Have you ever started a new schedule only to have it fizzle out and fall by the wayside? Me too. It can be discouraging to have that happen when you really want things to change. There are a lot of possible reasons why your schedule isn’t working for you, and we’re going to look at ten of them today. We’ll also explore a practical step you can take for each one to help you learn how to stick to a schedule and find the method that works best for you where you are in life right now.
The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.
1. Avoid focusing on negative expectations
All too often, when we try to make a change we’ve attempted to make in the past, we start out discouraged and pessimistic. We’ve messed up before, why should we think it would be any different this time? We just aren’t good at keeping schedules, and we might as well accept that. Believe me, I know what it’s like.
Why am I writing this post? Is it because I have it all together? No, a lot of the inspiration for this post is me working through the same issues and struggles. We’re on this journey together!
Just because you believe something doesn’t make it true – but it does affect your view of the world and the choices you make. What we put in our minds has power over our actions, which is one reason why God gives us a whole criteria of what we should think about.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Things that are true. It may be true that you have failed in the past, but the criteria doesn’t stop there. We are also to think about lovely and praiseworthy things. Past failure is not what we are to meditate on. We are also to think about virtuous things. Think about the goal. Think about God’s grace that will help you reach the place He wants you to be. Put behind your failures, and face ahead to the new opportunity.
2. Don’t try to change everything at once
The temptation when you see so many areas of your life that need to change is to jump in feet first and try to change everything at once. This may work for a little while, but likely enough, you will soon find that you’re up to your chin and then it rushes over your head, you throw in the towel, and you’re back where you started. Only this time you’re more discouraged because you tried and failed.
I know it’s hard to be patient when there are so many things you want to see changed. I had a lot of routines I wanted to work on at the beginning of this year. And for a while, I stuck to them stringently. But as health issues and life happened, the consistency of those routines fell away. Now, I’m trying to work my way back toward them. I’m starting with a basic habit toward my morning routine: getting dressed and brushing my hair as soon as I get out of bed.
What is one small habit you could work on today? Maybe it’s making your bed. Or starting your day with prayer. Setting out your clothes before you go to bed to prep for the next morning. Or planning ahead your suppers for the week. You may think that one small habit really can’t make much difference when you have so many things you want to see change, but if you make one change and stick to it consistently for a while, then later you may add another and another. Over time, small habits and changes make a big difference.
If you want free planner pages where you can track your habits and also write your weekly and monthly goals, click here.
3. Avoid making your schedule too detailed
One thing that may be holding you back from sticking to your schedule is that you have made your schedule too detailed to fit your personality. It could be that you are trying to base your schedule on a plan that works for someone else or that you just want to make sure all your bases are covered. Either way, having a detailed and rigid schedule may be overwhelming you before you even start.
When writing out your schedule, you don’t have to include every little thing. A schedule can be more of an outline or general guide to your day that you fill in from there. Your planner is a good place to fill in more of the specifics each day. Also, as we already discussed in the last point, don’t try to implement a full-blown brand-new schedule all at one time. Work up to it slowly, one habit at a time.
4. Avoid making your schedule too general
On the opposite end of the spectrum, maybe your struggle is making your schedule too general. You write down some things you would like to do, but you don’t have a plan for how or when to get them done.
Be specific about the things you include in your schedule. This doesn’t mean that you have to write down every little thing you want to do, but it does mean being specific about the things you write in. For example, writing “complete morning routine” into your schedule is too vague. You need to write down exactly what is involved in your morning routine so that you know when it is completed. Make sure the tasks in your schedule are specific enough that you will know when you have finished them for the day.
5. Plan for interruptions
We all know that interruptions happen, whether the smaller ones on a daily basis or the larger ones such as being sick for several days. Since we all know this, why do we not plan for it? If your schedule is already full with no room for small interruptions, then you are setting yourself up to fail with your schedule. It’s like when you organize a closet. A tip I’ve learned is that when you clean out and organize, you shouldn’t fill everything to maximum capacity. You should leave a little space for the new items that are probably going to accumulate (things just seem to have a way of showing up and walking in, don’t they?).
In the same way that you should leave room in your closet for new things, you should also leave room in your schedule for interruptions and unexpected things. Plan tasks into your day, but don’t fill up every minute. You might not be able to plan as well for bigger interruptions, but you can have a plan in place for how you will get back on your schedule once the interruption is over.
6. Try a schedule without time blocking
Maybe you think that having a schedule means you have to do everything at a certain time. Depending on your personality, this could turn you off from even wanting to make a schedule. Time blocking and I just don’t get along well at this point in life (I don’t think we ever have gotten along well up to this point). But just because you don’t want to be tied down to a certain time frame doesn’t mean you can’t have a schedule.
One way you can plan without attaching time to your tasks is to habit stack. What does that mean? It means taking something you already normally do (such as eating lunch) and putting a new habit directly before or after it. The new habit I’m working on of getting dressed immediately after getting out of bed is habit stacking with something I already do.
You can write out a schedule in the general order you would like to accomplish the things and then work your way through it as your day permits. If your days vary a lot depending on health, work, or other factors, then this may be the way to go for you.
7. Find an accountability partner
When you attempt to start a new schedule, you may set out on your own to achieve it. If it works for you to do it without telling anyone about it, then that’s fine. But you probably wouldn’t be reading this post if that was the case! If you are struggling to stick with your schedule, then it may be time to incorporate some accountability.
Telling someone else your goal can be very beneficial. Not only does it help solidify the goals in your mind when you say them out loud (or send them in a text), but the accountability is also a boost. You could ask your accountability partner to check in with you to see how you are doing. If it’s not going as well as you hoped, maybe they will also be able to encourage you not to give up and help you troubleshoot your issues. If you can find someone who you can also help keep accountable and you can work together toward meeting your goals, that might work even better!
8. Plan to do it flexibly instead of perfectly
If you struggle with wanting to things perfectly, raise your hand. I should probably raise both hands because this is me to a T. It’s so easy to get bogged down in wanting to stick to your goals perfectly, and if you have written down a to-do list or habit tracker, to want to check every box. This can be good to a point if it keeps you motivated, but it can also be a big problem when you are so focused on perfection and trying to catch up when you get “behind” that you lose sight of the overall goal.
Following a checklist perfectly should not be your goal (or my goal) in making a schedule. The goal is to glorify God with our lives by making wise use of the time He has entrusted to us. Following a schedule can be very helpful in achieving that goal, but it isn’t the end goal itself.
Use your schedule when it is helpful and stick to it as it works best. But don’t be afraid to veer away from that schedule if that is also best. I know it’s a lot easier said or written than done, but start loosening your grip on perfection. It may not happen all at once, but take small steps in that direction.
Also, when something doesn’t go according to plan, don’t throw your whole schedule out the window or wait until you can catch up or do it perfectly to start again. Pick right back up where you are and keep going.
9. Remember why you started
We touched on one reason for starting a schedule in the last point: to glorify God and use our time well. There are probably other reasons specific to you for why you want to do this. When you’re living life and trying to do what you need to instead of what you want to do, it’s easy to forget your reasons for starting and to quit trying.
What are the reasons you want to stick to a schedule? Getting more organized? To not always be behind? Staying on top of meals? To keep a cleaner house? These may be the reasons, but they are surface reasons. There are probably deeper ones that go with them.
Why do you want to be more organized? Maybe it’s so you have more time to spend with your family or on your hobbies. Why do you want a cleaner house? That could be so you have a more relaxing environment or so it is easier to have people in your home. Dig to the bottom of why you really want these things. Once you discover your reasons, don’t just think about them. Write them down! Review them often, keeping in mind why you want to stick to this schedule and what the benefits will be if you do.
10. Ask the Lord for strength
This final point is the most important one. It’s easy to get all excited about a new schedule and jump into it, only to find that our excitement dwindles and our own motivation is not enough to carry us through.
We are children of God, and we don’t have to do anything – no matter how big or how small – on our own. We have a Heavenly Father Who wants to give us the strength and the grace to do His will. Before we start a new schedule, we should seek Him and ask Him to give us the strength to be consistent and faithful in what He has called us to do. Asking is more than a one-time thing. Let’s keep asking Him to help us each day. He wants to do this for us.
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
- Don’t focus on past failures but on future opportunities and making small, gradual changes.
- Keep your schedule detailed without going overboard, and plan for interruptions and flexibility rather than perfection.
- Ask the Lord for help and find an accountability partner.
What was your favorite tip in this list? What have you found that helps you stick to a schedule or build good habits? Any tips you want to share? I’d love to hear them!
Until next time, take it one small step at a time with the Lord’s help!