How’s Your Schedule 2: Reducing Stress

15 February 2011, by A. Cedilla

Logically and realistically speaking, there are certain essential principles that we need to build our schedules on. Being aware of these principles would make it easier for you to put yourself in the right mind-frame to make a good schedule, one that factors in the essential parts of your days, your weeks, and your months.

(As an aside, we’re not really wired for long-term focus right out of the gate. That kind of focus takes discipline and some training — and sometimes a singular obsession.

The usual way we deal is to break things down in a logical progression of stages, and attend to each stage before going onto the next. You focus on the work-related snafu front of you, and don’t think of the potluck party next Saturday, for example.)

Think of your schedule not just as something that keeps your time and your activities in sync, but also as a sort of “coming soon” announcer’s service, a time-radar which pings you on what you can expect in the next few weeks, or next few months.

Doing so helps ease what’s “coming soon” and helps you not to stress about next year — the mind can only project that far for so long without going a little wonky in fear, anxiety or hype. So, back to principles:

Repeatability and occurrence
For one thing, we all live with regular physical cycles: night and day, tides and seasons, etc. The human cycle requires the following:

  • You need to eat – so that entails food , and what comes with it: buying, storage, preparation, cooking, etc.
  • You need to sleep – and that entails a certain minimum you require for adequate – not excellent — function. Try not to settle for adequate, aim for excellent.
  • You need to clean up after yourself – bathing, clothes set-up, and laundry, ironing etc.

Cultivate a healthy respect for this physical cycle, you can only push it so far before things starts complaining and then breaking down.

Constant low-level stress can be as bad on your system as infrequent, high-level stress if your system doesn’t get time to recover, or if you don’t rest.

Laundry, food prep, shopping…these are small external solutions and elements to support the internal structures of your schedule. If you arrange to attend to these needs by planning around them, you free yourself from having to worry about them.

Find your optimal sleeping arrangement (black-out curtains, white-noise machine, sinus-strips for snoring, a sleep apnea test to see if you’re getting enough real sleep at night, a mouth-guard for night-grinding) your best meal schedule (3-5 light meals, or biggest meal first in the morning, lightest meal at night, remove wheat and dairy, switching to more veggies, less barbecued ribs, watch your salt and sugar, etc.)

Stress comes in from what we feel disrupts the schedule (with things we judge as “interruptions” from the outside) or when the schedule is over-filled (which we do by making decisions from the inside).

It comes when you overestimate your resources and-or underestimate the time needed to complete tasks and projects. If you live your life by the production schedule, that’s fine and dandy if it’s fine and dandy for you. If it isn’t, sooner or later something’s going to give, and chances are it won’t be the production line.

Saying it again: repeatability and occurrence. Eat, sleep, clean up, commute, study, work…you know the things you need to attend to and have to do, you can reduce your stress. There are many things you can predict in advance, and so adjust for. There are certain needs you have to fill, and so prepare for.


Build a schedule with regular actions that come out of your repeating needs and regular external events, as well the other activities you want to include, adjusting as necessary.

The point is not to stuff your days, but to have a rhythm to them so you won’t get overwhelmed at once; you can spread the impact out over time. You can do this in many ways. For example: laddering, piggy-backing, and groundwork, just to name a few.

  • Spread a big project over days or weeks, or share it among helpers and people willing to assist.
  • Lay it out in stages – like going up a ladder, you take it step by step.
  • Piggybacking is similar to groundwork in the sense that while groundwork lays out the foundation, piggy-backing build on each successful action…after this, I do this.

Polished work requires attention to what goes on ” behind the scenes” before the product is polished. Solid work requires focus on the process, not obsession on the goal.

Chunking, batching and drudgework
You break down big goals into manageable chunks, and you deal with similar chunks in manageable batches. The grit that needs sweeping up after is drudgework.

Mental Preparation
This is where everything starts: first comes the spark, and then you need to fan it. First the seed, and you prepare for it.

Whether you’re aiming for illumination or fruit, you must prepare for the moment of harvest and of light. You do that by taking each step and not over-burdening yourself with needless irritants or dead-end actions.

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