How to Get the Most Out of Your Time
Have you ever mapped out your ideal week?
A clear vision for an ideal week will help you be more focused, effective, and productive.
But the best used of your time isn’t all about nose to the grindstone, is it? Equally important, a map of your ideal week can guide you to a life of balance that also includes the right amount of time for relaxation, connection, and other activities that bring you meaning and joy.
If you’re a flow person, you might automatically feel averse to so much structure. I understand. But you don’t have to adhere to your ideal week in a rigid way. You can use it as a flexible guide and an information tool that shows you where there’s too much of this, and not enough of that.
Creating a vision for your ideal week will empower you to live your life on-purpose, according to your priorities, wishes, and dreams, not someone else’s. Without a plan, it’s far too easy to get off-track, live in response to the demands of others, or waste your time on the unimportant and unnecessary.
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Use these three steps, detailed below, to design your ideal week:
Establish your priorities.
Slot them into a paper or digital calendar.
Try it out and adjust accordingly.
Ready? Let’s get started.
1.Get Clear on Your Priorities
Make a list of everything you would like to include in your ideal week. Include both your work, home, and personal tasks and priorities. Be sure to include things you want to spend more time on.
Some people like to make their list in rapid logging fashion, writing down everything that comes to mind quickly, in short form notation, and in one long list. Rapid logging can free the mind to release its contents without over-thinking.
On the other hand, you might prefer to use categories, which can jog the mind and help you remember more. Use life categories like:
Family and Friends
Health and Wellbeing
Fun and Leisure
Or create your own categories. Make sure you include time for relaxation, social engagement, and “me” time.
These are the categories I came up with for myself:
Writing and Creating
Social Media and Admin
Planning and Review
Relaxation and Entertainment
Personal and Spiritual Growth
Household Chores and Shopping
I’ll combine them into just a few categories for my ideal week map, but I’ll use the more specific ones when I’m actually tracking my week in my Hobonichi Cousin Planner.
2. Time Slot Your Ideal Week
Now that your priorities are clear, you can design your ideal week by placing each of your priorities in a time slot or time block on your calendar, following the steps outlined below.
Use a blank weekly calendar with hours down the side, either a paper version or a digital one you create in Excel, Google Calendars, or similar program. Download a free weekly calendar template (paper version) here.
Now follow these steps:
Schedule Pre-Set Weekly Appointments First
Write in your previously scheduled weekly appointments first. As you do, you can take a moment to reflect on whether they’re in alignment with your overall goals. If not, you might want to eliminate one or more.
Place the “Big Rocks”
Stephen Covey shared the idea of “Big Rocks” - your most important priorities - in his book First Things First.
Covey used the analogy of an empty, 1-gallon mason jar to illustrate how you need to put in the Big Rocks first or you might never get them in at all. If you fill your jar with gravel and sand first (the small, less important tasks) you won’t have room for the Big Rocks (your priorities).
So put in the Big Rocks first. And go beyond your work priorities. Include your weekly date night with your spouse or your time at the gym if those are your Big Rocks.
Consider the Use of Time Blocks
Time blocks are an age-old time management tool that increase efficiency and productivity. Modern-day entrepreneurs and time management experts have reframed the idea in their own way.
In her book, Your Best Year 2018, Business Edition, Lisa Jacob’s calls them “power blocks.” She says power blocks help her get into a state of flow. According to Jacobs, the resulting laser-focused attention results in significant progress or improvement of skill.
Jacobs schedules three 90-minute blocks of uninterrupted time each day for her priority work. If you have a high-priority stand alone project, she challenges you to set aside 20 power blocks each month (or whatever you might need) to accomplish it, either completely or in chunks. She is sure to build in white space in her day to counter balance her focused time during power blocks.
Your power blocks can be longer or shorter, whatever suits you. Some people prefer the Pomodoro Technique time blocks of 25 minutes, but I prefer long blocks for creative work.
You can apply power blocks to your personal life as well. For example, you could scheduled a few in each week for yoga or you could challenge yourself to do 20 power blocks of yoga in a particular month.
Get a free PDF of Your Best Year 2018 free here - I don’t know how long this link will be active.
Or buy her final version Your Best Year Final Draft: Productivity Workbook and Business Planner.
In his book The 12 Week Year, Get More Done In 12 Weeks Than Others Do in 12 Months, Brian P. Morgan talks about “performance time” - time you block out each week dedicated to your strategically important tasks, in other words, “time blocks.”
In this system, performance time includes strategic blocks, buffer blocks, and breakout blocks.
Strategic blocks are designated for your most important priorities.
Buffer blocks are set for the unplanned or lower value activities like dealing with email and voicemail.
Breakout blocks are three hours in length and spent on things other than work. They refresh and reinvigorate your mind so you can be more focused and effective during your other performance time.
You might want to color-code your time blocks so you can easily see what you're up to by category. The color-coding will also give you a sense of whether there’s balance in your life. Balance, however, doesn’t mean every category must be allocated the same amount of time, but rather that you give the right amount of time for each category.
If you decide to use time blocks, sketch out your time blocks on your weekly calendar, and then place your Big Rocks first.
Use batching for smaller, less important tasks.
Look through your list and collect together all the similar tasks into one group. For example you could batch:
Household financial tasks
Social media posting
Or any other similar activities
Batching saves time and increases focus.
3. Try Out Your Ideal Week and Adjust
Next, try out your ideal week.
At the start of the week, transfer your ideal week into your calendar or planner so you can put it into action.
I pencil in my various time blocks into the weekly page in my Hobonichi Cousin planner on Sunday or Monday. When I complete a time block, I write what I actually did in that block. If the timing changes, I just erase the pencil marks, and rewrite the time block in the right spot.
Use your own planner or the weekly template you downloaded with the link above to track how you used your time during the week.
Set aside 20-30 minutes at the end of the week to evaluate your ideal week experiment. Or do a mini-evaluation daily. Ask questions like:
Did I get through my priority work for the day or week?
Did I have enough power or strategic blocks?
Did I allow enough white space or breakout time?
Did I get distracted?
How does it feel to me to use this system?
Make adjustments based on what you learn. Then start the process again for the next week.
Use Your Ideal Week As a Guide
Tracking your time can be a real eye opener. You may discover that you’re not engaged in focused work as much as you think. Or you might learn that social media takes up far more time than you wish.
Whatever you learn, you can adjust accordingly for the following weeks. It may take several iterations to get closer to your perfect week.
An ideal week plan is not meant to be a rigid structure that imprisons you, but rather a living process that helps you get the most out of your time. After all, we can’t plan for the unexpected. Life happens. Treat your plan as a guideline you can be flexible with, without being so loose that you lose the benefits. The key is to find the right balance between creating too much pressure for yourself and letting every single little thing distract you.
The main point of an ideal week is to get back in control of your time and life and accomplish what’s most important to you. You may never have the picture-perfect week you initially outlined, but you might double your productivity and have more fun in between. And most importantly, you’ll get the things done that matter most.
Have you ever created a plan for an ideal week? What do you think of the idea. Let me know in the comments.
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