"If it's not on the schedule, it's not happening."
I'm going to say something really basic here: Everything we do takes time.
And time is a finite resource. Since we can't make more of it, we have to make the most of it. And there are really only 2 ways to do that: edit out the unwanted/unnecessary AND do what you want/need to do more efficiently.
Scheduling is a method of time management that helps you control how you are spending your time instead of feeling like your days control you. When you feel overwhelmed, it's often due to poor time management, or simply thinking that you had more time to get done what you need to do.
Let your calendar and your schedule help you plan and prioritize what you will accomplish by taking the extra step to block off the time in your calendar for the items you want to do. By intentionally scheduling how you aim to spend your time, it will be easier to stick to your plan and avoid getting waylaid by incoming items (which may seems important or urgent only due to their recency).
This works because we have become used to doing what's on our calendars. Think of time blocking as scheduling meetings with yourself, to get things done. These are commitments, just as other appointments on your calendar are. If exercising is important to you, then put it on you calendar instead of just hoping you'll "find" the time to do it.
Scheduling out tasks and projects also helps you to determine what is or is not important to you. If you put something on your schedule and it just looks silly, or you think "ug, what a waste of time", then that's an important clue about whether that's something you want or need to be doing in the first place.
Scheduling your time also helps with retrospection. You can look back and see how you've been spending your time (with actual data, not just general feelings) and that alone can help you figure out if you are spending your time in accord with your goals and values. And, by tracking your time, you'll get better at estimating how long things will take.
Practical tips to get you started:
- Create a separate "time blocking" calendar in your calendar (viewable only to you, so that it doesn't show you as busy in case your coworkers need to schedule a meeting).
- Review your to-do list for your projects and deadlines, and schedule blocks of time to work on specific tasks and projects.
- During these blocks of time, focus on only what you've scheduled. Do not check email, Slack, (or Facebook or Reddit!), or any other system that will distract you.
- Build in buffer time to account for unschedule interruptions or daily organizing tasks.
- Consider scheduling 30 minute blocks a few times a day for checking email.
- Schedule travel time on your calendar.