The unschedule

I’d never heard of the unschedule method until recently when someone shared it in a Slack thread about how you schedule your work as a freelancer. It’s from The Now Habit by Neil Fiore. I searched for and eagerly read as much information as I could find about it (without getting my hands on the book). What I realised, as I read, is that although I’d never heard the name, I already do something very similar to plan my week.

The basic idea is that at the start of the week you block out any fixed commitments in your calendar — meetings, appointments, social events, exercise, breaks etc. The important thing here is to include both your external commitments and the commitments you’ve made to yourself — to take a proper lunch break, to have Friday afternoons off, to exercise/journal/read for pleasure etc.

Here’s what a typical week of mine looks like…

Table with rows representing half hour increments between 8AM and 8PM and one column per weekday. Scheduled time is highlighted in various colours to leave white space where other work can happen.

The rest of the calendar is filled only after you’ve completed or spent more than 30-minutes on a task. I think of it like reverse time-blocking. I use it in combination with a weekly to-do list; my aim is to fill the gaps in the schedule only with things from that week’s list.

By the end of the week, the white space is filled with scribbled notes of how I’ve spent each 30-minute block. It’s a record of what I’ve achieved and where I’ve got distracted. The completed sheet helps me to review my week as a whole and think about what I want to keep the same or do differently next week.

I’ve been using this system for most of the year and here are a few reasons why I find it works for me:

  • it helps me to visualise the chunks of time I have available
  • I enjoy the ritual of drawing out my commitments for the week
  • it helps me to set limits for tasks, or break them down into smaller chunks
  • it complements the pomodoro technique
  • it helps me to maintain good habits by prioritising breaks, downtime and exercise

If you’ve been reading a while you’ll know that I’m all about experimenting and finding systems that work for you. For me right now, this is what works. Come back to me next month or next year and it’s likely I’ll have moved on to something new.

What’s working for you right now?

about emma

I am a coach and facilitator helping people to pause, reflect and make conscious choices about what comes next. In my writing I explore themes of personal development, reflective practice and what it means to live well.