Check out our variety of resources and tips on Executive Function support, ADHD, mental health, and more

Find your coaching level
Coach Match Guarantee badge.png?width=200&height=194&name=Coach Match Guarantee badge

Featured Posts

How to Increase Motivation With ADHD: 10 Tips From Treatment Experts

"My kid has ADHD and I can't seem to get them to do anything without constant re...

Thriving with ADHD: An In-Depth Look at ADHD Coaching

Have you or someone you know been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity...

ADHD and Emotional Dysregulation: Support for Navigating Life’s Challenges

Flying off the handle. Flipping your lid. Melting down. Any way you say it, when...

All Posts

A Personalized Process for Sustainable Success

Read about our two levels of coaching, then take our
quick assessment to see which level is likely to be the best fit for your student.

Jun 06, 2019

Whenever I am working with someone on creating a schedule, I always get asked the same question, Unschedule blog“Should I add activities that are not related to school or work?”

My answer is always a resounding, “Absolutely!”

It helps to consider all the demands on your time, not just the work obligations, when you want to track and manage your daily life.

Incorporating activities that aren’t part of work or academics becomes even more crucial once students enter college or the workforce. When students face longer stretches of unstructured time (between college classes or during a work day), that’s when the true planning, prioritizing, and time management challenges present themselves.

Just think about how unproductive a day off becomes without structure. Before you know it, the day has drawn to a close and you can find yourself wishing that you had accomplished something of importance to you.

When a student asks "How can I feel less overwhelmed?"

During my coaching sessions with a college student, we discussed the importance of scheduling everything into her calendar, including meals. You may wonder, “Who forgets to eat?” Well, it’s easier than you think for some people who become involved in an absorbing activity! In this case, however, it is about figuring out realistic times to schedule work. What good does it do to schedule writing an essay during a time that you will be eating with your friends? This benefits no one and leads to frustration and feelings of failure. Therefore, prior to scheduling work, my college student developed the habit of scheduling social commitments, activities, and meals. The work is scheduled in the remaining time. It no longer needs to be stated that they need to begin a project a week earlier or complete work between classes. The calendar makes it obvious that they have less time to complete a task than they thought.

An accidental discovery

Imagine my delight when I learned from a colleague that this strategy actually is a thing - it's known as the “unschedule”. Of course, this led to a Google search to find out more. The unschedule is a tool described in Neil Fiore’s book, The Now Habit. By scheduling self-care, fixed activities, and guilt-free play first, you essentially “fit in” work in your “free time”. 

Nils Salzgeber describes this tool in greater detail in this blog post. He explains the eleven guidelines to using this tool and why it helps with procrastination. In addition to feeling less critical about where your time has gone, the breakthrough idea in using this tool is that completing work begins to feel like a rare commodity - leading you to envision your time as the valuable resource it is. 

The unschedule in action

For example, if you took a typical Saturday and "unscheduled' it by putting in all the non-work activities, it might look like the image on the left below. You can see that the gaps between activities are the precious time during which you can do chores, write that essay due Monday, or work on that presentation for your team. Those gaps become opportunities. The image on the right shows how this work is logged onto your calendar after you've spent solid time on those tasks. Now, instead of feeling guilty for procrastinating, you can revel in what you have done - and that success leads to less wasted opportunities to accomplish your goals.

Screenshot 2019-06-05 15.58.31


Can the unschedule help the “overscheduled” child or adult? 

It sure can! The unschedule helps you visualize how all of your commitments can fit. It also forces you to be realistic about your time. If you plan out your unschedule at least a week in advance, you can see when problems may arise due to scheduling difficulties. This allows for more time to find workable solutions. You may find that you need to switch carpool shifts when you have a doctor’s appointment or start packing your kids’ camp trunks a week earlier.

While reading about all the guidelines involved in an unschedule can feel daunting, starting with scheduling work after everything else can be a simple place to start. Although I have not yet taught the aforementioned college student all eleven guidelines, she is well on her way to unscheduling her life. She is becoming better equipped at managing the various demands on her time, which will most likely increase once she graduates. Additionally, she has developed a system to structure her unstructured time. In many jobs (both office and independent contractor jobs), employees are expected to complete tasks by specific deadlines and are allowed the freedom to structure their own process. The unschedule is a tool that can be used to create this structure, improving productivity and reducing stress.

Photo at top by Tinh Khuong on Unsplash

Olivia Case StudyOlivia had attention challenges that interfered with her work habits and led to late nights and poor sleep. Read our case study to learn how her coach helped her manage her time more effectively.

Read more about Olivia >

About the Author

Leora Tanzman

Leora Tanzman, NCSP, is an Executive Function coach with Beyond BookSmart from New York. She is currently an interim academic advisor at Macaulay Honors College at Queens College (CUNY). Leora also has over five years experience working as a school psychologist (K-12) where she worked with students to improve the skills needed to succeed academically and socially. Her experience with learners from a range of cultures, ages, and learning abilities has enabled her to be a more flexible teacher. In her free time, she enjoys practicing mindfulness, yoga, indoor rock climbing, painting, and photography.


Related Post

Learn to Love Life Again: 5 Coping Tips ...

Grief, loss, and emotional trauma are really hard to think about or talk about. Because our podcast, Focus Forward, aims to tackle these things that a...

Is Executive Function the Missing Link t...

You’ve puzzled over plenty of life’s mysteries. Why does food taste better outdoors? Why did that weird ad show up in my feed? Where’s my other sock? ...

Homework Battles End Here: 4-Steps to Be...

Let’s be honest… No student loves homework - and for good reason. When we consider the full school day, extracurriculars, and various social component...