In Episode 48 of It’s About Time, I’m sharing my #1 secret for getting things done during the week.
Sure, it takes being thoughtful, a little setup, and some creativity – but once you’ve started using this secret, you’ll be hooked, and you’ll be surprised at just how easy time management can be.
What’s the secret? It’s all in designing an Ideal Week – creating a template for how you’ll spend your time in advance. And if the idea of creating a template sounds scary or intimidating – think of it like a coloring book. The lines are already there, you can see the big picture, but it’s up to you to color in the lines – if you’re like me, go outside of the lines and get a little creative when you need to.
So today, I’m sharing
Why designing an ideal week is so life changing and
The key difference between ideal and perfect, because we’re not about perfection here.
You’ll also walk away with simple steps that you can take to design your ideal week and make time management easier than easier
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.
I don’t know about you, but there are few things that I dislike more than wasting time re-doing, re-working, recreating or re-inventing the wheel.
At past jobs – one of my first questions when a new project or process was introduced – my first question was usually – Is there a best practice we can follow? Is there someone we can look to who’s already doing this successfully?
In nonprofit volunteering – I tend to approach things the same way. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to design a brand new women’s leadership conference from the ground up. My first move? To research other, similar nonprofit who had designed and hosted successful conferences. I even reached out to some of those conference planners directly and got to know women in Greenville, South Carolina, learned how they do things in Memphis, and what worked well in Delaware.
Even when it comes to cleaning schedules at home – why create my own cleaning routine from scratch when great examples already exist and can easily be found with a quick Pinterest search?
Sure – there’s certainly a time when truly designing something custom, from start to finish is worthwhile or even necessary – but for most things – there’s just no need to re-invent the wheel.
And yet – despite the fact that many of you are nodding your head in agreement right now, so many of us re-invent the wheel week in and wheel out when it comes to our schedules and how we spend our time.
What if you could design an awesome schedule that enables to you fit in everything that matters most, and then copy and paste it from week to week – tweaking what you need to. Or what if you had a stencil, or a template or even just some guidelines to follow and make minor adjustments here and there – allowing you to give your most important decision making power to the BIG things.
Imagine this – It’s Friday afternoon. You’re relaxed, sipping a glass of wine. Not an ounce of stress in sight. You’re capping off the end of a great – no… fantastic week.
You got enough sleep. You crossed everything off of your to-do list, and you had time for yourself, too.
Your mornings were relatively stress free, and you felt present and engaged with your friends and family during your down time.
You already know how you’re spending your weekend, and when you think about Monday? No sweat.
You’re energized, instead of filled with dread. You know exactly what your focus will be next week.
Does this sound like a dream to you? It doesn’t have to be.
I’m here to tell you that, yes – this dream life is possible, and getting there is simpler than you might think.
That sounds pretty great, doesn’t it?
Your Ideal Week
Enter – the Ideal Week.
Your Ideal Week is your blueprint – your roadmap for the week ahead.
Back in Episode 40, I shared 7 habits that could change your life – definitely go back and listen to that one if you haven’t, but the second habit I shared was to Begin with the end in mind.
And that’s exactly what an Ideal Week does. It allows you to picture your week ahead, your blueprint – and fill in the blanks to design a winning week for yourself.
An Ideal Week Combats Decision Fatigue
Why is this so life changing? Two words: decision fatigue.
Decision fatigue is what happens when we make a lot of decisions. And by a lot we’re talking at least 35 thousand decisions each day. And our decision-making ability is like a gas tank. Each morning we wake up with a finite amount of good-decision making fuel. And with each decision we make – going for a run instead of hitting the snooze button, deciding what to wear, what to eat for lunch… by the end of the day our tank is so empty it makes saying no to a bowl of ice cream with chocolate syrup nearly impossible. There’s a reason why so many bad decisions are made at night.
An Ideal Week combats decision fatigue by creating a template that you can use week in and week out, so you’re not scrambling to decide each day what you’ll do and when you’ll do it.
Perfect v. Ideal
But before I dive into HOW to create your ideal week and where it should live, I’ve got to address some pretty important vocabulary – so let’s talk about the difference between ideal and perfect.
We’re not aiming to create a perfect, flawless week – because we know there’s no such thing as perfect. Plus – aiming for absolute perfection is a fast track toward disappointment and frustration.
Instead – we’re going to set our sights on Ideal – and here’s why.
Perfection is defined as flawless. Without mistake.
Ideal on the other hand means optimal – being the best possibility.
An ideal week is the best possibility for your week, with the realistic understanding that your ideal week may never, ever happen minute by minute.
What’s the Point?
Which might have you wondering – well – then what’s the point of creating one at all?
Great question – Even though your ideal week may never, happen – the power is in the process. The process of thinking through and visualizing what that week ideal week would look like will cause you to make purposeful decisions about how you spend your time.
What Might Your Ideal Week Look Like
So let’s talk about what your ideal week might look like
If your ideal week is a template for how you spend your time, it’s going to include a mix of specific activities and broad categories – depending on what your life and work look like.
Your ideal week can include a time block that includes your 7-9 hours of sleep. A space for your morning routine, and your commute time to work – if you commute.
If you have standing meetings or calls associated with your work, or recurring weekly evening activities like book club or sitting at your daughter’s gymnastics practice – those items will have a home on your ideal week. If you want to cultivate a habit of regular workouts or a meditation practice – give it a home on your calendar.
Where Should Your Ideal Week Live?
And where does your Ideal Week live?
Well – you’ve got a few options, depending on whether you’re a digital planner relying on Google Calendar, Outlook or iCal – or if you’re a paper planner who can’t live without your Erin Condren, your Day Designer or your Emily Ley Simplified planner close by.
Paper Friends – There’s a blank calendar page waiting for you over in the shownotes at abouttimepodcast.com/48 to print and mark up with highlights, stickys and anything else you need to design your week. Print as many copies as you need.
Digital Friends – Create a new, blank calendar inside your digital calendar of choice. Name it My Ideal Week – and then get after it creating blocks and rearranging. But – I’ve gotta tell you, even though my final ideal week lives in Google Calendar, I always start by putting pen to paper – so you’ll want to grab that blank calendar sheet too to get started.
How to Design Your Ideal Week for Better Time Management
Ok – now that you’ve decided where you want your Ideal Week to live, here are a few simple steps to designing your Ideal Week.
First – block out time for what’s most important. And yes – this first takes getting clear on what’s most important to you. You may have heard me refer to the most important things as Boulders before. Those big, heavy, immovable milestones in your life that represent what’s most important to you. This might look like
Bedtime stories with your kids
Daily quiet time or Time carved out for personal or professional development
Date night with your significant other
Weekend worship time
Boulder might also look like the activities in your work that are important, but not necessarily urgent – and therefore often get skipped or put on the backburner in favor of more urgent work – the stuff that’s on fire. Examples might include
Proactive research in to grant opportunities, or potential new clients
Proactive business development activities
Proactive marketing activities like updating your website that’s collecting dust, or creating engaging social media content when you know that it positively impacts your business
Once you’ve blocked out time for your most important things, your next step is to add in your routines. The 5 Essential Routines are a great place to start: Morning, Evening, Workday Startup, Workday Shutdown and your Weekly Planning Session. Head over to Episode 17 to learn more about setting up those 5 Routines.
Then – if you have standing/recurring meetings with your team, your boss or clients – add in those blocks.
Your next step is to look at the free space that’s available.
Congratulations – you now have a realistic understanding of how much time you actually have to get work done during your weeks. Sometimes this part can be a little alarming, seeing that you have less free space than you realized. And it can be a little relieving – because you come to realize that the 72 items on your to-do list were completely unrealistic with the 4 free hours you actually have available to accomplish them in. It’s not that you’re lazy, or you’re not good at what you do – it’s that you now have a realistic picture of how much time is actually available.
With that free space that’s available – this is where you start dropping in Focused work blocks. When are you at your best? Are you totally wide awake in the morning and foggy in the afternoon? Or do you come alive at 2PM?
Based on when you’re at your best – block out time during that part of the day for FOCUSED work. The Deep Work that requires your attention, fewer distractions and interruptions and that really moves the needle for you.
After blocking out your focused work time – you’ll probably have some space left. You can fill in these blanks with other important tasks and activities that you know you need to complete on a weekly basis – or you can leave it blank and call it flex time to decide in the moment.
Whatever your ideal week looks like – starting with a template – a puzzle where every piece fits – instead of starting from scratch or reinventing the wheel every week – having an ideal week enables you to walk into your week with more clarity – because you have a plan, more confidence because you know exactly how much available time you have, and more intention because you’ve set aside time for what’s most important first.
So let’s recap:
An Ideal Week is amazing because it enables you to Start with the End in mind. It gives you a realistic understanding of how much time is actually available, and it cuts down on decision fatigue because you’re starting with a template, instead of starting from scratch.
We’re not aiming for Perfect, we’re aiming for Ideal – the best possibility.
Your Ideal Week is going to be based on your roles, responsibilities, and what life looks like for you. And it can live tucked inside your paper planner, or on a fresh digital calendar that you can toggle on and off as a guide.
And to create your ideal week
First – start with what matters most. Add your boulders.
Next, add your routines.
Then, add your standing meetings.
Once you’ve got those milestones in your ideal week – assess your available free space.
Create blocks designated for your focused work.
Then – use the remaining space to add in other, less important work or leave it open for flex time.
If you’re ready to design Your Ideal Week, click here to download and print the blank calendar page that you can markup, and create your messy first drafts. You’ve got to start somewhere, and it might take some trial and error. Remember – the power is in the process!
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