I hope you’ve been following along for the last two weeks with my January productivity series, because today we will be putting together all the information we’ve gathered to design our days and weeks for a productive and happy 2018. If you missed either of the last two installments, you can catch up at these links:
Click here to figure out where your time is going
Click here to learn about setting SMART goals and mapping out big projects for the year
Before we can plan our schedule, we need to get clear on how we want to be spending our time. I like to brainstorm all the things I need to accomplish and also the fun things I want to do. I start by simply taking a sheet of paper and writing a big list that might include specific tasks like Read one book per month or big projects like Create an online course. Last week’s post on SMART goals will come in handy here: include the specific actions needed to reach your big goals.
Next, I organize that list by separating the items by their frequency. I use a separate sheet to categorize my activities as Daily, Weekly, Monthly, or Yearly. You can download a copy of the sheet I use below, and use it to organize your own activity list.
Activity category worksheet
This next step may seem a bit overwhelming at first, but it has been the most valuable part of this process for me and I encourage you to give it a try. I use a spreadsheet to schedule every single hour in my week. I know, it sounds crazy, but stay with me! We each have a limited number of waking hours in a week to accomplish things, but it is very difficult to think about this time in a concrete way. By putting our available hours down on paper, we can more easily grasp the limits of our time and make a realistic plan for how to spend it. Here is the spreadsheet I use for this purpose:
Weekly time planning spreadsheet
Now comes the fun part! Using your sheet of activities sorted by frequency, start filling in your weekly schedule. You can begin by blocking out set events, like work hours and meal times. Account for the time it takes to complete your morning and evening routines. It’s easy to underestimate how long things take, which is why that initial step of time tracking is so important.
New Year’s resolutions typically fail because we don’t figure out when we will actually do them. By mapping out your entire week you may realize you need to get up an hour earlier to fit in a daily workout, or reduce your time spent watching TV at night to get that decluttering project done. The information you gather from tracking your time will help you find the hours for the things that will make a positive impact on your life. Keep in mind some times of day will be better for you to accomplish certain tasks than others.
So do I follow this detailed plan every day? Absolutely not, and in fact, most days do not end up looking like they do on my spreadsheet. This simply serves as a guide to map out how much time you plan to devote to the different areas of your life each week. In reality, each week will end up looking a little bit different. For example, you may plan to spend Tuesday evenings doing laundry, but on a specific week you want to meet a friend for dinner that night. In that case, shift laundry to another day when you had blocked out some time for fun and relaxation.
One final tip: If you have multiple goals or big projects you want to accomplish this year, I would recommend focusing on just one at a time. I like to prioritize one for each quarter of the year, and I set aside dedicated time in my weekly plan for whichever one I’m currently working toward.
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