Using a Schedule to Manage the Passage of Time

A trick I’ve used in the past to manage my anxiety is now helping me to remember what the calendar says.

Heather Ashman
Jul 17, 2020 · 4 min read

For many of us, time seems to be passing quickly and melding together during the pandemic. One day seems much like the other. Weekends vs. Weekdays are almost meaningless. It seems like Easter was one day and then the next it was the Fourth of July.

I’ve written before about how I used scheduling to manage my anxiety.

Making sure that everything had an assigned place in my schedule was giving me the illusion of control. That illusion served me well for many years. Obviously, I knew that life something throws curveballs at you but having a plan for the week helped me to keep marching forward and I’d just adapt to whatever else happened. Knowing that I had a baseline to return to helped me to worry less about the unexpected.

Suddenly there was little control over anything as society shut down. It wasn’t the lack of control exactly that messed me up. It was more the lack of anything to put in my schedule. All the things I was juggling disappeared and entire days were empty on my calendar. I was left adrift with nothing to anchor my days or time to.

This resulted in a loss of motivation to do the things that I normally did. Even though I suddenly had a ton of time, I had no interest in getting anything accomplished.

I focused very narrowly on survival at a time when it was not necessary. Yes, extra precautions need to be taken during the few times I do go out to lessen the chance I will contract the disease, but there is no reason those thoughts need to take up the majority of my waking thoughts.

This week, in desperation, I tried some of my own older advice. My son had surgery at the beginning of the week and my anxiety was through the roof. I thought back on how I used to use my cell phone calendar as a way to soothe my anxiety. I remembered the illusion of control that I used to create. I decided to give scheduling another chance.

Blocks of Time

I began my scheduling with the same technique I used in the past. I would place all the chores and errands that have a specific day and time into the calendar. Previously I’d place spots of time when I thought I could squeeze in my writing or other work. Because my calendar is now so empty, I use the block of time method instead.

I mark out entire blocks of time when I plan to work or write. This helps to fill the calendar in and give it something to display. It also allows me to feel slight pressure of knowing I have things planned that I am supposed to get done.

My mother was a disorganized and less than responsible human being. Because that exacerbated my anxiety I took over the planning and organizing from a young age in order to give myself some peace. That led to me having an overdeveloped sense of responsibility as an adult. I feel responsible for everything. Usually, that is a problem, but in this case, I’m able to use it to my advantage. Having something in my calendar makes me feel responsible for getting it done. It nudges me forward even when procrastination is trying to push me back.

Schedule Everything Possible

To some extent, I’m having to fake my schedule. I do not mean in the sense of putting false plans into it. Everything I put into it is something that I legitimately intend to do. But now I’m putting things into it that I normally never scheduled simply because they were things I did automatically as part of my routine.

I am putting things like pet care into the calendar to fill it and give me that sense of control and busyness. I have not yet resorted to putting in things like meals or grooming, but if I need to create more pressure on myself to move forward, I may reach that point.

That lack of emptiness in the calendar when I look at it is comforting. It helps me stay focused and avoid drifting. When I drift I end up binge-watching something or going down some twitter or YouTube rabbit hole and coming up hours later not knowing what day it is or why the hell I wasted so much time.

The renewed use of my calendar is helping me to keep track of the passage of time and get my mind oriented back into reality. There has not been a point this week when I’ve had to wonder what day it is. I know the date. I’m no longer surprised or confused by stories or datelines saying July.

Whether the use of scheduling is giving my mind something to anchor time onto or I’m simply seeing the day and date when I open my calendar, the result it a renewed sense of grounding that is helping me feel more productive and centered.

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Heather Ashman

Written by

Writer. Single mother to transgender son. Still grieving the death of my partner. Lifelong fighter of depression and anxiety. M.A. in Human Behavior.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +771K people. Follow to join our community.

Heather Ashman

Written by

Writer. Single mother to transgender son. Still grieving the death of my partner. Lifelong fighter of depression and anxiety. M.A. in Human Behavior.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +771K people. Follow to join our community.

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