How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. – Annie Dillard
As a leader, one of the most important benefits we can give our teams is to be organized and intentional. It’s also one of the best feelings we can give ourselves.
After coaching dozens of leaders, I’m convinced the best place to start is with our time. Once we master it, we can achieve anything. Without having it under control, little feels possible.
Based on an exercise I learned from Michael Hyatt, the key is to design a template for your week.
Here are the steps to create a Schedule Template for your life.
Step 1: Access the template and save a copy for yourself.
– Click on File, and then “Make a Copy” or “Download as.”
Step 2: Insert blocks for what’s truly mandatory in your life right now.
Have a high standard for mandatory. This step isn’t the shoulds. Only the musts.
Be sure to include key meetings, commutes, meals, and anything else that you spend time doing.
Step 3: Start filling in your remaining commitments.
Don’t forget about sleep, exercise, or family activities. This template should incorporate every aspect of your life. One life equals one calendar.
Step 4: Think strategically about your blocks.
A few ideas:
– Would it be possible/helpful to designate certain days for meetings and certain days for projects? That would help you clarify between “maker” and “manager” days, a concept from the excellent essay by Paul Graham.
– Would it be helpful to “theme” each day so that you know you balance urgent needs with more important long-term projects? Here’s an example of how it worked for Jack Dorsey. (Ignore the 16 hour day part.)
Step 5: Track your actual time compared to your template.
What’s different? What adjustments could you make?
There are all sorts of apps that can help us track time, but ol’ fashioned pen and paper is still my favorite. Here’s a simple template you can download and print to see where you’re actually spending time.
I started to create a sixth step for continued adjustments. The truth is we’re never “done.” Life changes. Our goals and commitments change, and so should our schedules. I think it’s a good habit to revisit your template during your weekly review.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What if my work requires me to be responsive?
This is a challenge for many of us. There are a few different ways you can approach this.
One, shift your wake time so that you fit in your priorities before you need to be in responsive mode. If you need to be available at 9am, wake at 5 with a focused morning routine, and then have two 60 minute work sprints planned. Surprisingly, this can be a very productive technique. You might save your workout or another planned activity for the evening to help transition again from reactive time to personal time.
Or, is it possible to question your assumptions? Does your work truly require real-time responsiveness, or could you group similar activities and batch them throughout the day or week? Perhaps you could explore the expectations for response times, and see about carving out blocks of time for focused work. Do pay attention to the difference between maker-work and manager-work, and plan transitions where they are helpful.
What if other people can schedule meetings that I must attend?
Dealing with this proactively starts with the approach from above. You can also layer on a calendar tool that takes the back-and-forth out of scheduling meetings and also preserve your planned-work time. Essentially, you’re able to share a link to your calendar, and let the recipient pick from available times.
My current schedule is very different from my plan. Where should I start?
If one particular task feels overwhelmingly important, start with it.
If you just need a restart in general, start with a consistent bedtime. If you go to bed by the desired time, chances are you’ll wake up on time too. That’ll allow you to roll right in to your morning routine. This is also a perfect time to start implementing a Daily March.
Let me know if you have any other questions. I’d love to help you make a template to live – and lead – intentionally.
image credit: flickr/markmorgantrinidad