How to Better Control Your Time by Designing Your Ideal Week

You have a choice in life. You can either live on-purpose, according to a plan you’ve set. Or you can live by accident, reacting to the demands of others. The first approach is proactive; the second reactive.

My Ideal Week

Sure, you can’t plan for everything. Things happen that you can’t anticipate. But it is a whole lot easier to accomplish what matters most when you are proactive and begin with the end in mind.

One of the ways I do this is by plotting My Ideal Week. I was first introduced to this concept by author Todd Duncan in a series of audio recordings he made that eventually became the book, Time Traps: Proven Strategies for Swamped Salespeople.

The idea is similar to a financial budget. The only difference is that you plan how you will spend your time rather than your money. And like a financial budget, you spend it on paper first. Building Champions, the executive coaching company I recommend, refers to this as a “Time Block.”

My Ideal Week—the week I would live if I could control 100% of what happens—is divided into a simple grid. Each day has a theme. In addition, each day is segmented according to a specific focus area.

In the spreadsheet embedded above, the themes are listed on the very top row:

  • Monday is devoted to my team, one-on-one meetings and a staff meeting at lunch.
  • Tuesday and Wednesday are devoted to travel and extended meetings, like our Monthly Business Review meetings.
  • Thursday is an ad hoc day. This is where I try to push external requests for meetings.
  • Friday is spent on planning and long-term thinking
  • Saturday is for personal chores and activities.
  • Sunday is for church, rest, and planning the next week.

My focus areas are listed in the left-most column:

  • The early morning hours are devoted to self: reading, praying, and working out.
  • The middle of the day is devoted to work. Note that I arrive at the office by 8:30 and leave promptly at 6:00 p.m. It is amazing what you can get done in the time allotted when you create “hard boundaries” around your work. Otherwise, Parkinson’s Law becomes operative: “Work expands to the time allotted for it.”
  • The end of the day is reserved for my family and writing. Currently, I don’t have any children living at home. However, Gail I eat dinner together almost every night, taking time to connect and catch up. I then enjoy writing for the last ninety minutes of the day.

Activities that contribute to my goals and priorities are shaded green. Those are not related to my goals are shaded red. Those that could be either, are white. Those that are grey are simply not scheduled. This represents “margin.” This scheme is admittedly subjective, but it is helpful to me to they and make sure I am working on what matters most.

To use this tool, I suggest that you map out your own Ideal Week. You can either download my Excel spreadsheet or start from scratch.

Once you have created your Ideal Week, you can use this document as a basic template for planning each week. I have also found it helpful to give to my assistant, so that we are both working with the same set of expectations.

If you are like me, not everything can be shoe-horned into the template. However, having this document will better enable you to to accomplish those things that matter most.

I am on vacation this week and offline. I will not be participating in the comments as I usually do. However, my daughter, Megan Hyatt Miller will be moderating the comments on my behalf.
Questions: Have you ever used a tool like this? Do you think it can help you take control of your time? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://twitter.com/JohnMRowley JohnMRowley

    Michael, very glad to see that you have your exercise in there! Good example to others since the mind and the spirit are housed in our bodies. Love your blogs btw!
    John

  • http://ellisstill.wordpress.com/ ellis still

    I have tried different things, but I have never used a “toolkit” per se. I am sure that this will be a great help to organizing my week. As an entrepreneur, time management is my biggest challenge just because there is always so much to do. As you mentioned, so many things happen that you do not plan for, but these thinks tend to destroy my entire day, so I need some structure such that I can re-focus despite all of the distractions. Thank you for this post…I appreciate your transparency :- ) Have a great day!!!

    • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

      Getting organized always brings great rewards.

      • http://ellisstill.wordpress.com/ Ellis Still

        Yes… I’m using an edited version of Michael’s template. There are still diversions, but it has greatly increased my focus and productivity while also allowing me to continue to keep my family time intact :- )

  • http://amylynnandrews.com/tell-your-time/ Amy Lynn Andrews

    Yes, I do the very same thing. I call them “Envelopes of Time” (like the money envelopes in budgeting — my idea came after reading The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey).

    I list my roles in life (self, spouse, mom, etc.) and the activities I want to be sure to accomplish for each of those roles each week. Then I have a simple way of prioritizing them and plugging ‘em into my blocks of time. If they’re not scheduled, they likely won’t get done.

    Totally trackin’ with ya.

    • http://mirrorsandwindowsnow.blogspot.com/ Alicha

      Oooo, I like that “Envelopes of Time” :)

      • http://amylynnandrews.com/tell-your-time/ Amy Lynn Andrews

        Thank you. Realizing that I have a finite amount of time (just like I have a finite amount of money in my budgeting envelopes) and that if I use more of it from one of my “Envelopes of Time” that I’m effectively stealing time from another one of my envelopes (and thus getting out of balance) was a big revelation.

    • Anonymous

      I am a huge fan of Dave’s envelope system. I think that’s a great way to think about time as well.

    • Jlflemingins

      I do the money envelopes in budgeting. I like your idea for “Envelopes of Time”! I always have to remind myself that the Envelopes of Time is a guide. I get so distracted if something comes up and I’m not planning for it.

      • http://amylynnandrews.com/tell-your-time/ Amy Lynn Andrews

        I hear ya. That’s why I have a time envelope called “Cushion” which works very much like our “Miscellaneous” money envelope — for those unexpected things that will surely arise.

        The way my “Cushion” envelope works practically?

        If I was to adapt Michael’s above schedule as my own, I would stick about three or four 30-minute blocks of nothing throughout the day. That way, if I get off track (happens a lot with 4 small kiddos at home!), it gives me the chance to get back on track without feeling like I have to “steal” or “borrow” time from my next envelope of time and thus be perpetually behind…and stressed and altogether frustrated.

    • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

      Budgeting and variance analysis in time management allows us to eliminate many unwanted activities off the sheet.

  • http://www.dailyreflectionsforsingleparents.blogspot.com/ Scoti Springfield Domeij

    I downloaded the excel file. Do you ever feel trapped by your schedule? If an emergency wipes out your schedule, do you just restart the schedule the next week?

  • Pool_fun

    I have found myself in that trap, “work will take the time allotted.” I was looking for ways to change that. This will help along with the book. I do ok on parts of the week, but the weekdays get swallowed by work.

  • http://twitter.com/davebaldwin Dave Baldwin

    Thank you Michael. I can’t wait to work out my ideal week. Are you aware of Manager-Tools.com? One-on-ones have changed the way I manage people. Mike & Mark are geniuses in the management arena. Looking at your exercise regimen wondering if you are a P90X guy. That seems to be a typical schedule Tony Horton recommends to stay in shape.
    Anyway, looking forward to putting my ideal week together.
    I appreciate all the help and insight you are giving us. Have a great rest of the week.
    Blessings,
    Dave

    • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

      Manager-Tools.com was simple and effective. Thanks for sharing Dave.

  • Lori Swarner

    I love this kind of stuff. Mike Miller introduced me to the block schedule in 2005 and I’ve been living by it ever since (well with a few diversions along the way, but I always return). Nothing has brought more peace to my working life! Thanks for posting.

  • http://www.womenlivingwell-courtney.blogspot.com womenlivingwell

    OH YES – I LOVE this! Being a homeschooler/blogger/my husband runs a small business – I find that schedules of my ideal week help me so much to get everything that is priority done. I have shared my schedules on my blog and I notice other women get their feathers ruffled by it. It makes them feel too rigid – but it’s true that it’s just an ideal and rarely does it play out that way!!! It works for me – to have a plan and a goal.

    For example here’s my cleaning schedule:
    Mondays – Menu and Market; Tuesdays – Towels, Toilets, Tubs; Wednesdays – Wash Day (laundry); Thursdays – Dust; Fridays – Floors – Bingo the whole house clean in a week every week :-)!

    I have a daily schedule too :-).

    I may only be a little stay-at-home mom but I want to incorporate top dog management skills to my home – so it can run smoothly and I have time for the fun things :-) So excited to see your ideal schedule!!! Thanks!

    Courtney

    • http://joyfulmothering.net Christin

      Hey stranger! I know you ;-)

      I love reading your schedules/routines! :) They motivate, encourage, and inspire me!!

    • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

      I think that sometimes the home needs stronger management skills than the workplace. Trying to keep a house running with kids in the mix can be quite the challenge. Going in with a plan, allowing flexibility as needed and keeping the end in mind can make a big difference.

      Kudos on being intentional on bringing the best to your home :)

      • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

        Tell me about it! My wife runs our home while I work. We have five kids, one is 3 months old. We homeschool the others. She runs an at-home business as well. She’s incredible!

    • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

      That’s efficient and effective mutitasking….

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FJRLITL5IEFHDDFURAESLXOOZ4 Jim Whitaker

    Ever sense I read the & habits about 15 years ago, I have always strived to lived a purposeful life and not a reactionary life. I have tried to live a “Quadrant II” life. As I plot “My Ideal Week,” I first reflect on my personal mission statement. My planning takes place on Sunday since I order my week on the Christian week of Sunday through Saturday. I do a weekly review and set aside any items that I need to put on the calendar or close any loops that need to be closed. Then I place the “Big Rocks” first, all the most important things related to me my key roles that I have. I also include in my schedule blocks of time set aside for me. I like the “theme focus” of your layout. I think that it makes sense. I have “focus areas” as well and appreciate the way you block those out on the calendar. I usually don’t put the morning stuff on my calendar, but I can see how that makes sense when you are planning your “Ideal Week.” Thanks for sharing your spreadsheet with us. You always have a way of being thoughtful and helpful in your tools. For me the most helpful part is a weekly review and scheduling the big rocks. But if I did not take the time to develop a mission statement and a fully understood concept of the roles in my life that are important, I would probable still be in time management paralysis.

    • Anonymous

      Jim, I LOVE the “big rocks” concept. I go back to it often when things start to feel a bit haywire. Thanks for the reminder.

      • http://www.irunurun.com Travis Dommert

        In addition to identifying the weekly “big rock” activities, we suggest sharing them with an accountability partner or team and tracking whether or not you actually delivered on the plan…core elements of irunurun.

        Adding transparency and measurement to a solid plan really amps up the focus and consistency of execution. It all starts with a solid plan…great tool, thanks!

        • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

          Ya! Sharing with accountability parter and following up has greater rewards.

  • http://joyfulmothering.net Christin

    I use something very similar. It’s called Managers of Their Homes by Teri Maxwell. It is also color coded, but it includes everyone in the family (it’s created for homeschooling families, but could really work for anyone).
    Honestly? Writing out the schedule is the easy part. Implementing it? Not so much! I am currently working on implementing my schedule now. The productivity has been great and I haven’t even implemented the whole thing yet (or even half!)

    • Joe Lalonde

      Congrats on making the schedule at least! I still struggle with that.

      • http://joyfulmothering.net Christin

        Oh geez, I’m really good about writing lists and planning things. Sometimes I spend more time with the planning then I do the implementing. *sigh*

        But I read in a book once that “the system[only] works if you work the system”. Oh how true that is!

        • Beth West

          I’ve used Terri’s book too and made some fantastic schedules. I love, love, love scheduling, planning and list-making as well as reading organizational books and time management books. Unfortunately I love to plan far more than I love to do!!!

      • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

        But I think it’s a major first step. I’ve always heard that the first step in solving a problem is to identify it. Step two is resoving it. Creating a time block schedule is step one and even overlaps into step two in my mind.

    • Anonymous

      I agree. Implementation is the hard part. Just like financial budgeting, it is impossible without a plan. Here’s to taking the first step!

    • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

      Implementation does seem to take more work than what we first invision.

      Thanks for mentioning Managers of Their Homes. We homeschool as well and are working on being more intentional with our days – knowing that, especially for one of our children, a good, consistent schedule makes a lot of difference.

  • http://joeandancy.com Joe Abraham

    Yes, I totally agree that having a personal daily/weekly plan does make a huge difference.

    I found an interesting thing: when I have a daily/weekly plan, I am energized and focused even if situations around me don’t look bright. But whenever I chose to go without a plan, I found myself going down and lethargic though my surroundings where positive!

    Yes, we may not be able to accomplish everything we planned; but we do accomplish a lot by having a plan.

    By the way, I have never come across a CEO revealing his ‘Ideal Week’ in a blog so that it will help his readers! Thank you.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Joe. I love sharing this kind of stuff.

  • Anonymous

    This is great. Thanks for this. As I said in response to an earlier post, I’m rethinking my approach to my time right now.

    I have done a similar thing to this in the past, but what I really like in this is about having themed days. I haven’t done that. I’m going to try it.

    Thanks for the insight.

  • http://bentune.blogspot.com/ Ben Tune

    I don’t use a tool like this, but I can see how it can be beneficial. I do something similar with my personal time, but it is difficult for me to block my work time because the work I do is so fluid.

    How often does your actual week end up looking like your ideal week? What steps do you take to keep your normal weeks as close to ideal as possible?

    • Anonymous

      While I can’t answer this question for my dad completely, I think this template enables him to say “no” to a lot of opportunities and requests that may be good, but threaten to derail what is most important. I think that is key.

  • Ralph Stoever

    Hi Michael! Thanks for the post. I can see how it will complement the annual time block and integrate with the life plan. Lots of interesting questions have also been posted, which I’ll follow.

    My own challenge is to adapt it to the multiple-project-life of a consultant and half-time dad.

    For the later, I think I’ll need 2 calendars. One for the week I have the kids and one for the other. For the former, I am not too sure how I can deal with it. Maybe generic project slots which I can allocate as required by the projects each week.

    Lastly, including my physical and mental exercising will be the most challenging and I have no clue how I can deal with it. I usually try to train as much as possible, ad-hoc, depending on my level of energy and the specific logistics (clients are not always located at the same place and the commute time is hence not fixed.) On long days, I may also not have enough energy to learn in the evening (which is my equivalent of your writing). Suggestions anyone?

    • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

      Ralph: Like you, I have a multi-project work environment. I hadn’t heard of an ideal week before, but I basically had some sort of a template in my head from just scheduling so much. My approach is just to block off a chunk from about 8:45 – 5:30 every day for work. Then how that block of time is taken up depends heavily on what projects I’m doing.

    • Anonymous

      Ralph, like you, we have our kids only half-time. I was thinking the same thing; I need to versions of this calendar. One for the “kid” weeks, and one for the “non-kid” weeks.

    • Ralph Stoever

      Hi Loren and Meg! Thanks for the feedback.

      I’ll be testing the 2-week approach during the next 2 weeks (using the week to validate the scheddule for each separate week) and aim at having an established schedule in 3 weeks, to test until July.

      I’ll copy you, Loren in blocking off a generic chunks for project work and copy Michael in adding some free grey zones and specific zones for regular tasks (daily for processing non-urgent e-mails or calls, weekly for time-sheets, mentor appointments or lunches, etc)

  • Dixiewasik

    Lately I have been overwhelmed with our expectations at work. It is like a fire drill when sales aren’t where they should be instead of intentional steps to improve. I realize that if I don’t take control, my life is being gobbled up by work leaving nothing but a tired, frustrated, unhappy worker. Work/life balance seems to be a downfall with our yearly anonymous feedback yet I still do not take control. I love the grid and did some adjusting to the needs I have but I can see how mentally it compartmentalizes time so that you schedule time for yourself as well as work needs. Thanks for the spreadsheet…it is filled in and ready to go.

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  • http://jamsmooth.com Jamsmooth

    I’m going to make an ideal week schedule. I have one in my head but putting a budget on paper helps to identify hidden time (and money) vampires.

  • Shari

    I have used planners, but nothing this extensive before. The timing of your post in unbelievable. And, again, I’m humbled by your generosity in sharing your thoughts and your tools.

  • Joe Lalonde

    I’m going to have to give this another shot. I think I could do well doing this but I always struggle in the execution. Thanks for giving the spreadsheet so I have a starting point.

  • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

    Michael,
    I’m a huge fan of weekly and daily reviews and planning. I don’t think the idea had ever occurred to me though to write down an ideal week or an ideal day. I have a basic template in my head from doing so many schedules, but I like the idea of a very intentional template to start from.
    I think the real power from this system is in viewing your week not as a blank slate that you’re filling in however you wish – but instead as a pre-determined “generally optimal” schedule that you have to deviate from. Each deviation then makes you confront the issue of what you’re sacrificing in order to schedule in something else – and forces you to truly evaluate whether your schedule change is the best.
    Man, that’s good.

    • Anonymous

      Loren, excellent point! I like what you said about schedule deviations held up against an ideal day template forcing us to make decisions in light of our predetermined priorities.

    • http://refreshmentrefuge.blogspot.com Gina Burgess

      I agree, Loren. I had the same template in my head, but I kept getting sidetracked.

      It is harder to follow a template in your head when starting up an organization and getting everything put in place so it will run smoothly, or reorganizing an organization because so many things crop up that are surprises. But with an ideal week set up, the daily goals can be reached and the surprises can be minimized. Excellent!

  • http://twitter.com/DanNSurrealLife Daniel Sparks

    I think this is a solid, godly principle. Thanks for the article!

  • Andrew Acker

    The zero sum time management tool! This is a huge for me and my company. When we do organizational strategy and we create a position agreement with a summary of responsibilities and expected outcomes, a scorecard for review, and a planned out time block to give them focus in order to achieve the work and adjust to the new position. It can be tough to get used to, and even harder to actually implement, but it’s a great tool, and something I have to constantly practice what I preach. Prioritization, one large key to success.

    • Anonymous

      Andrew, I complete agree. It’s like the zero sum budget. Both are all about priorities and making sure our values inform our choices.

  • Karl Mealor

    Especially love the spreadsheet!

  • http://LookingForPurpose.com Dylan Dodson

    Great example of how to plan your week.

  • http://underthecoverofprayer.wordpress.com Jan

    Michael,
    This might be just what I need to organize my time. I am retired – and it is not easy to find the time to do what I feel God requires of me. Sometimes I take on too many things – which are all good – but not all profitable to me or God. Other times my writing and painting take a back seat to “retirement”. Thanks so much for this ‘week-at-a-glance’.
    Jan

  • http://www.iamanoffering.com iamanoffering

    What a fantastic resource. I am so disorganized with my time and it’s really hard to set a schedule like this for me. What I’m lacking is discipline which I definitely need to pray for! How do you stick to a schedule like this if you’re a parent of little ones whose schedules (when they wake up, when they go to sleep) might not match your schedule (or rarely matches it)?

    • Anonymous

      That is a great question. I am in that season of life as well. I think it is probably a two-part answer. 1. I think it’s helpful to get our kids on a schedule to the best of our ability. Maybe a modified version of this for them would be helpful too. 2. I think parents of young kids need to leave more margin in the mornings, especially, for the variable wake-up times of our children. It might be that it’s harder for us to do a quiet time, or exercise first thing in the morning, than it is for someone with all their kids grown and out of the house.

      • http://amylynnandrews.com/tell-your-time/ Amy Lynn Andrews

        I agree with Megan. We have 4 kiddos (ages 3-11) and my first goal is to maintain the schedule and routine we have established. When they were infants, it was harder of course, but I’ve found that as long as I’m consistent, we can generally get everyone to cooperate; it also makes for a more peaceful home since everyone knows generally what should be happening when and there are fewer last-minute surprises or puddle-on-the-floor meltdowns.

        It’s worth noting that the routine should be reevaluated and tweaked regularly. In our case, it seems like I do so with the change of the seasons, so about 4 times a year…or whenever my current routine/schedule doesn’t seem to be working smoothly.

        I schedule our days in blocks of time and allow about 30 minutes of cushion (or margin) here and there to make up for the inevitable out-of-the-blue situation that arises. It provides some “catch-up” time in case we get off track. A sure way to shoot myself in the foot is to schedule things back to back with no cushion! Our blocks of time last anywhere from 1 hour to 4 hours at a time (morning routine, school time, etc.)

        As far as my own schedule, I get the children’s schedule down first and then schedule around that. The things I need to accomplish without disruption I schedule while they are asleep. Sometimes it means experimenting with my schedule to see what works best. For example, I used to wake up with them when they got up at 7 and stayed up late after they went to bed. Then I decided to make a switch and now I get up at 4:30 but go to bed just after they do at about 8:30 pm. I’m still getting the same amount of sleep, I’m just a lot more productive early in the morning than late at night.

        It’s sorta like what Dave says about making a budget at the beginning — just give your best educated guess about how much time you’ll need for a particular thing in your week and then tweak it until you settle into a good working routine.

        • Anonymous

          Margin, margin, margin! So true. Who would’ve thought it would take 20 minutes for my son to put on shoes? :)

          • http://amylynnandrews.com/tell-your-time/ Amy Lynn Andrews

            Seriously, the shoes! They will totally be the end of me, I’m sure! I’m glad to know we’re not the only ones. And I have to admit, it has happened on more than one occasion that we’ve arrived at our destination only to realize someone has forgotten their shoes entirely. That’s always awesome. :)

        • http://simplemom.net Tsh

          “It’s worth noting that the routine should be reevaluated and tweaked regularly. In our case, it seems like I do so with the change of the seasons, so about 4 times a year…or whenever my current routine/schedule doesn’t seem to be working smoothly.”

          I agree, Amy. As a mom of 3 kids under age 6, and as an entrepreneur working from home, I revisit my “master schedule” monthly. I also think of it as more of a “routine” than a “schedule.”

          I also find it invaluable to have regular, weekly meetings with my husband. For an hour each Sunday evening, we discuss the upcoming week, note anything unique in the calendar, and see how we can serve each other. It’s also a great time to evaluate whether our master schedule needs tweaking.

          Kids change so often, so it’s important we parents flex as well.

      • http://www.iamanoffering.com iamanoffering

        Thanks so much – great perspective! We try to keep our daughter on as much of a schedule as we can and it does help. More margin does sound like a very wise idea. That also means going to bed earlier!

    • Anonymous

      Meg and Amy had some great comments. Let me add one more concept that I find to be incredibly important. It boils down to a quote from Dwight Eisenhower: “A plan is nothing; planning is everything.” In other words, I may rarely follow my actual plan for the day or week. But the act of planning made me think through my priorities and the things on my plate – so I’m in a better state to react in the here and now.
      As a father, my schedule doesn’t totally change like my wife’s does based on naptime schedules, etc. But whenever I’m on “daddy duty” and have to alter my day heavily around my kids, I still have an idea of what I was planning to do – so I know how to best restructure my day from then on.

      • http://www.iamanoffering.com iamanoffering

        Great thoughts, Loren, thanks!

      • http://simplemom.net Tsh

        I love this quote. Thanks for sharing!

  • Anonymous

    While I am actually moderating comments this week while my dad is away on vacation, I had to actually *be* a commenter for a moment. I cannot wait to try this! As a mom, a blogger, and an employee, I need a better strategy for managing my time, and most importantly, making sure the important things happen on purpose, not by accident.

  • David Manning

    This is great! I do a similar thing and recently made a laminated version for carrying in my pocket. It’s there quick reference as a disciplinary tool. It keeps me focused on the right things. On the flip side of the laminated schedule I have a saying, “Handle With Grace!” As you know… the ideal isn’t reality. Peace – David

    • Anonymous

      Sounds like a great balance.

  • Lucy Ann Moll

    Yikes. Only an hour in the week for household chores? Can we swap schedules? Please.

  • Anonymous

    Love this! I recently changed roles in my organization which added a number of responsibilites and meetings. I was struggling to find a rhythm until I decided to tell my week what to do. Now I find myself more relaxed, more focused and more productive.

    Thanks for the great post.

    PS: Shower on Saturday!

    • Anonymous

      “Tell my week what to do.” I like that. Just like money.

  • http://dustinstout.com Dustin W. Stout

    I think this is a great idea for anyone who wants to take charge of their own schedule. I’ve tried this many times in the past, however I find it hard to keep consistent.

    Thanks for posting!

  • Jason Grubbs

    Wow. Michael, thanks for sharing this. Things like this are what make your blog one of my favorites. I can’t think of many folks in your position who would be willing to share stuff like this and, who would go the extra mile to make it available via download. Well done!

    P.S. – Hope you and Gail are enjoying your cruise.

    • http://joeandancy.com Joe Abraham

      I agree with you!

      We need to be secure enough to share our story with others in order to see them flourishing in their career and life. The truth is: the more we bless others, the more God blesses us!

  • http://www.RobertBrewer.org Robb Bewer

    This is brilliant. I love the correlation you make between budgeting finances and budgeting time. We teach so often how tithing our money is important, but I’ve been processing ways to tithe my time as well. I think you’ve offered an extraordinarily practical way to make that happen!

    • http://joeandancy.com Joe Abraham

      Tithing time! Some thing to think about…

      • Anonymous

        I love this concept too. Great food for thought, Robb.

    • http://twitter.com/BobEwoldt Robert Ewoldt

      This is a really big thing for me… and I’m a big money-budgeting person. It’s equally as important to budget your time, and it’s harder for me to budget my time than it is for me to budget my money.

  • http://twitter.com/joesheehan Joe Sheehan

    Thanks for the tips , Michael.

    However, how do you suggest that someone who may not be as free to set their own schedule – someone who isn’t a CEO or even in a position of authority – attempt this?

    Imagine you are the bottom of your org chart instead of the top. Beyond the usual “how to manage up” stuff, how would you intentionally set your own schedule if you didn’t call the shots? What types of boundaries would you fight for?

    • http://fromtheunknown.wordpress.com Terry Lange

      I agree with your comment and I find myself in the same position.

      • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        Please see my comment back to Joe. Thanks.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I started doing this long before I was the CEO. In a corporation, even as a CEO, you’d be surprised how little discretionary time you have. The issue is to start with the amount of time you can control and do something significant with that. It is a little bit like Jesus said,“He who is faithful in little is faithful in much.”

      • TNeal

        “…do something significant with that…” That line resonates with me. My problem is probably the opposite of most people’s. I have large amounts of discretionary time which can be dawdled away. Your statement here challenges me and these days I need that kind of challenge. Thanks for deepening the original post’s message in your responses to us readers and commenters.–Tom

  • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

    This is an area that I need to work on. In fact, it’s a part of my life plan for this year. I’m downloading the spreadsheet to see if this will be a help to me. Thanks for the resource!

    • Anonymous

      Jeff, I’m excited to hear that you are working on your life plan. It’s such a great investment of your time and energy.

      • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

        I started on in 2010, so this is my second year running. Thanks!

  • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

    I love the idea of a block schedule to help keep me on track during the day. It is also something my wife and I have talked about as being helpful, maybe even essential, for our family. It seems difficult, though, to create a schedule that accomodates our sporadic and changing schedule – especially with the unpredictability of life with three young kids. I guess we will just have to keep working at it :)

  • Allison Hall

    Enjoy your vacation Mr. Hyatt. I have been using some of these strategies and it works. I stick to my to do list and priortise. It really is how much you organise yourself and how much you put into your time alloted

  • http://onstagetechnologies.com Scott Kantner

    I think it definitely can help, especially if you’re visually oriented. I think the key to making it work is to use it as template just as you suggested, rather than try to create something too rigid, and therefore brittle.

    What I like about your format the most is that surfaces and emphasizes major areas of life where you need to keep making deposits – family, work, church, etc – in order to stay balanced.

    //Scott

  • http://onstagetechnologies.com Scott Kantner

    Mike, do you differentiate between “work” email and “personal” email? I use two windows of time as you do for work-related email, but then end up with personal pile in the evening when I get home.

    • Anonymous

      Scott, I don’t think he differentiates between work and personal email.

  • Anonymous

    I am usually very intentional with my time, but the other day my wife and I sat down to eat supper and watch a ‘little TV.’ The next thing we knew, we had wasted 2 hours of the night watching re-runs of King of Queens. Thanks for the spreadsheet, I think this can really help!!

    • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

      True TV is a great time killer.

    • http://twitter.com/BobEwoldt Robert Ewoldt

      We don’t even have cable or have the TV hooked up to an antenna, and I feel like we spend too much time in front of the TV (watching DVDs and such).

  • http://twitter.com/BrettVaden Brett Vaden

    All is usually lost if I don’t get to bed on time; 7-8 hours are essential for my sleep.
    A schedule is nothing if I don’t rest.

    • Anonymous

      Brett, this is a great point. The same is true for me. Minding the basics is key to everything else.

    • TNeal

      Boy, I agree with you on this point and had the lesson driven home Tuesday all over again thanks to March Madness in April. I watched the NCAA men’s final with a friend and got to bed later than normal. I was worthless all day Tuesday. And I had such high hopes for that day.–Tom

  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    Mike! Thanks for your timely advice. I am currently planning to improve my time management skills. Your post will help me to make headway in this front.

  • Anonymous

    This is such a cool idea. I think I’ll try it out, thanks!!

  • http://www.leahadams.org Leah Adams

    I tend to do this….in my head and sometimes on paper. It most definitely is not as neat as yours, but it seems to work for me. Usually mine looks more like a list, however,

  • Scot

    Dude, you only PLAN to spend 7 hours each week with your wife/family? Including meals?

    • http://bentune.blogspot.com/ Ben Tune

      I thought the same thing when I first saw this. I don’t know Michael personally, and can’t speak for him, but I’m almost certain the majority of his “margin” time is devoted to Gail and other family and friends. He frequently mentions them in his tweets.

      I sat down a few months ago evaluated the time I spent on various things. I realized I was spending very little intentional time with the most important people in my life. Since then, I have scheduled time each week where I spend one-on-one time with my wife and my kids. I think mapping out your day helps you see these trends and take action according to your goals and convictions.

      • Anonymous

        Speaking as his daughter I can say that yes, my dad spends the vast majority of his margin time with my mom or together with their friends on weekend nights, for example. Sunday is usually a day we get together as a family (daughters, spouse, and grandkids) for a meal as well.

  • http://twitter.com/bbcrews bruce crews

    Another valuable too – thanks Michael.

    Since you aren’t moderating, I’ll ask those leaving comments – if you use this or a similar plan, how do you handle constant change?

  • Kris Vockler

    LOVE this post! I’m really interested in your management meeting plan, I see you have a staff meeting and one-on-one’s on Mondays. Do you have a specific plan for these?

    Great blog, love reading it.

    • Anonymous

      Kris, that’s a great question. I don’t know the specifics of this, but I know my dad always goes into meetings with a plan/agenda in order to keep things on track.

  • Brent Trickett

    Thanks Michael, I really like this as a clarification for my team about how to handle my time when they want to book meetings with me. I use Tungle for others to be able to book a meeting with me and it enables others to see when I am busy. Currently I let others request meetings and then plan my week from there but I am going to set my Tungle to only accept requests for the times I map out. Thanks again for the good thoughts.

  • Julie Holzmann

    I was first introduced to a concept like this in Kevin W. McCarthy’s book The On-Purpose Person. It talks about discovering key goals in several life accounts, and then planning them into an Ideal On-Purpose Day. The concept can then be expanded into the week. I haven’t seen a color-coded spreadsheet version, but much of it is quite similar. It’s a great tool – especially when utilized well.

    • Anonymous

      Julie, thank for sharing this additional bit of perspective. I think it’s helpful to think of goals in terms of “key accounts” like you mentioned. Good stuff.

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com Cyberquill

    You can either live on-purpose, according to a plan you’ve set. Or you can live by accident, reacting to the demands of others.

    There’s a third way, my way, which is to live by accident, reacting to the demands of oneself.

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  • TNeal

    I just emailed our coaching staff Parkinson’s Law. We’re revamping our team practice schedule and it’s important to maintain time boundaries for our athletes who are students and for ourselves. Great stuff to work with.

    • Anonymous

      Great to hear a unique practical application of this tool. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://profiles.google.com/indytide Scott Luck

    Michael, your articles are time and life management are very helpful for me as a pastor. I just finished My Life Plan last week. I am going to use the Ideal Week template as the tool for my weekly planning. Thanks for your help!

  • TNeal

    The reference to “Time Traps” by Todd Duncan sounded vaguely familiar. I checked my reading notes from past books and, sure enough, there were a lot of quotes from his book. It’s been awhile since I read that book but it’s an excellent one for reshaping your priorities.

  • http://profiles.google.com/wm.spinks William H Spinks

    So simple, yet the story of the big rocks and glass jar comes to mind. Plan (budget) your time (be proactive) so that others can’t steal it from you (fill your jar with sand, making you reactive to endless demands.) Love it!…thanks for such great practical help, Michael.

    -bill s

  • Shusk

    This is a very good idea that helps us be good steward of our time. I do something similiar, a bit looser, but I might try this version to make it better. Thanks for sharing this.

  • http://twitter.com/BobbyWarrenTDR Bobby Warren

    Michael,

    Thanks for this post and spreadsheet, however, my wife would love to see Gail’s spreadsheet.

    Thanks again,

    Bobby

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I haven’t got Gail to do this exercise yet!

  • TNeal

    The basic layout fits what I do but I’ve not used a formal, written schedule for years. I jot down reminders for specific meetings but I keep general guidelines for my week scheduled in my head. My mental-I-think-about- it schedule looks a lot like your physical-I-write-it-down one. But then again, my schedule has a lot of built-in routine and would be deemed less pressing than yours.

  • David

    Thanks Mike. Carved out 3 hours today and used your template. Now it’s informing my daily calendar. The BIG STONES are in place thanks to you.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Excellent, David. Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/pepperoniane ariane casinillo

    Just downloaded the excel file and I have to say this is one good template for someone like me who always find it hard to start mapping to make a plan. I think it’s necessary to plot the things to do to easily track the things to be achieved. In this way, I could assess and improve my schedule and accomplish the things I failed to do with my previous plan. Thanks for sharing this template!

  • http://twitter.com/brandonavance brandon avance

    Really enjoyed this article! I was just working on this yesterday for my yearly goals. I categorize them into Long, Mid and Short term. This really gives me a great step for Implementation of my goals.
    Thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/kprichardson84 Kent Richardson

    Great post! I had a very tight schedule all through college. Every hour was accounted for, including time bubbles for margin and blocks for doing nothing. I laugh sometimes when I see my college schedule. I have been wanting to get back on a more clear schedule. Thank you for sharing the excel spreadsheet. This inspired me to create my own ideal work week. I particularly like the idea of themed days. As a music teacher I often needs large blocks of time for researching, lesson planning and composing. I find that I am more successful when I can focus on one task for an extended period of time and finish that task.

    • http://twitter.com/BobEwoldt Robert Ewoldt

      I think there was a study done (published in the Harvard Business Review) that showed that people that focused on one task at a time ended up being far more productive than others. For instance, if you shut down the pop-up in Outlook that announces each email as it arrives, you get more done!

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  • Gary Smith

    If I didn’t know better I would swear that you copied me verbatim! I’ve been doing this for years and it works! Thanks for sharing, because now I will repost it for the benefit of those I know who don’t believe a person can be this structured and be productive.

  • Jim D

    What a gift! Thank you for sharing. As a financial advisor, I spend a great deal of my time with clients and it can alter how I get ” everything else ” done. This will really help me slot times so that I can be MORE available, proactive and add value to my time spent. Thanks for sharing.. I really enjoy reading your blogs!

  • http://simplemom.net Tsh

    Love this. I also plan a weekly schedule, and I’ve learned that as both a mom to three little kids and as a work-from-home entrepreneur, it’s important to plan but not bow down and worship my plan.

    My schedule is there to work for me — I don’t work for it.

    • TNeal

      Excellent take on a schedule. Sounds similar to “The Sabbath was made for man…”

      • http://simplemom.net Tsh @ Simple Mom

        Ooh, hadn’t thought of that. Nice corollary.

    • http://twitter.com/BobEwoldt Robert Ewoldt

      Tsh, I’m in the same boat as you… I’ve made an ideal schedule in the past, and started implementing it only to get discouraged because it’s not going as well as I’d envisioned. I need to learn that, even if it doesn’t go perfectly, keep following the plan.

      • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        Absolutely. It is your ideal. Very few weeks are like this. But it gives you a goal to shoot for.

    • http://twitter.com/BobEwoldt Robert Ewoldt

      BTW, I love your blog… I’m going to pass it on to my wife; I think she’ll really enjoy it.

      • http://simplemom.net Tsh @ Simple Mom

        Thanks so much! I’d love to hear what she thinks.

  • Anonymous

    This is a great addition to the annual calendar you wrote about a while back.

  • Anonymous

    That is awesome! I keep meaning to do this and keep putting it off. I like the daily theme idea too. Thanks for sharing these smart tips!

    Blessings,
    Mel
    Please feel free to stop by: Trailing After God

    • http://twitter.com/BobEwoldt Robert Ewoldt

      Checked out your blog… this is something I like about MichaelHyatt.com… I get introduced to so many other people and their writing.

  • Anonymous

    Michael,
    I am a big fan of this idea and have had my whole team go through this exercise. It is a real ‘eye-opener’ as to the time it takes to accomplish the important things of our job. Mapping out this plan also can give us all permission to say to things that might try to invade our schedules.

  • http://www.inteliwise.com VirtualAgent

    This is actually a fantastic idea. I’m trying to sort out of my life, adding actual meaning to it, and coming around to planning things that can positively alter my life, and putting up a structured map/schedule might just point me to the right direction.

  • http://candelierious.blogspot.com Lis

    I can’t think you enough for a post like this and even allowing us to glimpse into an actual hard copy version of your ideal week. It’s one thing to write a post about something readers may or may not really ‘get,’ but to have it so tangibly is awesome.

    I do find ‘mapping’ a schedule/goals out helps me focus. I like how you have narrowed it down so precisely. Thank you!

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  • Kolleen

    This is not only important for my own planning. It reduces my stress by limiting the things I am concerned with each day. Furthermore, I communicate my ideal week to the congregation on a regular basis and have fewer interruptions now on task or meeting loaded days. Instead I have reserved one day to be Drop in Business Day. That’s when I have longer visits and fewer tasks.

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  • http://twitter.com/BobEwoldt Robert Ewoldt

    Thanks for this. I’ve been trying to get our family to do something like this, and now I could tell my wife, “Look, Honey, if Michael Hyatt is doing it, it MUST be worthwhile” :)

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  • Michelle White

    I love this! I have been following your tweets and blog for several months now and am working on my own life plan and ideal week.

    Do you have a blog post on dealing with distractions in the workplace? It seems that things are always happening *to* me instead of me taking control over situations.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I don’t have anything specific to that that I can recall. Sorry.

    • http://www.jaysonfeltner.com/ Jayson Feltner

      Michelle, I realize I’m replying to a 2 year old comment but I felt I could maybe help you out. I do have a post about workplace distractions that you might find useful.

      http://jaysonfeltner.com/how-to-limit-work-distractions.html

      I hope it helps. I use Michael’s older posts all the time to help me as an executive. I’m glad I was using this one today so I could help you out.

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  • http://www.adjuvancy.com/wordpress Roy A. Ackerman, Ph.D., E.A.

    I know it’s old. But, I just saw this now (because you listed it as one of your better ones :-) ).
    Thanks for making my week just an iota easier!

  • Stekenny

    Thank Michael, I am new to your webpage and find it very helpful especially the links and downloads you have available. I am looking at the management of my time now so this is great

  • http://Busyness.com Dr. Brad Semp

    Michael – This is a great post and I appreciate you sharing your IDEAL week design. My IDEAL Action™ approach to managing actions uses a very similar concept…..but also includes IDEAL day, week, month, year and future.

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NZJAKSS6ERMGQI4YFTREXNWDLY MOCHA43

    I have a basic schedule that I use for my day to day activities.  It is very important that I remain focused throughout the day and I find that keeping a schedule keeps me organized Monday-Sunday with tasks that I need to accomplish. For the pasts few months I have been in military schools so the better part of my day is scheduled. All  I have to input is time for studying, exercising, talking, napping, completing homework assignments, church activities and time to travel home on the weekends.  I even schedule days of the week that I plan to go out and eat.  If the phone rings while I am studying or reading, I will not answer it until my time for that activity is complete. 
    I have downloaded your excel spread sheet and will see if it is a tool that I can incorporate into my professional life.
    As a field grade officer in the United States Army and a professional HR person, I know the importance of a schedule, reporting to meetings on time, and the time needed to spend with family and friends.    
    Thank you for all of the useful imformation that is posted on your website.
    MAJ Marva R. Little
    ILE Student 

  • http://www.daveanthold.com Dave Anthold

    I have slowly created more time in my life for margin at which to do things.  When I travel that is when I am the most productive.  These are great reminders to begin a new each week and to be intentional about spending time preparing for the next week.

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  • Anonymous

    Thanks! I’m still trying to get in the swing of living this out (the hard part) but I have a plan on paper and it has greatly helped my AA in scheduling my meetings and appointments.

    Now, back to what I’m supposed to be doing!

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  • Bob LaForce

    hi Michael, your blog on evernote is very helpful and i really appreciate your sharing your ideal week chart on excel with us. I transferred your chart over to my excel but i can’t personalize it for my week. Is there a secret to doing that? Riht now i should be having dinner with Gail – somehow i don’t think that’s what you intended! Grace&Peace, Bob

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      It’s just a simple Excel spreadsheet. You can change it however you wish! Thanks.

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  • Okcathy

    I have a double schedule, which involves my planned week and my *actual* week.  When things go astray (and they do), I must find places in the schedule to put the required elements.  This approach has helped me for 15 years!

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  • Janet

    Great post, thanks Michael.

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  • Anon68

    A suggestion: I noticed that your workouts are scheduled for all 7 days/week. I recommend planning for 1 or 2 rest days per week, which are critical, especially after a certain age. The body needs time to rest & repair, especially if you’re doing weight training.

    This is a very nice idea & template. Thank you for sharing.

  • http://twitter.com/BradBlackman Brad Blackman

    Michael, you might enjoy this TED talk from designer Stephan Sagmeister: http://www.ted.com/talks/stefan_sagmeister_the_power_of_time_off.html He talks about 2 things that I know you’ll appreciate: setting a schedule and taking a sabbatical. He takes a 1-year sabbatical every 7 years and completely shuts down his studio. The first time he did it, he soon realized he was spending all his time on chores. Not what he set out to do. So he made a schedule not much different from a school schedule. He produced some innovative self-initiated projects during his sabbatical.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Very cool. I’ll have a look.

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  • Extremelife824

    Wow! This is really great. I actually just finished creating my own personal “MY IDEAL WEEK” schedule, and I am already seeing the fruit of my labor from it. I am more organized, I plan better, and I get projects done on or ahead of schedule. Its great!

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  • http://www.davedelaney.me/ Dave Delaney

    I can’t thank you enough for sharing this. I put it to use months ago and have found it to be very helpful planning my weeks. Thanks Michael.

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  • http://www.jaysonfeltner.com/ Jayson Feltner

    I realize I’m waking up an old post and I know Michael isn’t in the CEO role at Thomas Nelson anymore, but I was curious what Financial Reports he’d look at during Week 2 Tuesday/Wednesday review? Anyone know?

    I’m about to do my review today and I thought it would be smart to make sure I’m looking for the same things in my company that Michael looked for in his.

  • Jennifer Mark

    Approach is specifically nice and upto the mark in terms of the time management and segmentation to go ahead with. ideal week designing is a pretty good idea about the time tracking and management where as certain terms may not be feasible to work out with as such with the move. Personally I prefer that the deployment of time tracking and management can be better achieved with the deployment of cloud based time tracking software that makes a better sense to have the desired and profitable end result to come up with.

    I have experienced a tentative loss in my life with the improper time management or the non management of those, which taught me a lesson to how that can be figured out in terms of the responsive dealt for the life productivity. And that pulls me to go for the cloud based Replicon’s time tracking software – http://www.replicon.com/time-tracking-softwares.aspx that works in a hassle free fashion to derivatively figure out the end result with a significant end result to work out with.

  • Rob

    Michael, I’m curious to know what kinds of things you might include in your hour of Quite Time, first thing in the morning?

  • Pat Kirby

    Wow. Your program sounds great! But there are certain omissions. Like when you make the bed, cook your breakfast, and cleaning up afterwards. I don’t see where you do the laundry, walk the dog, get the kids off to school, answer the mail and toss the rest of it daily so that you will have time for yourself on the weekends. When do you
    do the cooking of dinner, or does Gail get to do that for you? Once in a great while,
    one has to dust and vacuum the house, and lets not even talk about the yard. And getting some physical exercise to keep myself in shape.
    Then, I get to go to my studio and hopefully work for 4 to 6 hours. Then there is making the calendar to know when and where i have to go and deliver work, or maybe it is time to pick it up from some exhibition or other. I get to physically load all my work for my exhibitions, and then sometimes it is my job to get my husband’s work delivered because he is busy following a calendar similar to yours.

    I will have to keep it in mind. I especially like having a “date” once in a while.
    Pat

  • http://themidlifechronicles.wordpress.com John McCullough

    Better late than never!

    I don’t recall how I came upon this older post, but I’m really glad I did. I downloaded this template, and with a few modifications I’ve been using it for the past couple of months. What a fantastic idea!

    By just having clear visibility into my day, I’m able to be more organized and to be a better steward of my time.

    Thank you Michael!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      That’s great to hear, John. Thanks.

  • Shaun

    Can you recommend a daily planner that is compatible and works well with iPhone? I was a big fan of the Franklin planner but have not found an app or program that works well with my iPhone.