I work from home and wake up most mornings with great optimism: The day is fresh! New! I’m going to be amazing! I’ll get so much done!
Then I look my calendar: It’s wide open! No appointments! This is great! I’ll get so much done today!
But that’s where it starts to break down.
As I dive into the day, I find that my to-do list is endless, my email is blowing up, and the document I opened for writing a post is completely empty… the cursor blinking, mocking me.
What started out as such a promising day with a great attitude and a clear schedule turned into a day stuck in the mud with my wheels spinning unproductively.
With such a blank slate to work with, where did I go wrong?
Don’t let the day overtake you.
As a creative and intuitive person, I tend toward the “do what feels good when the inspiration hits!” end of the productivity spectrum. Unfortunately, my clients and deadlines can’t simply wait around for that inspiration to show up, so I needed to put some rails on my day to keep myself on track.
I did this by creating a template of an ideal work week — or as I prefer to call it, my Best Week Ever! — which is a representation of how I’d spend my time if I had total control over my calendar (i.e. no sick kids, no project delays, and on-demand inspiration).
By creating my Best Week Ever, I take over my day instead of my day overtaking me! Here’s how you can do the same…
Divide your week into Maker versus Manager time.
There are two kinds of people in this world — those who do meetings, and those who hate meetings.
(Notice I didn’t mention anyone who likes meetings.)
Managers tend to schedule their time in 30 minute increments. They go from meeting to meeting, check tasks off their list, make phone calls, and evaluate the work of other people.
Makers tend to schedule themselves several hours at a time. These are the writers, coders, artists, and thinkers who need to dive down deep into a well of concentration, who need to find their groove.
To Makers, a 30 minute meeting means a lengthy commute up from that well of concentration, plus a lengthy commute back into it when the meeting is done. Makers can be quirky — we can’t just turn our focus on and off like Managers do. So when all is said and done, that 30 minute meeting may cost you a full 90 minutes of focused productivity!
When planning your Best Week Ever, block out chunks of time for focus work — like three to four hours. I prefer to do this first thing in the morning before I get distracted by shiny objects like email and Asana tasks. I literally schedule a repeating event titled, FOCUS WORK, and my team knows to schedule around that as much as possible.
On the flip side, shit still needs to get done, so make sure you schedule tasky time into your calendar as well. I have an hour a day where I focus on lead generation tasks, client project tasks, and even mundane things like filing and phone calls. Don’t neglect to schedule these into your calendar, otherwise they’ll take over your day!
Build margins into your schedule.
One thing I struggle with is constantly is feeling like I’m wasting my time. If I can’t check something off my list, was I productive? In some cases, yes!
Staying creative and inspired is an essential part of my job. If I lose my mojo, I can’t deliver the best possible creative work to my clients. Therefore, it’s important that I build goofing off into my schedule — time to read articles, watch videos, or take a walk while listening to a podcast.
These meandering activities aren’t necessarily tasks I can check off a list, but they’re essential to keeping me from burnout, getting into a rut, or running out of ideas. So as you build your Best Week Ever, be sure to include time for rest, re-creation, and exploration!
If all of this sounds a little too constrained for you, don’t lose heart! I’m here for you! I feel your spontaneousness twitching, and I have great news for you!
By creating your Best Week Ever, all you’ve done is reserved and prioritized chunks of your time to make the day work for you instead of being taken over by the day.
For instance, if the only time a call can be scheduled is during your Maker time, no problem! Your Maker time doesn’t have to disappear, you just move it! It’s like a virtual Jenga game, where you pull a block of time out from the bottom of the pile and move it to the top, and everything stays in balance.
(…until it crashes. Here’s where the Jenga metaphor “falls” short.)
(Did you see what I did there?)
So if you’re constantly frustrated by interruptions, or you freeze at the reality of a wide open schedule, try creating your own Best Week Ever to make the day work for you.
What’s your biggest scheduling challenge? Let us know in the comments!
Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule. Paul Graham, 2009.
How to Better Control Your Time by Designing Your Ideal Week. Michael Hyatt, 2011.