Scheduling and micro scheduling - what's the difference?

Do you often finish your days wishing you could have been just a little more productive? Perhaps you had three main goals you wanted to achieve at work, a couple of errands to run, and hopefully enough time to squeeze in a workout and dinner at home with your significant other. But the day got the best of you; your plans, hijacked by curveballs at work, unexpected phone calls, and the lure of Netflix and a glass of wine over the gym.

While the above scenario is certainly relatable for most of us, it doesn’t necessarily have to be. A new productivity trend called microscheduling is helping people to ruthlessly stay on task and meet their goals every day of the week by scheduling out small increments of time throughout the entire day.

Is it a bit extreme? Yes–and it doesn’t come without drawbacks. But is it exceptionally effective? You bet.

In the following article, we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of this radical approach to time management…and how you can adapt it for your own life, to increase your overall productivity and efficiency.

Microscheduling in Action

As described above, microscheduling is the act of scheduling out tiny increments of your day–typically 10-15 minutes.

“Microscheduled days” might include time slots for:

  • All aspects of your morning routine, including showering, working out, meditation, eating breakfast, etc.
  • Checking your email and any other administrative tasks
  • Making phone calls–work-related and personal
  • Running specific errands
  • House-related tasks–emptying the dishwasher, meal prep, taking out the trash, etc.
  • Focused, intentional time on accounts or projects
  • Reviewing and managing your finances
  • Spending time with family, friends, and loved ones
  • And more…

Depending on how radical you are with it, microscheduling can even break down to smaller time frames and more detailed tasks. Bill Gates and Elon Musk are both reported to microschedule down to five-minute chunks–and it seems to be working well for them!

Benefits of Microscheduling

Microscheduling requires intentionality, focus, and vigilance–no doubt about it. Still, there’s good reason that more and more people–CEOs, working parents, YouTubers alike–are tackling the challenge of a hyper-scheduled life. In short, it works.

Remain in Control of Your Time (and Your Life)

There’s a reason for the expression “the day got away from me.” We can often feel like the day–in other words, time–is a separate entity that we simply don’t have control over. Precious hours and minutes slip through our fingers, leaving us to scratch our heads and wonder why we didn’t get enough accomplished.

The reality is, we can remain in control of our own time–and as a result, our lives–if we’re intentional enough. Click To TweetMicroscheduling is a concrete, actionable strategy for being highly intentional with how we spend nearly every waking minute. As a result, we remain in control of our time, energy, and attention–and we get to determine how well we met our goals.

Is micro scheduling a good idea? Or does it go too far?

Meet Your Goals

On that note, microscheduling can help you meet that elusive aim that all productivity-focused folk have in common: meeting your goals. If you’re the type of person that has a (literal or figurative) list of long- and short-term goals, then microscheduling is certainly an effective method for succeeding.

If, for example, you have a long-term goal of learning Spanish, you can microschedule 15 minutes of review into your daily routine. Your free time and personal whims don’t get to determine whether or not you learn Spanish; your schedule does.

Likewise, microscheduling works for helping you to meet short-term goals. You’ll find it far easier to finish projects and meet deadlines with a strict, no-nonsense schedule to help you get there.

Avoid Burnout

Though microscheduling may sound stressful, it actually has the opposite effect on many of its adopters. By breaking the day into manageable chunks and developing a strategic approach to accomplishing tasks, it can actually prevent overwhelm, stress, and burnout from having too much to do and too little time.

Drawbacks of Microscheduling

Microscheduling is certainly effective, but it doesn’t come without significant drawbacks–especially for more “free-spirited” personality types.

Leaves Little Room for Spontaneity

The most obvious drawback of microscheduling is that it leaves very little room for spontaneity. To stick to your schedule, you’ll have to be ruthless about ignoring phone calls, cutting conversations short if necessary, and even turning down last-minute invitations.

Doesn’t Make Room for Error

There’s a difference between succumbing to distraction and having your time hijacked by a circumstance outside of your control. If your 30-minute commute takes 15 minutes longer than it should because of an accident, that’s clearly outside of your control. Unfortunately, that may also cut into your highly strategic schedule.

Sets Unrealistic Expectations

Finally, microscheduling may be effective…but it may also cause people to set up unrealistic expectations for their levels of productivity and efficiency. Psychologist Annette Byford says, “What micro-scheduling does is peddle the idea that it is possible to stay perfectly on top of things”–and, as many of us know, life doesn’t often look like that.

That’s why it’s important to approach microscheduling as more of a strategy than a way of life; otherwise, you may set yourself up for failure and personal disappointment.

How to Get Started on Microscheduling

To effectively microschedule, you’ll most likely need the help of a few strategic tools–systems and apps that take the heavy lifting out of time management, and allow you to spend more time doing, less time looking for the next task. You’ll also want to be strategic about when and how you do your planning.

Plan the Night Before

Productivity expert David Sparks has adapted microscheduling into his own productivity method called “Hyper Scheduling”– a method of planning that he uses to schedule out all work-related activities (including commuting on his bike).

To achieve hyper scheduling, Sparks plans his day the night before, assessing his priorities to create chunks of time that he can shift around if needed the next day. This ensures that he wakes up knowing the plan–and knowing that he’s strategically prioritized what’s most important.

Does micro scheduling work, and is a balanced approach really worth it?

Use + Timing

As mentioned above, you’ll most likely need the aid of some technology to help you successfully microschedule. A killer combination for achieving this is to use + Timing, which can help you to create calendar events that automatically sync to Timing. This helps to plan your day and gauge how successfully you succeeded at your schedule.

Create Tasks

You can also create individual tasks on your Timing calendar to “microschedule as you go.” This may help you to keep focused for shorter blocks of time without feeling overwhelmed by a day that’s entirely mapped out. To create a task, you’ll simply go to your Review tab, and click “New Task” in the upper left-hand corner to schedule out your next block of time (Tasks can also be created retroactively).

Taking a Balanced Approach to Microscheduling

Microscheduling isn’t as rigid or radical as some fear. It pays to think strategically about how you’ll use your daily time to accomplish your goals, but you might want to plan larger blocks of time, or plan for smaller chunks of highly focused, highly productive time during specific timeframes.

In any case, remaining focused and time-oriented is critical to succeeding at productivity. Timing is a powerful time-tracking tool that can help you gauge and improve your overall productivity, organize your days based on client and/or project, and help you measure and assess your working hours and minutes. To try it for free for 14 days, click here.