Given that we each have 168 hours in our week, how is it that some seem to achieve more than others? In today’s post, I’m teaching you how to do everything by getting the most out of your time and making each hour count.
You’re going to design a weekly schedule that includes not only the things you have to get done, but also the things you actually want to get done.
Managing your time is a lot like budgeting your money – you have a limited amount to spend and you want to be sure it’s going on the most important things first, while also leaving yourself a certain amount to have fun with.
That’s why my advice for both starts with the same thing – tracking.
Why bother tracking?
Well, if you don’t know how much time you have to play around with, how will you know when you’re maxed out? How will you know what’s eating into your resources, and what you need to cut back on?
The thing is, with time as with money, you usually know how much you have, you just don’t always know where it’s going. That’s why keeping track of it is so important.
It’s very hard to lie to yourself about how you’re spending your time if it’s set out before you in black and white. You may feel like you’ve no time to work on that big goal of yours… until you can clearly see where you could start making some changes. Or, on the flip side, you may be convinced you’re sleep-deprived… until you cop that you’re clocking an average of 7 hours a night.
Facts don’t lie, so get yourself a time log, fill in those slots, and see if you’re investing your time wisely or if you could stand to tighten up in a few areas. After all, there’s no point planning your ideal week if you don’t have any idea how you’re currently spending your time. You want it to be an accurate reflection, not an unachievable fantasy.
How do you do it?
Your time tracker could be a sheet of paper (feel free to use the printable I’ve provided), or you could get yourself an app (Toggl is a good one). Whatever it is, be honest with yourself about how you’re spending your time.
After all, if you try to bend the truth, you’re only fooling yourself.
You don’t have to note down every single thing you do, but jot down the main things you’re spending your time on for each hour. Pretty soon, you’ll see a picture starting to form and you’ll be able to spot patterns.
How long should you track for?
It really depends on your current schedule. If your weeks tend to be more or less the same, then a fortnight should suffice to give you a reasonably accurate overview.
If, however, some weeks are different than others (for example, if you do shift work, or have a week-on week-off structure), then try tracking for a month to capture all scenarios.
How To Do Everything – The Perfect Weekly Schedule
Once you can see where your time is spent in an average week, you’ll be able to make better decisions about how to re-shuffle your schedule so you can get the most out of each day. Let’s look at the best way to do that.
Start by writing a list of all the things you have to and want to do in any given week. Looking back over your time log will help jog your memory if you’re stuck on how your days are usually structured. Right now, keep it on the idealistic side. Reality can come back and bite you in the ass a bit later – for now, we’re planning for the perfect week.
Once you’ve listed everything down, split it into categories – the things you absolutely have to get done, the things you really should get done, the things you’d really like to do, and the things that aren’t necessarily urgent but you’d squeeze them in there if you could. (Ideally you’d re-write everything into the separate lists but look, we’re all busy people, so just sticking a number beside the item, 1-4, will suffice if that’s all you’ve got time for.)
Now that you’ve got your 4 lists, it’s time to start slotting them into your schedule. Block out time for all the things that absolutely have to get done (like work, picking the kids up from school, eating, family time, etc.) Again, refer back to your time log to give you an accurate idea of how long each item takes you.
I have a post on block scheduling if you’re feeling a little stuck on how to do this. I highly recommend checking it out because it walks you through the basics and benefits of block scheduling, showing you how to use it to effectively and efficiently plan out your week. It also includes a free printable to help you put everything into practice.
Once all the urgent and important things are done, move down to the next lot of things. Again referring to your time log to give you a good idea of how long these tasks actually take, slot in all the things you really should get done (for example, attending the staff meeting, grocery shopping, laundry, etc.)
You’ll probably find at this stage that a significant amount of your week is already filled in, but fear not, if all else fails, at least you know you’ve taken care of the important things.
Still, you should see some available slots of time in there somewhere, so go wild and schedule in some things that you’d love to get done (for example, reading, going for a walk, taking a class, etc.)
And finally, with the small pockets of time left, pop in the remaining category of things (for example, taking the dog to the groomers, washing the car, organising digital photos, etc.)
If you want to ensure you’re maximising your time and getting the most out of this exercise, check out my post on hacking your to-do list. It includes 4 ways to make sure you’re getting more done in less time, and will really help you decide which task should go into what time slot.
Now compare your new schedule with your time log to make sure you’re not forgetting anything, and to clarify which activities you need to cut out in order to live your perfect week.
Often, we find it hard to give up our creature comforts. We don’t want to stop watching TV or scrolling through social media. Nor should we, completely, if they make us happy. But if you’re trying and struggling, the beauty of the new schedule is that you can clearly see what wonderful thing you’ll be replacing it with. It’s easier to say no to a bad habit when you’re replacing it with a better one.
That way, your brain isn’t fighting feelings of deprivation, it’s revelling in a better way of doing things.
The other benefit of your new schedule is that it’s clear what you should be doing at any given time. Without structure, it’s easy to get caught up in unimportant things and not realise how quickly time is slipping by.
Now, however, you’ll know exactly when it’s time to wrap up one thing and move onto the next. That “deadline” will make you work much faster and more efficiently to get one job done, and you won’t waste precious time trying to decide what to do next. Hurray for having more focus!
So there you have it, you’ve planned out your perfect week, ensuring it’s realistic and achievable. Start with your time log and work your way up to a weekly schedule so that every task you have to complete has its place, and everything you want to do has been given a slot too.
From the have-to priorities to the want-to pleasures, you now know how to do everything.
What would you like to make more time for in your week?