By August 23, 2010 Read More →

Day 23 – Design Your Week with Skill

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“Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.” — Henry David Thoreau

Your Outcome: Design a week that supports you in a sustainable way.  Have more time for the things you want, spend less time in the things that you don’t want, and add more free time to your week.

Welcome to day 23 of 30 Days of Getting Results, based on my book, Getting Results the Agile Way.  In day 22, you learned how to design your day with skill.  Today, we take a step back and look at how to design your week with skill.  Your week is a large chunk of time to get a handle on. By designing a week that supports you, you set yourself up for weekly results. Each week is a fresh start. You can carry the lessons forward from one week into the next. All you really have is time, so the key is to make the most of it. If you have recurring activities, you probably added them over time without realizing it.  That’s a schedule by default, not by design. Seize the opportunity now to design a week which actually supports you.

Designing your week is one of the single most effective ways to enhance your life.

If there is one place where I’ve seen breakthrough after breakthrough, it’s when a person takes control of their weekly schedule and maps out how they want to spend their time by design, not by default.  How you spend your time on a weekly basis can either help lift you up and spiral your success upward by leaps and bounds, or you can spiral down, if how you’re spending your time is working against you.

Why Design Your Week

Is your week by design or by default? One of the keys to results is owning your schedule. You can drive your schedule, or it can drive you. Imagine a week where you spend each day working on the right things with the right people and making the right impact. Imagine looking forward to the start of the week, whether it’s because it’s a fresh start, or it’s a chance to experience more of what you want. Imagine spending more time each day on the things that make you strong, give you energy and make you feel powerful. Imagine a week filled with Power Hours, Creative Hours, and enough free time that you feel balanced and effective. Imagine a week where you get enough sleep, get enough movement, and have enough energy to accomplish whatever you want. This is a week by design. It’s not just about weekly results; it’s about sustainable results.

3 Ways to Design Your Week with Skill

  1. Baseline your week.  Map out how you spend your time for the week.  If you’re not spending enough time on the things you want, this is your first step to fixing it.  Simply by making the map, it helps you to see where your time already goes.  This is the first step to seeing your time “leaks,” your time wasters, your time pain points and opportunities.
  2. Set boundaries and limits.   Setting time boundaries and limits is one of the best ways to design your week.  This is ultimately where you choose the life style that you want to lead.  This is where you choose whether to be the “workaholic” or more balanced.  For example, you might decide that weekends or nights are your free time.  You might decide that you won’t work more than 40 hours, and whatever falls off, falls off.   When you don’t set limits for yourself, you put yourself at risk.  When you set boundaries, you establish what a healthy model of a week is for you.
  3. Carve Out Time for What’s Important.  If you want to spend more time in something, than make time for it.  It will most likely mean letting something else go.  The key is to make it a mindful choice instead of playing a victim role where you never have time for this or that.  If you want more free time, then make free time, by cutting something else.  Don’t feel guilty, be deliberate.

The key to remember here is that nobody will come along and design your time for you in the best way possible.  You are the ultimate architect and designer of how you spend your time in a way that works for you.

Baseline Your Schedule
Map out how you already spend your time.  One of the most effective tools for time management is to baseline your schedule. Here is a template I use to map out a weekly schedule:

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A baseline is simply a current picture of your week.  It’s a map of the days and the times and the recurring activities or events that you have.

Here are some examples of what to put on your map:

  • Sleeping
  • Eating
  • Workouts
  • Meetings
  • Work time
  • Recurring Activities
  • Free time

This helps give you a balcony view of your week at a glance.

Setting Boundaries and Limits
Try using Hot Spots (mind, body, emotions, career, financial, relationships, and fun) to help you set boundaries:

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For example, try setting a maximum on career and a minimum on relationships, body, and fun. Setting boundaries and limits is how you achieve your balance. If you don’t make time for things, they won’t happen. If you don’t set limits for things, they will take over other important parts of your life.

You can start with simple boundaries.  Here are some examples:

  1. Dinner on the table at 5:30 p.m.
  2. No work on the weekend.
  3. Tuesday night is date night.

Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, and Friday Reflection
Whether you design your week or not, remember that the Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection pattern is the heart of your week .  This is the scaffolding to support your weekly results. It’s how you’ll get a fresh start each week and each day. It’s also how you’ll improve over time. It’s a simple, yet consistent pattern you can count on. On Mondays, you envision what you’d like to accomplish for the week; you simply imagine—if this was Friday, what three results would you like under your belt? Each day, you figure out three results for the day that help you move towards your three results for the week. At the same time, you stay flexible so that you’re always working on the next best thing for you to do. On Fridays, you reflect on your results and you carry the good forward.

5 Ways to Improve Your Week
Here are some additional ways to improve your week:

  1. Schedule Your Free Time.  If you schedule it, it happens.  If you don’t, it won’t.
  2. Fix time for eating, sleeping, and working out.  This is one of the most common success patterns I see time and again.  Have a time where you regularly eat, sleep, and exercise and make everything work around that.  This is your foundation and core.  It’s part of your platform for personal success.
  3. Consolidate your related activities.  One of the best ways to free up your time or spend less time on things is to do them in a batch.  Lump them together so you can tackle them with efficiency and effectiveness.
  4. Consolidate activates that make you weak.  If some activities drain you, try to lump them together and consolidate the amount of time you spend in them.  Again, batching is your friend.
  5. Add more activities that make you strong.  If you need to add more energy to your week, simply find ways to spend more time in things that make you strong.  It’s not doing nothing that helps you renew your energy, it’s actually doing what you love or doing the things that make you stronger that help you bounce back with skill.  For me, I regularly meet with my mentors to get new perspectives on things.  This is one of my renewal patterns that supports me each week.

The key to remember in all this is it’s not about being a productive machine.  It’s about spending more time on the things you want, driving from your life style, being who you want to be, and creating the experiences you want in your life.

Free Yourself Up
You can tune and prune your week from here, but step one is simply having a weekly schedule that has some simple buffers and boundaries and free time, to help you take the pressure off, and to be your most effective self.  When you spend the right energy on the right things the right way, you get them done in way less time.  This frees you up in multiple ways, beyond just giving you some hours back.  It gives you peace of mind and it gets time on your side.  When time is on your side, you are unstoppable.

Today’s Assignment

  1. Baseline your schedule.  Take the time to map out your weekly schedule and take a look from the balcony.
  2. Schedule your free time.   If you don’t have enough free time, the single most effective way you can add free time is to add more free time to your schedule.  Remember the big rocks story?  First make room for your free time, if that’s what’s important to you, then add things around that.

My Related Posts

Photo by hanaan.

8 Comments on "Day 23 – Design Your Week with Skill"

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  1. alik levin says:

    Designing my week back in MCS helped me to seriously kick ass in terms of getting good utilization w/o burn out.
    Now i need to figure out how to do it in my new role – starting on Sep 7. ;)

  2. JD says:

    @ Alik — That fact you’ve done it before means you can do it again … with skill. The beauty now is that your self-awareness will serve you well.

  3. Kate says:

    I love this. A few weeks ago I mapped out my week, I added the total hours in the week (168), took off time for sleeping, eating, exercising etc and realised I had more time than I knew what to do with!!
    I also found having a strict schedule made me much more productive but I also had to allow some leeway. Often things took longer than expected or things came up which were unavoidable so building in some flexibility is good!
    I haven’t done this since then so I’m going to use your template and start now:)

  4. Farouk says:

    That’s certainly a faster way to achieve ones goals, good post JD

  5. JD says:

    @ Kate — “More time than you knew what to do with” … You are in a great situation that many people would love to be in. I think that’s the key, even in a strict schedule, is to always have buffer for when things go wrong.

    @ Farouk — Thank you. Sometimes speed is of the essence ;)

  6. Hilary says:

    Hi JD .. thanks .. I’ll be doing this – once the flat is sorted out – in the next few days I hope .. I definitely want to follow this programme .. got a lot on that I need to catch up with .. before October comes round! Should be a good month & then I can look ahead to a more planned and designed existence .. thanks for these thoughts – Hilary

  7. yumi says:

    Figuring out the baseline schedule took me a while… It was really eye opening (and sad…) to see recurring undesirable patterns: skipping lunch, not getting enough sleep, forgetting to meditate, getting lazy to workout on certain days of the week, etc. I got all those fixed. Each fix has been a big win every time.

    It used to be very hard to get out from the bad patterns. After getting rid of all of them from my schedule, I cannot imagine living ‘that way like before’ any more. Healthy and productive choices are nicely addictive. My energy level perhaps doubled, maybe tripled.

    Thank you for the advice on the shut-down routines. I like the questions you ask yourself. I keep a private blog where I list everything I am thankful every day. I keep the list open and add one-line entry that summarize what I am happy about, every time I am happy. I review my happy list on Fridays as I do the Friday Reflection. It’s amazing how many things I am grateful each week…

    Here is my quote of the day: “Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self, so therefore, trust the physician and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility.” Kahlil Gibran

    • JD says:

      Awareness is the first step.

      Great job sticking with it and getting to the point where you could see key patterns. When you see it, you can change it.

      I get what you mean by doubling or tripling your energy level (which is the real key to quadrupling your productivity.) I’m a fan of using inspiring goals, compelling outcomes, and energizing habits to “pull” me through, rather than “push” my way through things that don’t inspire me.

      It sounds like you’ve really cultivated an attitude of gratitude. Sometimes, I’m better than others. The most important thing I remind myself is that if it feels like a chore, then I’m doing it wrong.

      Success really is a numbers game, so it’s worth setting up the routines in our week, and our daily habits to help us get up to bat, and unleash our potential.