Important Organizational Distinctions: Planning, Scheduling, Routine, Time Management, Prioritization

I used to basically lump these terms together when I thought about organizational behavior. Or at least I considered them all in the same vein wherein they might as well be considered as referencing more or less the same thing. But these things actually have very important distinctions, and understanding them and properly implementing them can produce significantly positive results.

Expanding your organizational knowledge, and consistently practicing organizational behavior, is not only important for optimal functioning in life, it’s also very important for psychological health.

Making these distinctions, and remembering them, can help make you more functionally efficient and can significantly contribute to psychological health:

Planning:  deciding what to do

Scheduling:  (making a schedule) deciding when to do it; (keeping a schedule) doing the task/event at the decided-upon time

Routine:  consistently doing the same tasks at the same time, especially daily or weekly

Time Management:  deciding how long to do things for; keeping track of time while doing things (staying aware of of how much time you have)

Prioritization:  determining what things are most important, and ordering those to-do’s in order of importance, and sticking to that order, always doing the more important thing first


— Routine should be Priority #1; only occasionally should an isolated task or event be considered more important than keeping your Routine

— You can Plan and Prioritize somewhat simultaneously, but generally intend to Plan before Prioritizing:  determine all the things you need or want to do, then put them in order of importance before Scheduling…

— Plan & Prioritize before you Schedule. Deliberately think through what you’re going to do, and then set times.

— Prioritize and Plan before deciding how long to do things for (before Time Management); If Time Management becomes difficult, re-Prioritize and re-Plan:  when you’re not effectively managing your time, keep recalling and going back to your Plan & Priorities.

— Time Management (in this case as the attention & effort afforded to time spent on various tasks) should generally reflect a task’s level of importance. Flexibility with task time should only be granted to the more important tasks, or if conditions are truly beyond your control during less important tasks (ie when they require you to spend more time than you allotted).

— You should be most rigid with your Routine. You should be most flexible with Planning.

— Too much rigidity or too much flexibility on any of these things is harmful, especially over the longer term. Too much rigidity or flexibility with Time Management, which results in stress or chaos (or chronic incompletion), means you have not effectively Planned or Prioritized. Revisit your Plan and Priorities when you notice you’re being too rigid or too flexible with your time.