More on Moving From Lots of Lists to One Schedule

In an earlier post entitled Moving from a List to a Schedule, I shared some of the challenges to be overcome in upgrading one’s time management system from Yellow to Orange in Scheduling. It turned out to be a pretty popular post, but I know that there’s a school of thought that advocates that one should never go beyond Yellow Belt skills in this area.

The logic proceeds as follows:

  • keeping a schedule of all or most tasks is too hard / difficult / cumbersome
  • therefore, tasks should be kept in lists
  • schedules should only be used to track appointments with other people

As you may have noticed, I am challenging that wisdom by saying that new mobile technology makes it quite easy to change a schedule on the fly, and in fact, Orange Belt skills are a necessary upgrade when time demands grow beyond a certain point.

A few years ago, I actually did an experiment, and tried a downgrade that I don’t recommend but I’ll illustrate here.

In the following video, the college student who puts together an Orange Belt schedule builds  it up based on 4 classes that she has in the semester.



This is NOT the approach that most books, programs and websites advocate. Instead, they argue that it’s impossible / impractical to maintain a schedule such as this one, even with the advent of portable planning tools, such as smartphones, PDA’s, iPad’s and laptops.

Following their advice would produce the following schedule, and list:

This schedule requires a list looking like this one to support it:

  • read
  • write paper
  • work on paper
  • college activity
  • goto movie
  • swim practice
  • eat
  • shower
  • night out

As I mention in the prior post on this topic, using this approach means looking at this list every day, in order to construct a mental schedule of what needs to be done and when.  Some would argue that you need to construct many different types of lists, depending on priority, location, “context,” energy or other different categories, but this doesn’t prevent you from having to look at most items each day to make sure that nothing is falling through the cracks.

There’s nothing wrong with this approach, which is one that White Belts use.  It’s a useful one for handling a limited number of time demands.

However, a you can see from the video, and from the change that was made at the very end in order to accommodate a “night out,” it’s much easier to manipulate a schedule that’s laid out in front of you, than one that’s stored in one’s memory.

A few years ago, before starting this website, I tried changing my approach from using a full, Orange Belt schedule to using a White Belt schedule accompanied by lots of lists.  It didn’t work – I noticed stuff falling through the cracks, and I kept making mistakes with my mental schedule.  Checking the same lists all the time was a hassle that never went away.

When I reverted to my former habit of what I now call Orange Belt Scheduling, things became much easier, and once I determined how to convert email messages into scheduled items in my calendar, it became easy to manipulate time demands as they flowed into my Inbox. My peace of mind returned.

Luckily, the tools that we have available to us mean that even paper schedules are a thing of the past, but the video is a great one as it shows very simply, the power of working with a schedule that’s laid out in front of you, instead of in your memory.