I believe time is our most valuable asset. I feel fortunate to have realized this at such a young age. It seems that each day brings on new challenges, demands, and pressures that divert our attention from the things that really matter, like family, friends, and enjoying life around us.
Each day, we are given an allotment of time that cannot be stretched, saved, rolled over, or repeated. Our time is a finite resource and our responsibility is to spend it the best way possible.
As business owners, the demands on our time seem to be more amplified. For that reason, we must be intentional about how we spend our time and limited resources.
Work-Life Balance is a Joke
This generation has bought into the idea that “work-life balance” is a thing; one that should be celebrated and glorified. Being “always on” is viewed as a desirable status.
In fact, humans are quite bad when it comes to multi-tasking effectively. Aside from simple examples like walking and chewing gum, we don’t do two tasks at the same time very well. In reality, when we multi-task, our brain stops one task to start another. This results in an interrupted process and actually takes longer (by some reports, 40% longer!) because we have to re-start the first task when we jump back to it.
Further, using your mobile device to check work email on your couch is not work-life balance; it is working at home. Your children or partner may experience your presence physically, but they do not have your attention.
When considering our limited allotment of time each day, I believe we should spend those minutes to their fullest, rather than wasting time jumping from task to task feeling busy, but not actually accomplishing much.
Forming a Habit of Intentional Scheduling
For me, this realization came into focus about a year ago. I set out to spend my time intentionally.
This took a few weeks to become my habit, but I love the results. I spend more time doing what is important to me and maintain a much better balance — meaning I do what I want to be doing, when I want to be doing it.
Rarely am I out of time or feeling too busy for important events like family, friends, or new projects.
The first step in my transformation was realizing I was unhappy with how I spent my time.
This unsettling feeling was evident by:
- always feeling like I dropped the ball or just barely getting stuff done on time
- feeling like there was too much work at the end of the day
- feeling like I was always “putting out fires”
- feeling like my To Do list got longer, never shorter
- seeing clutter build up in my home, office, computer, and car
- feeling like I couldn’t point to what I did in a given day, just that “I did stuff”
The second step was to make a list of tasks, events, and habits important to me that I wanted to fill my day.
It was a constant battle between what I wanted to do, what I needed to do, and countless new tasks that would just pop up in the day — usually derailing what I had originally planned to do.
Ideal Work Week Draft
Here is a look at my ideal week draft; it isn’t perfect, and it may not work for you, but I’ve found it to be an exceptionally valuable process in my business and personal life.
Step One: List My Priorities
- office hours
- personal time
- spiritual time
- personal growth
Step Two: Be Specific
After I had the first list, I realized there were more details, and I needed to be more specific. From those five original priorities, I created subcategories:
- writing / blogging
- staff meetings
- outreach & new connections
- speaking events
- business growth
- business training
- client outreach
- client check-in
- staff couching
- planning tomorrow
- quiet time
- date night / family time
- daily reading
- me time
- rest, relaxation, vacation, hobbies
- personal reading
Step Three: Make My Schedule
Next, I looked at how much time I wanted/needed to spend on each of these tasks. Some are recurring daily; fitness, nutrition, family time, and daily reading, for example. Others happen less frequently, but for longer hours; staff meetings and blogging.
I also know that I have a rhythm throughout the week. Thursdays tend to be a drag on me, for some reason. Even without seeing a calendar, I know when it’s Thursday. Whereas I tend to be able to maintain intense focus for long periods of time on Monday and Tuesday. I also know that I have a hard time turning off my work brain at the end of the day, but going for a run helps me clearly separate work-mode and evening family time.
I took this into consideration when I started mapping my week.
After about an hour, I had a well-laid out schedule to follow each week. Again, it is not perfect, I am still making slight adjustments, but I am very pleased each week at my levels of productivity and balance.
My Ideal Week
Download A Sample Weekly Schedule
Feel free to use my ideal work schedule as a template to help you set time aside each week to focus on what is important to you:
It’s A Template
Keep in mind, this is just a template. It should have some flexibility in it, but provide the structure to keep you focused on what you should be doing. At times, I deviate from this if an important meeting comes up, or if I am traveling. But, in the back of my mind, there is some stability in knowing that I have planned for the tasks and events important to me.
My Schedule, In Action
Once I was done, I had a pretty good idea of how my ideal week would look. Each morning starts the same:
Early Morning Schedule
- Even when I am working from my home office, I get up, shower, get dressed, and eat breakfast. This helps put me in “work” mode, rather than relaxation mode.
- I start with 20-30 minutes of daily devotions with a hot cup of coffee
- Next is 10-15 minutes of prayer and quiet reflection of what my day entails
- Following this, I spend about an hour reading professional blogs and catching up on trends and topics related to my industry
- It isn’t until almost 9am, almost 4 hours after I get out of bed, that I check my email for the first time
Late Morning Schedule
- If there is an emergency that came through email (please don’t email me emergencies, by the way), I handle it or instruct a staff member how to handle it. Delegation is a key component of staying on schedule!
- Monday and Tuesdays are generally writing days. I spend most of the day researching, writing drafts, or scheduling posts based on my content calendar
- Wednesdays and Thursdays are focused on partnerships, big ideas, and client content
- Fridays, generally, are staff-focused. If our stand-up meetings are quick, I will get out of the office early and work remotely
- Check email again. I try to be disciplined in the number of times I check email throughout the day. Nothing derails a schedule like looking for something else to do. Resist this. Schedule when you open your email and when you address the tasks that are bound to be attached
- Friends laugh when they see “Lunch” and “Rest” reminders popup on my phone. I believe it is important to make nutrition and rest a priority, otherwise they will fall low on the list and you realize you have not eaten all day. By scheduling these, it is nearly impossible to overlook them
- Early afternoon is a great time for me to finish up the tasks of the day. These are usually a number of small things that do not take much brain power or time.
- Final email check. Before I leave the office, I’ll check email one last time. I allot 30 minutes to handle anything that has come in since lunch, usually, it is nothing critical and can be added to the agenda the following day
- Finally, I look at tomorrow and arrange the tasks in the order in which they need to be addressed
- Lastly, I lace up the tennis shoes and get out of the office to workout. Again, this helps me clear my mind of work and resets my focus for friends or family
- Nights are reserved for family and friends. Rarely do I attend work-events after the close of business (unless it is part of a conference I am presenting at). I don’t check email, I don’t focus on work, I commit my attention to the people I am with.
Time is our most valuable asset. I want to attack each week in a thoughtful and intentional way. I created my ideal work week with my personal and business priorities built in.
There will always be unexpected events and situations, but with proper planning, we can rest easy knowing that our priorities are taken care of; which frees our mind to process the emergent situations much easier. As the adage goes, ‘When we fail to plan, we plan to fail.‘
I’d love to know how you approach each week. Do you have a set schedule? Do you just tackle things as they popup?
Tweet me @ShaunNestor using #intentional
UPDATE: HubSpot just posted an infographic outlining the hidden cost of multitasking. Check it out.