Creating an Activity Schedule : Preparing for an Activity or Event & Participating in the Activity

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Preparing for an Activity or Event

Some people thrive on anticipation and preparation. They don't have too much trouble handling this part of the scheduling. Other people focus on the event itself and often find themselves running around at the last minute. A smooth-running schedule must allow time for all of the preparatory activity.

You may not be aware of it, but getting ready for even the simplest of activities is really a complex series of decisions and events. Some of them come very naturally to you, so you won't need to schedule all of their details separately. For example, when you set aside a half hour to shower and get dressed in the morning, you probably don't have to break down the process minute-by-minute into all of the following components:

  • Take off pajamas.

  • Adjust water in shower.

  • Lather.

  • Rinse.

  • Turn off water.

  • Dry off.

  • Apply deodorant.

  • Put on clothes.

  • Comb hair.

On the other hand, you may have more success with some other activities if you take the time to schedule their various components. For example, if you've received an invitation to a birthday party that you plan to attend, you'll probably remember to put the party on your calendar. But you should also consider scheduling the following preparatory activities:

  • RSVP.

  • Buy a present.

  • Buy a card.

  • Wrap the present; make sure you have

    Wrapping paper.



  • Select what you'll wear; make sure

    It fits.

    It's clean/pressed/mended.

  • Make sure you have

    Transportation to the party.

    Directions to the party.

  • Arrange for a babysitter (if necessary).

In general, asking yourself the following questions will go a long way toward making sure that you schedule all the preliminary steps to make the main event happen stress-free:

  • Do I have the necessary information to do this?

  • If not, how can I get the information, and how long will it take?

  • Do I have what I need in terms of tools, equipment, ingredients?

  • If not, where will I get them, and how long will it take?

  • Do I need to do anything in advance of the activity?

  • If yes, when do I have to do these tasks, and how long will they take?

  • Do other people need to be involved in preparing for this activity?

  • If yes, when will they be available?

  • Is there anything else I must do to be ready for this activity?

Participating in the Activity

The second aspect of every scheduled activity is participation in the actual event. As long as you remember to schedule the event at all, you don't have to worry about skipping this phase. Instead, the challenge at this point is to know how much time to allot for the activity.

You may feel that tasks always take longer to complete than you think they should. They may be taking too long for a variety of reasons. Lack of preparation is one reason. But you should be well on your way to conquering this problem after having read the previous section. Another reason is failure to focus. Distractions and interruptions can erode time at an incredible rate. Making sure the task is scheduled and then sticking to working on the task during the scheduled time will help you accomplish your work in a more reasonable amount of time.


Although you want to set and stick with an efficient schedule, you should be careful not to schedule your time too tightly. Scheduling your activities so that you have to do them at top speed and then rush on to get to the next item on the list will result in the same harried feeling you get from not having planned your schedule at all.

Estimating the Time You'll Spend in an Activity

So, how do you decide how much time to block out for a particular activity? Follow these steps:

Estimate how much time you would need to complete the task at your absolute top speed with no interruptions.

Estimate how long you would need to do it at normal speed with a normal number of interruptions.

Add the estimated times together and divide by two.

This formula will give you a number that's longer than the time you will need for many things after you have your schedule well in hand, but it will be a good time frame from which to start.


Watch out for these common ways of underestimating the time you will need to get someplace:

  1. Many people and businesses make claims like “We're 15 minutes from downtown.” These optimistic times don't take into consideration traffic, red lights, or the time you need to park your car and walk to where you really need to be for your appointment.

  2. Mapping software is notorious for stating estimated travel times that are too low.

Making Good Use of Leftover Time Fragments

Here are some suggestions of good items for your fill-in-the-gap list:

  • Write a note to a friend.

  • Phone a friend.

  • Play a game with your child.

  • Water your plants.

  • Sew a button.

  • Read a magazine.

  • Clean out the glove box in your car.

  • Balance your checkbook.

  • Check last night's sports scores.

  • Take a walk.

Or, occasionally, you can just reward yourself by putting your feet up for a few minutes.


Estimates indicate that the average office worker is interrupted from what she is doing eight times an hour. The average interruption takes 6 minutes from start to finish. That 6 minutes includes the time to switch focus from what she was doing to the interruption, to deal with the interruption, and to return her focus to the original task. This situation is analogous to stopping for a red light: There's the time to decelerate and stop, the actual time while stopped at the red light, and then the time to start and accelerate back up to your original speed. If the office worker does nothing to reduce these interruptions, that means 48 minutes out of every hour are spent on something other than the primary task. With only 12 minutes an hour being spent on what she set out to accomplish, it's a matter of simple mathematics to figure that a one-hour job will take five hours to complete.
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