vanessa said.
She added: ‘Instead of meeting friends one at a time, meet three of them at once, introduce them and interact with all of them.
‘It is not as personal as a one-on-one interaction, but it can still be quite personal especially if you mix the right people, and it’s time effective.’
‘If you have a social plan booked at 7pm on a Friday night, use schedule blocking to finish your day early so that if anything overruns you won’t be rushing to the bar in a stress.’
Stephanie added that you should give yourself at least a day between social occasions so that you can recover, ready to hit the ground running for your schedule-blocked week.
PLAN FOR THE WEEK AHEAD ON A SUNDAY
Vanessa Gebhardt, Mind Coach at Freeletics, advised checking your calendar every Sunday night so you know what to expect for the week ahead.
She said: ‘This is beneficial for not only jogging your memory but also allows you time to fix any issues – like if you have double booked yourself.’
Vanessa added that this mentally prepares you for the week ahead, saying: ‘Going from doing nothing to having plans every day can be extremely tiring and overwhelming, so it’s important to prioritise your mental health.
‘If you have a week full of plans but don’t think you can hack it, make a note or let your friends know you won’t be able to hang out this time – they’ll understand.’
PICK UP A PHYSICAL DIARY – AND MAKE IT PRETTY
Writing everything down is a crucial back up if you find yourself frequently forgetting plans.
Digital diaries and calendars are great but you might actually find a physical diary helps you keep plans in your mind.
Vanessa said: ‘Using phone calendar can be great for keeping on top of things, but it can also be useful to write your plans out in planner with a pen and paper.
‘If you’re a visual person, making your plans aesthetically engaging can be a huge benefit when it comes to staying on track.
‘You can even take it to the next step and plan out meals, water intake, sleep hours, workouts, as well as your priorities for the day or week.’
JUMP ON THE BULLET JOURNALING TREND
A cross between a calendar and an old-fashioned diary, bullet journals — named for their elaborately coded bullet lists — have garnered a cult following.
The bullet journal was invented by New York designer Ryder Carroll, who was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as a child. He wanted somewhere he could write down his to-do lists and goals.
He launched his bullet journal in 2013. Carroll sets out exactly how it works on his website, bulletjournal.com.
It seems almost impenetrable to beginners: what on earth is ‘rapid logging’? How do you migrate a task? What does ‘X’ mean — or ‘O’, for that matter? Followers insist it’s easier to do than it is to explain.
So here’s a simple(ish) version: start with any blank A5 notebook (although aficionados love the Leuchtturm1917 with its distinctive dotted pages) and a pen (Staedtler is the brand of choice here). Reserve the first four pages for your index.
This is where you’ll note down where you’ve written things, so you can find them later (for example ‘p28: boxsets I’d like to watch’). Next is four pages for your ‘future log’, where each page is divided into three and each month is given a grid, in which you might note down birthdays, deadlines or events.
The next double-page spread is for your ‘monthly log’. So if it’s January, use the left-hand page for a list noting each day of the month. Monday, January 1, would be 1M, then 2T, 3W and so on, until 31W. Next to the date write a bullet point of anything you need to achieve that day.
On the right-hand page, write a list of tasks you want to complete that month. That could be anything from the mundane (get your suits dry-cleaned or make a dentist’s appointment) to the more lofty (plan a summer holiday, search for a new job, run 5k). Number pages as you go.
Now you can start your ‘daily log’ for January. That’s a spread of two pages per week where you write down the things you need to do each day in concise bullet points. This is ‘rapid logging’. The idea is to write these every evening for the next day.
Carroll invented a set of symbols for entries: so a simple dot is a task, an ‘O’ is an event, and a ‘—’ is a note (this could be anything from thoughts or observations to something funny you heard on the bus).
Once you complete a task, cover the dot with an ‘X’. When you get to the end of the week or month, if there are tasks you haven’t crossed, use ‘>’ to show you’ve ‘migrated’ the task to another day or month. If all this makes you want to lie down, it might reassure you to hear even Carroll says you should adapt his system so it works for you.
Andrew Wilson, bullet journal expert at Executive Pens Direct said: ‘The bullet journal method has become a popular way to keep track of everything in our lives, from daily goals to fitness tracking.
‘By keeping a traditional journal, you’re able to visualise plans and appointments easily and plan each day accordingly, with sections dedicated to morning, afternoon and evening.
‘Update your journal with the essential details of plans, and even get mindful about your writing by adding in your thoughts and feelings to find that balance and improve your mental wellbeing.’
Andrew continued: ‘The benefits of bullet journaling is that it can help us to focus on the present moment, whilst also untangling our thoughts.
‘By creatively displaying our to-do list for the day, we’re much more likely to feel less overwhelmed and to take joy in ticking off tasks as they are completed.
‘The mental health benefits of this approach are endless as no matter how you choose to use your journal, you’re taking time to be mindful and reflect on aspects of your life.’
He added: ‘There is often a pressure with bullet journals to make the entries decorative and visually appealing – but no matter how you choose to use your journal, the most important thing is what you gain from it.
‘It may just take simple bullet points of thoughts, feelings or tasks jotted down in a notebook to help calm feelings of overwhelming.’
Andrew Wilson recommended keeping a bullet journal so that you can visualise plans and appointments easily and plan each day accordingly, with sections dedicated to morning, afternoon and evening (stock image)