Ever-changing schedules: If you or your partner have ever-different weeks bc of your job, this one is for you

May 13, 2024

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For people with ever-different schedules, from ER physicians and nurses to pilots, this episode is for you! 

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Full Transcript

Ep 54. Ever-Changing Schedules

[Upbeat Intro Music]

Kelly Nolan: Welcome to The Bright Method Podcast where we’ll discuss practical time management strategies designed for the professional working woman. I’m Kelly Nolan, a former patent litigator who now works with women to set up The Bright Method in their lives. The Bright Method is a realistic time management system that helps you manage it all, personally and professionally. Let’s get you falling asleep proud of what you got done today and calm about what’s on tap tomorrow. All right, let’s dig in!


Hey hey, and welcome back! So today I wanted to do a podcast episode specifically for people who have ever-changing or often-changing schedules and/or have a partner who also has often-changing schedules. The reason I want to talk about this is that I think The Bright Method shines for people like this, but those people actually think it’s a system that won’t work for them. So I feel like I’m inadvertently doing a disservice to those people by repelling people, by talking about how to use your calendar without all the nuance. And that’s what’s always tricky about talking about things in a more generalized way is that we can’t deal with the nuance, which is actually what I love to work with people on is tailoring it to them.

Changing Schedules – 1:16

So just to throw it out there of who I’m envisioning, but I’m sure there are more people, is people who either these are their jobs or their partners have these jobs where they work in a medical field (like my husband) where things change all the time. The shift schedules come out in blocks, and they look really different. So every week looks kind of different for you. I’m also envisioning a pilot. I actually worked with a pilot recently and figured out, it’s not surprising, I’ve just never really thought about a pilot’s schedule before, and similarly, they can get schedules in blocks. And so, within weeks, days can look different but also they might be on for a week and then off for a couple weeks. And so, those are different weeks, how you would manage your time when you’re on versus you’re off is different. And I’m sure there are other professions as well that I’m blanking on right now, but hopefully you can get a taste of what I mean is when the real work schedule can be so varied, and this might to even be quite as clear cut as that. If you or your partner travels a lot for work, then that also has an impact on this as well where your day-to-day schedule is very different if one of you is traveling versus not and how that plays out.

So this can apply to whoever wants it to apply to, and for those people, I think when they hear me talk about, “Calendar showering, get ready for every day at this time and repeat it going forward,” or “Shower when you do bed and bath time with kids if you have kids or when you workout,” or, in short what I’m saying is when you do these things, calendar this on a repeating basis in your calendar. Someone might hear that and very understandably be like, “This system won’t work for me because I don’t do those things at the same time every single day or every single week, and because of that, this system won’t work for me,” and I really want you to hear that it’s quite the opposite, and so, I want to talk about that today because, for me, this system, living an ever-changing life like this is the way I keep my sanity. So I don’t want you to rule it out thinking that it’s not for you.

About Me and My Schedule – 

So a bit about me, just so that you understand, is that I am this person as well. My husband’s an ER physician. I was with him through med school and residency and all those rotations, and now he works at a hospital that’s about an hour away from us, and he has an ER schedule. That means that every single week looks different. Sometimes his shifts are 6:00 AM to 2:00 PM. Sometimes his shifts are 5:00 PM to 1:00 AM. Sometimes his shifts are 7:00 PM to 7:00 PM. Sometimes he’s working two days in a row. Sometimes he’s working four days in a row. That means he can actually sleep out there, so he doesn’t come home if he’s working 7:00 PMs to 7:00 AMs. Then he’ll just sleep out there and be ready for his next 7:00 PM to 7:00 AM shift.

This is a long way to say our life looks very different every single week, and that is important because, as I said, if you are similar, I want you to know that this Bright Method system saves me. I truly don’t know how I would run our life without the clarity that it provides, and so, I want to talk about that for you today so that you can understand how this works and could work for you.

First: Calendar in Commutes – 4:31

What I want you to hear, first and foremost, is that when I suggest calendaring those invisible to-dos that you have going on in your life, the repetitive things that we all have going on, really think of it more as a default building block. What it facilitates is you not having to plan each day from scratch, trying to remember all the little pieces that go into a day for you. So, for example, I calendar from now repeating until the end of time (and whenever I want to change it I can because it’s in a digital calendar) when I shower and get ready, when I workout, when I do certain work-related tasks, when I drop off kids, when I pick them up, when I meet the bus, all that kind of stuff is in my calendar on a repeated basis. If you go out probably six months, every week is gonna look roughly the same. Those are really just the default building blocks in my calendar.

Then when we get my husband’s schedule, and I usually get it in three-month blocks roughly a month before the start of the next block, then I’ll sit down for probably close to an hour, maybe 45 minutes, somewhere in there, and I will, first of all, take his schedule, and I will calendar the commuting time. I do this. I know it sounds weird. I know it kind of sounds like I’m secretarial to him in this regard that I’ll go through and calendar his commute times to and from and also if he’s sleeping, because if he comes home at 1:00 or 2:00 AM, then I like knowing he’s sleeping in ‘til probably 9:00 or 10:00, and so, I know that he’s not able to help with the kids that morning.

So I do that mainly because he doesn’t actually care about having it in his calendar, but I need to see it because, as I said, his commutes are like an hour, so if I just saw his shift schedule, I might think he could help out with kids when actually he’s gone. So I calendar commutes.

Just to get into the real nitty gritty of what I do, I actually have a little “[my husband’s name] driving” block in my calendar. I think it’s every day at three o’clock on an ongoing basis in his calendar, and what I do then is as I get his schedule I drag and drop those blocks around to the right home. So I’m typically not having to create a new event, write “driving,” and save it all the time. I just drag around these pre-existing blocks to the right time once I have his schedule for that period of time. And then I will calendar his sleep if it’s relevant for me to understand or if he’s gone, like if he’s working, as I said those 7:00 to 7:00’s overnights, I’ll block from 7:00 AM to that 7:00 PM for each day and say, “He’s in [wherever he is],” so that I know that he’s not home and, again, not able to help.

Second: Calendar What You Can Do – 7:15

So that’s the first step of what I do, and then I go back, and I really just get very clear on what that means. So is he able to do pickups and drop-offs? Is he not? When he’s around, he does daycare pickups and drop-offs. So when he’s around, I will delete me doing that, and when he’s not around, I make sure that it’s still in my calendar that I’m doing that. So that I’m clear in my own schedule of where I need to be when or when I don’t need to be somewhere when.

What I really want you to hear as I talk about this is that the things I’m suggesting calendaring help with the default nature of what our schedule is but then it’s flexible when we get his schedule of how it works. So taking this to you, you could do that for a partner but also if this is you, if it’s your schedule that’s moving things around, you could do something similar. And then you would also even take it up a notch where let’s say it’s you that’s the one who has the physician schedule or the pilot schedule or the nursing schedule, whatever it is, whatever’s moving around a lot, and you’ve calendared out, “I want to workout three times a week, roughly around here it’ll work. That’s when it’ll be,” as you get your schedule, you can then move those workout blocks around to days when you actually will want to workout and get them off of the days when you won’t.

So, again, what I want you to hear is that it’s just a default building block. I know I’ve said that like five times. You’re like, “I’ve got it.” But then when you get your schedule, you’re not like, “And what else do I like to do? Oh, right, I like to workout three days a week.” Those workout blocks are already in your calendar, and now you just to move them around. You’re not starting your planning from scratch. You’re just taking those blocks of time that already represent what you want to do and are finding the right home for them in light of the moving schedule.

A reason that I love — and I already kind of have alluded to this. What I love about this approach is, obviously, you’re seeing it all visually, but I think what’s most valuable is you’re seeing how it all interacts. You’re seeing how your schedule interacts with other activities you want to do, how it interacts with a partner’s schedule, how it interacts with, if you have kids, their schedules. It shows you how your schedule interacts with who’s doing pickups and drop-offs and all the activities that we have to do. You just get to kind of see how it all comes together in a very visual way that you don’t get if you don’t use a system like this. If you’re managing it all in your head or even like, obviously, you probably write out your shifts, and maybe somebody else can see that, but there’s a lot of ripple effect that comes from a shift, right? There’s a lot of impact on, “When will I be asleep? Am I able to help? Am I able to do that house thing? Am I free? Am I gonna be too tired to do something?” All of that still happens in our heads unless we make it visual using a system like this.

The other part of this, and this doesn’t happen for everyone, but I think it’s something to really push if you’re in this boat is the beautiful ability of better communication using a system like this in a digital calendar versus paper because, as we’re talking about it, you get to see how everything interacts, you get to see, “Okay, they can help the pickup these days. They can’t with these days.” When every day changes to that degree, having things laid out in a calendar is massive to making sure you’re on the same page.

It’s particularly important when the person with an ever-changing schedule, whether that’s you or the other person, is really tired because of it. My husband often can be really exhausted if he’s worked four days in a row of overnights, and if I was just like, “Okay, you’re getting kid number two today and tomorrow morning, and then I’m gonna do this, this, and this,” I don’t blame him for not being able to retain that information very well when he’s kind of a walking zombie for a period of time. And so, by putting it in the calendar and laying it out in a place that he can see, that is huge for the communication in our family.

So while there is a, obviously, quarterbacking element of this that I have to do in the calendar, it really saves me from having to be like, “Did you do it? Did you do it? Remember to do it. Remember to do it.” It’s just kind of dealing with the reality of what our life is and the energy levels of what my partner has at different periods of time that I’m working within. I’m working within those constraints and managing it in the best way that I have found to do that.

Tips For Using This System – 11:29

So a few tips for using this system. As I mentioned, I really like kind of having almost a routine of what I do every time we get a schedule. Once a schedule is finalized, it’s in the calendar, and I can see the next three months, having a routine of what I do where I go through and kind of assign the commuting times to the right times, put in sleep so that I can understand when he can help me at home and when he can’t. That is just huge for the clarity of what are the next three months going to look like. And then as I said, I also go through and do pickups and drop-offs, what am I in charge of, what is he in charge of in light of all of this. It really helps clarify, for me personally, what’s going on but also communicate within us on that front as well.

Then I also move things around in my own work week because I’ve gotten clear on these are the types of work things I do when he is not available to play kid-backup for me, and these are the kind of things I do when he is. And so, then, I take my repetitive business-related work-type things and I can plot them out and move them around in light of that. And then I use Acuity, so then I go into Acuity and kind of get clear on when am I opening up my calendar for other people to book my time (that is usually when he is around to play kid-backup) and when am I closing my calendar in light of that. Then the final thing I tend to do is also reach out to childcare. So if I can see he’s gonna be gone for three weekends in a row, I’m gonna get some childcare help for each of those weekends if I can.

I know this is very me-specific, but I just want you to hear how by making it visual and getting this clarity, the ripple effects that come out of these shifts can be captured visually in this system, and as long as you’re using the system flexibly, which you definitely can and I highly encourage, then it really facilitates a lot of the stuff that we are normally doing in our head that’s weighing our brain down.

When I see how all of this comes together at the end of the day, if I get a three-month block, I do all of the work I just talked about, it takes me like 45 minutes to an hour, and I look at it, I’m like, “I cannot believe there are people doing this in their heads,” and it just makes me tired. The idea of it makes me tired. It’s already a lot. I mean, it’s an objectively weird — and we’re very lucky in a lot of ways. I’m not complaining. But it’s a weird life to be living in these ever-changing kind of tough-to-find-your-routines-and-rhythm-type life places. It’s hard enough. It’s hard enough to be dealing with all the different childcare changes and solo parenting and all that kind of stuff. It’s baseline tricky, and so, lighten it in the ways that you can using a system like this so that at least we’re taking a lot of the mental load out of it, the logistic juggling, the mental gymnastics element out of it so that we are making it as easy on ourselves and our families as best we can.

All right? So if you want to try this out a little bit, if you’re like, “Okay, I did not think this system was for me but maybe there’s some potential here,” just check out my free five-day program. I think that time management, even setting this stuff aside, is incredibly personal just from a preference standpoint, all that kind of stuff. So check it out for free. It’s at www.kellynolan.com/refresh. I’ll also put the link in the show notes, and it’s a free five-day program where you can go through some video lessons, their handouts, and just kind of get a taste of this system and see if it’s for you.

So again, that’s www.kellynolan.com/refresh, and if you have a friend who also has a wacky life because of ever-changing schedules, whether they’re hers or a partner’s, feel free to share this episode with them as well. It is a weird club. It is a fun and definitely exciting and never dull club to be in, but it is something that takes a little bit of extra logistical lifting, and I would love to help that person out if I can. All right, thank you for being here, and I’ll catch you in the next episode!

[Upbeat Outro Music]

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