There are a fixed number of hours in the day. If you don’t intentionally plan out how you are going to spend them, they will inevitably be filled by the needs of others. After years of allowing my time to be almost completely filled by work, I realized I needed margin. Now I use my Ideal Week to make the most of my time and increase my productivity.
Early in my career I fell for the myth that working countless hours would allow me to grind it out and get ahead. Research shows us that the opposite is true. According to a study out of Stanford University, productivity declines considerably when you work more than 50 hours per week.
I have found the struggle of overwork to be true for countless clients and colleagues as well. Driven to succeed, their calendars have been filled with obligations and meetings leaving no time to recharge and re-energize. Not only that but relationships and healthy habits have also been sacrificed to meet the demands placed on their schedules.
The solution is to put boundaries in place to prevent overwork. The first step is to start with your Ideal Week. By intentionally planning out and thinking through your week and the why behind it, your colleagues are more likely to respect the boundaries you have put in place.
Creating an Ideal Week and sharing it with those around you—your spouse, assistant, coworkers, boss—allows you to proactively plan out when you can do your work that makes the greatest impact on your business. It shows you are not just saying no and leaving things undone. You are carving out intentional time to allow all of your goals and business’s priorities to be met.
Steps to Creating Your Ideal Week
In order for this system to be effective for planning out your week, you need to think of your time in three ways: achievement, nonachievement, and rest. I also have a theme for each day of the week so that I know how to prioritize the blocks of time for each day.
- Create your template. You can either do this digitally or on paper. Our Full Focus Planner also includes a template for you to use.
- List out your weekly activities and goals. As you create your list, you will see themes emerge. I recommend grouping your activities into batches. This will allow you to maximize your productivity.
- Design your week. Assign a theme for each day. Determine a specific time when you will start and end work. Include time for your morning and evening rituals as well as your workday startup and shutdown routines.
- Schedule your top priorities in blocks of time within the work-day constraints you set. It’s best to plan to do these at the times of day that are most productive for you personally.
- Next, schedule your other to-do list items that must be done by filling in around your priority work. I recommend also scheduling how you will spend your non-achievement time. For many of us, this is how we would ideally want to spend our evenings and weekends.
- Set intentional rest times. No one can perform at their best without enough sleep.
- Review and adapt. Remember, this system is intended to work for you. It’s meant to be flexible and change as your needs do. Allow yourself the freedom to make changes as you go until it feels like the right fit for you. Also, remember that you won’t be able to control all aspects of your Ideal Week. Having something to plan toward helps keep you on better track, even if it’s not perfect.
- Share your schedule with those around you. In order for your Ideal Week to actually happen, you must share it with those closest to you. Your spouse, colleagues, and so on. This will help them to understand your goals and when you are available for collaboration.
By intentionally planning out your activities using an Ideal Week template, you can regain control of your time and increase your productivity.