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Reduce Stress With This Simple Time-Management Tool

By Ruth Anderson

Do you feel frustrated and overwhelmed because you have too many obligations, errands, and lists to keep track of? Do important things sometimes fall through the cracks? You can reduce your stress and stay on top of important details by using a simple time-management tool that I call a "skeleton schedule."

The skeleton schedule is simple enough to use on a regular basis, yet powerful enough to organize an entire week. It works because it reduces your scheduling to the bare bones - the minimum that you need to do to make your week a success.

To understand it better, consider the more typical approach to scheduling"

Suppose that you sit down on a Sunday evening and decide to plan out your week. Inevitably, you will end up with a schedule that is part high-priority and part "wish list - in other words, alongside the things that really must get done will be an assortment of things that sort-of have to get done or that you've been meaning to give attention to (so why not this week).

A skeleton schedule, on the other hand, has an important difference: it includes ONLY the things that MUST get done the appointments that are set, the to-dos with deadlines, the routine necessities that keep life orderly, and the things that - if left undone - will cause unwelcome or embarrassing consequences.

In short, it is a concise summary of the bottom line the bare minimum that must get done in order to stay on top of things. Think of it as the backbone of your week.

With this time-management tool, you can begin each day by reviewing exactly what you will do to make your day a success. You can then feel free to use any remaining time for those other "wish-list items - or for relaxation, hobbies, or time with family and friends. Benefits include:

* Reduced stress At the end of the week, you can feel sure that you've covered what was most important - and everything else you got done was gravy.

* Less overwhelm You can turn to your one-page summary at any time to get your bearings and review your priorities.

* Greater freedom To make the most of the time that remains after the necessities are done.

A skeleton schedule is easy to make. To begin, choose a time of the week when you will routinely create your schedule (I recommend Sunday evening). Although a skeleton schedule could be created on a daily basis, it is far more effective and time-efficient to look ahead to your week as a whole.

Second, set up a scheduling format. Typically, a skeleton schedule for an entire week can be fit on a single page, using seven columns for each day of the week. A useful format has an appointment grid in the upper part of the page, and space for a daily list at the bottom. (For a free, downloadable sample of a blank skeleton schedule form, see the instructions at the end of this article.)

Third, transfer information into your schedule from your calendar and other places where you keep reminders if you don't have a good system for keeping track of such details, now is the time to set one up! I recommend using the skeleton schedule in conjunction with a monthly wall calendar and a set of four "tickler files (one for each week of the month).

Finally, put any items that aren't absolute "must-dos into a list on a separate sheet of paper. During the week, you can refer to this list whenever you have extra time above and beyond your skeleton-schedule items.

As a business owner and parent starting a new school year, I will be making a skeleton schedule each Sunday evening to help me stay on top of a multitude of must-dos: field trip forms, soccer snacks, classroom visits, and project deadlines, together with business appointments and car tune-ups. This simple time-management tool may be the key to handling your busy days as well.

© 2005 Ruth Anderson

VANTAGE POINT Coaching & Consulting

About The Author
Ruth Anderson

For a FREE copy of a blank "Skeleton Schedule form, visit Ruth Anderson at and click on "Free Time-Management Tool." Ruth is the owner of Vantage Point Coaching & Consulting, and offers the unique "Introduction to Coaching program and the "Create-Your-Own Coaching Project." She can be reached at

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