Mother who plans EVERY minute of her day claims ‘micro-scheduling’ all tasks from drinking tea to putting on the dishwasher has saved her sanity (but psychologists say the fad is ‘self-bullying’)
- Fiona Brennan, 35, approaches her work/life balance with military precision
- Dishwasher goes on at 8:20, emails are checked while the kettle boils in 3 minutes. Wednesday is date night and Twitter is checked on a Tuesday
- However, top psychologist Annette Byford says over-planning can be ‘dangerous’ and humans aren’t naturally inclined to live with such strictness
- She adds: ‘Children thrive under routine but they shouldn’t feel like they’re being scheduled in – that’s positively damaging’
A mother who felt like she was ‘constantly failing’ has revealed how ‘micro-scheduling’ her time down to the last minute has transformed her life.
Social media manager Fiona Brennan, 35, who lives in Worcestershire with her husband John and two children Baxter, 7, and Luna, 4, follows an ultra-strict approach to planning her work/life balance – ensuring the dishwasher goes on at exactly the same time every day and she only checks emails in the three minutes it takes for the kettle to boil.
The trend for micro-scheduling – which sees people planning and sticking to a strict pre-set schedule, often accounting for every minute – is becoming increasingly popular. Some hyper-organised souls are even plotting an exact time allocation for getting intimate with their partner.
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Mother-of-two Fiona Brennan, who lives in Worcestershire with her husband John, son Baxter, 7, and Luna, 4, says micro-scheduling has transformed her life, taking her from feeling like she’s failing at life to feeling much more productive
Fiona, a social media manager, now pays a monthly fee to a business coach who helps her have a regimented routine to maximise efficiency. She says the highly defined plan has made her ‘so much happier’. Pictured, with husband John and their children Baxter and Luna
An example of Fiona’s extraordinary minute-by-minute schedule to maximise her time
Email checking is banned during dedicated work hours, except for a tea-break when Fiona allows herself the time it takes the kettle to boil to log-in to her messages
However, a top psychologist has warned that adhering to a plan that maps out days too strictly is ‘dangerous’ and describes it as a form of ‘self-bullying’.
For Fiona, a freelance PR, not feeling in control of her work and home diary meant she reached a point of ‘meltdown’ last year and decided she had to be more organised to be happier.
She explains: ‘I was working around the clock, completely stressed, not feeling like I was actually earning the money.
‘It wasn’t working for me and if you worked out my hourly rate, I was probably getting less than the minimum wage.’
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After speaking to a micro-scheduling coach, who she now pays a monthly fee to, Fiona says her stress levels have plummeted.
‘My coach basically told me that me my boundaries were c***. She made me promise to keep my phone out of the office. For the first week, I felt like it wasn’t working… but I haven’t looked back.’
While some people might find it strange that the working mum plans everything from her date nights with her husband – every Wednesday – to when the dishwasher goes on – 8:20am daily – she argues she’s never felt freer.
DIARY OF A MICRO-SCHEDULER: HOW METICULOUS MUM FIONA PLANS WORK AND FAMILY LIFE
How Fiona spends a typical day:
7:00am: Get up
7:00am-7:10am: Read morning news and check emails quickly
7:30am: Get kids up
7:45am: Start on breakfast, school lunches
8:00am: Make sure kids are eating breakfast, pack school bags
8:10am: Check emails again
8:20am: Load washing machine, load dishwasher, wipe table and sides
8:25am: Get kids’ shoes/coats on
8:30am: Another quick email check and take the kids to school
9:00am: Return from school
9:00am – 9:15am Check social media for work
9:15am – 9:30am Spend 15 minutes on urgent work projects
9:30am – 10:30am Work for one hour exactly on one project
10:30am – 10:35am Make tea, check emails during three minute kettle boil
10.35am – 12.30pm Strict one hour slots for different work projects
12:30pm – 12:45pm: Prepare and eat lunch
12:45pm – 2:45pm: Work in one-hour slots on two projects
2:45pm – 5pm: Collect children from school and begin after-school clubs
5:00pm – 7:00pm Children do homework, make dinner, put washing in dryer
7:00pm – 8:00pm: Children to bed
8:00pm – 10:00pm: Work time, clear emails, set to-do list for following day
10:00pm – 11:00pm: watch television/read book
Slapping a total ban on chatting to friends in the daytime, Fiona’s precision routine begins at 7am when she gets her children ready for school. She then works solidly from 9:00am to 2:45pm – with a highly disciplined approach seeing her only allowed to check her emails when the kettle’s bubbling.
‘While the kettle’s boiling for my first cup of tea, I’ll check emails. While I’m asking the children to put their shoes on for school – I’ll quickly go through them again to prioritise’.
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His video, detailing the exact time management of his day, has earned nearly 2.6million views on YouTube.
YouTube star Casey Neistat has seen his video on micro-scheduling viewed more than 2.6million times
Casey Neistat is so dedicated to micro-scheduling that he sleeps for only four hours a night and carves up his routine exactly to fit in family, work and activity time .
To keep him motivated, he has a tatto of ‘Do more’ written on his arm and a neon sign in his office that reads ‘work harder’
He lives by the mantra that free time is the biggest evil…and so he enjoys none of it.
Once the children are at school, the strictest part of Fiona’s day begins. She works solidly for an hour before stopping. If work isn’t done within that hour then it won’t be touched again until the next allocated hourly slot for that project. The clock ticks on and the next hour-long project begins.
There are even set days for social media, with Tuesday Twitter day, while Instagram updates for work projects are done daily.
After the kids are in bed around 8pm, she’ll return to her desk for another two hours of work. But not on Wednesdays.
Wednesdays is date night, when Fiona and her husband go to cinema or to a climbing club.
Thursday is Fiona’s vegan running club night and the family ensures they resolutely spend a sacred two hours having fun – without any screens – together over the weekend.
Fiona says she’s ‘so much happier for micro-scheduling.’
While her husband John is organised, he’s not a micro-scheduler but he is hugely supportive of his wife’s military approach to the work/life balance.
Psychologist Annette Byford issues a stark word of warning though to those thinking of trying to account for every minute of their time.
She says: ‘People are already struggling – with the demands of work, long commute times and feeling like they need to be being present online – and micro-scheduling is, I think, bordering on the dangerous.’
‘What micro-scheduling does is essentially say that if you keep lifting the bar, you have to keep jumping higher and higher. They’re peddling the idea that it is possible to stay perfectly on top of things.’
Byford, who has just written a book, A Wedding In The Family, on how relationships are affected by nuptials, says: ‘Human frailty is a natural thing and an unavoidable thing. If you push people into believing they have to constantly chase this perfect solution to everything, you’re setting them up for a fall.’
Warning: Psychologist Annette Byford says the trend for micro-scheduling could be detrimental to mental health, saying: ‘What micro-scheduling does is peddle the idea that it is possible to stay perfectly on top of things’
‘Yes, be organised, set priorities, set time boundaries but that involves saying sometimes that can’t be done. We can’t plan every second of the day and we need time to amble.’
‘If someone else was managing you that way, you’d think it was bullying. This advice sets people to self-bully.’
‘Children thrive under routine but they shouldn’t feel like they’re being scheduled in – that’s positively damaging’
Rhian Westbury, 29, who lives in Watford, accounts for every minute that she can, following a detailed plan to ensure her work and home-life runs like clockwork.
She admits to being a ‘chronic meticulous planner’ and pins down her days to ensure she gets the most out of every single minute.
She explains: ‘As an almost 30 year old in the modern day I don’t just have one single full-time job, I have freelance side hustles and so every single minute of my day is precious and I don’t want to waste a second which is where my lists come in!’
Using Google Docs to ensure she can access her list wherever she is, Rhian says it’s all about being in control.
Rhian Westbury, 29, who lives in Watford, says micro-scheduling makes her feel in control and she even has pre-set times to get up by at the weekend and bite-sized work blocks during her lunch break
Facepack at 9:30pm, pancakes at 9:45am: Rhian lives her life by a very strict routine, which she admits her boyfriend, Luke, finds a bit annoying
‘I love having a micro-schedule as it makes me feel in control and ensures that I don’t waste my time, I hate the feeling of going to bed at night thinking I wasn’t productive with my evening (and weekends can produce an even worse feeling).’
Even her lunch breaks are planned to ensure she’s working efficiently.
The writer, who works as a Content Editor and blogger, says: ‘I plan my mornings down to what I need to do once I’m up and dressed in the hour gap I then have before I go to work.’
‘I have my lunch time ‘to do’ list managed into bite sized chunks to ensure I maximize my hour lunch break, and then my evenings are my most structured part of the day.’
Housework, self-care and even relaxation is also pencilled in and lie-ins at the weekend don’t happen – Rhian is always up by a pre-set time.
Rhian’s boyfriend Luke finds the strict adherence to routine ‘a bit annoying’, she says.
‘I’m up by a pre-set time so I can stick to my day’s schedule intertwining everything I need to do – this can be a bit annoying to my boyfriend who doesn’t like strict schedules or timings and is more of a ‘wing it’ kind of person!’
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