How to Relax Without Guilt
An Overlooked Aspect of Time Blocking
If you are a pro at time management, you already know this. I am not talking to you.
I am talking to the poor souls like me who are crushed under their daily tasks and naturally feel guilty when they daydream or watch a little bit of Netflix by accident.
I have great news. I had heard about this little insight years ago at a time management seminar but had forgotten about it until it suddenly came back to me when I was trying to pay the water bill the other day. All we need is a weekly schedule!
I know some of us don’t need calendars or time management tools to keep track of our lives. We are good at remembering calendar items. Maybe we don’t have too many deadlines or appointments, and we never miss our commitments.
This is not our problem at all! I wondered why people kept suggesting that I scheduled my days when my problem was simply that I had too many tasks on my list, and I wasn’t disciplined enough.
I am here to tell you we got it all wrong! The schedule isn’t for reminding us what to do. It is for relieving us from the pressure of having to do everything!
Two types of tasks
Some of our tasks have to be done at certain times. Like going to work or an appointment, taking kids to school, attending a meeting, catching a flight.
But lots of other tasks can be done at any time. Things like writing, reading, paying the bills, cleaning the house, working out don’t require specific time frames. So we perform them when it suits us and cross them off the list.
This flexibility feels like freedom, ‘the freedom of not doing it right now.’ We might have twenty big and small items waiting on our to-do list, but we are free to do them when we feel like it.
The trouble is we sometimes don’t feel like it any of them. Even if we are good at completing tasks, we’ll end up procrastinating on occasion. Nobody is perfect and focused all of the time. We sit down to pay the water bill and suddenly get curious about a pregnant friend, and we need to check her out on Facebook. We accidentally click on a link that takes us to an amazing video on Youtube.
We discover this guy who has great advice about how to avoid procrastination. We subscribe to their channel and really consider buying their book. While reading the reviews on Goodreads, we realize an hour has passed.
We look at the unpaid bill and the undone tasks' list feeling their weight on our shoulders. How can anyone find time to ever relax with a monstrous list like that?
Here comes the magic of having a schedule.
When we write all our tasks on a schedule and block time for each of your tasks, something wonderful happens:
We are suddenly responsible for only one task.
That’s right; we are expected to perform only one of the tasks at a certain time. Not all twenty of them. Isn’t that amazing?
When you slack off, and even the best of us do it once in a while, you are delaying only one task. If you procrastinate at exercise time, you miss just one workout. You aren’t wasting your whole life. You have wasted one hour. Now you can go back to your calendar, pick it up from where you are, and go on with your life guilt-free.
When you look at it this way, it is torture not to have a schedule. It is hard to have a good opinion of yourself. Even if you produce a good amount of work, you never know if you were truly productive because you didn’t have a plan, and now you can’t be sure if you could have done more. You complain that you’ve been too busy and don’t have time to relax, but you secretly know you slack off sometimes. Then you unnecessarily beat yourself up.
There is no need for this. Carefully place an hour of relaxation in your schedule, and make it official. Then you can relax for real. Sit by the fire with your drink, scroll Facebook or Instagram, watch cat videos without a speck of guilt. Recharge your batteries, and when it is time, you can go back to your writing with a free conscience and high energy. Win-win!
This doesn’t mean
- …You won’t feel guilty if you procrastinate at all times.
- …You must allocate all your time to specific tasks from day one. Start with blocking time for the things you already do at certain times. Then add other important tasks you want to perform. Leave lots of unstructured free time until you make peace with your schedule.
- …Your schedule cannot be changed. It’s not set in stone. You can always change it around and swap tasks.
As long as you assign yourself to do one task at a time, your schedule will work for you.
Turkish copywriter and screenwriter, lover of stories, living in New Zealand