You’ve already eliminated all non-essentials from your schedule. And now, here we are talking about adding something, and not just a little something but THE something. That thing you daydream about. The thing you’re going to do someday when the kids are older. When your job slows down. After baseball/soccer/cheerleading/basketball/football season. After your daughter’s wedding or graduation or birthday party. Ok, maybe when you retire. The point is, if you’re waiting for the right time, can I end the suspense and just tell you the RIGHT time is not coming? It will never come. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow is not promised. All you really have to work with is today, more specifically, now.
But how will you ever get time to work on big things if you’re already so busy?
If you’re ready to work with what you have, here is your secret weapon: your calendar. It can be the old-fashioned kind where you actually need a pen or pencil to use it, or any one of hundreds of digital calendaring options. You just need the ability to look at each day and break it down into 30-minute chunks of time. As a matter of fact, it might even be more effective if you just get a clean sheet of paper or a blank document and create grid with 7 days and 30-minute chunks of time. Your start and end time will depend on your functional hours.
We are going to take your big list of everything and all your appointments and put them onto your weekly calendar, but first we are going to categorize all your stuff into 3 main areas. Think about the Franklin Covey illustration where you put the big rocks into the jar first, then the pebbles and last you pour sand or water in to fill it up to it’s maximum capacity. If you’re unfamiliar, here is a 1-minute video. If you need help getting all the stuff out of your head, here is my free resource that will help you create your list of everything: Clearing Mental Clutter – Daily Planner
Create and review your list of everything and color code or mark in some way to categorize as follows:
- Category 1 – Big rocks: Your top priorities – vacation time, your one thing, big projects/bucket list items
- Category 2 – Pebbles: Your commitments – appointments, meetings, kids activities
- Category 3 – Sand: Everything else – administrative tasks, phone calls, scheduling, email – these are the things that eat up our days and are never really finished. This is the stuff that will NOT get you promoted if you do it but might get you selected for down-sizing if you don’t!
Weekly Planning (allow a half hour): Add a recurring appointment to your schedule for your weekly planning hour. A lot of people like to do this the last hour on Friday afternoon before ending the work week. Others prefer Sunday evenings, but do whatever works for you. This is when you do time blocking with your big list of everything and the 3 categories. Transfer the items from your list onto your calendar as follows:
- Category 2 – I know that 1 comes before 2 but in this case we need to put our commitments on the calendar first. These are appointments and commitments we can’t change and must work around. It will also help us see where we have larger blocks of time available for the ‘Big Rocks’
- Category 1 – Here is where the magic happens! Get your planning tool of choice (time-grid view of your week) and start with the big rocks. All you need to do is put at least three 2-hour blocks on your calendar for the week and label it ‘projects’ or ‘big rocks’ or whatever fires you up. Put things from the first category in these blocks – not all of them – just the one or two you can work on during a 2-hour block. When this time comes, close your email, silence your phone and get into the ZONE. This is the most important block of time you have because this is the one that will move the needle on your goals and eventually get you where you want to be.
- Category 3 – Now find half-hour or 1-hour blocks of time for the ever-present, never-ending busy-work. By taking care of it in pre-defined slots of time in batches, you may avoid the trap of losing entire days or weeks to this necessary but not important work of scheduling meetings, answering email and returning phone calls.
Daily Planning (5 minutes): Before you open your email or start your work day, take 5 minutes and write down your top 3 action items for today. These should be 3 things that have to happen by the end of your workday. This gives us a mental checkpoint that we accomplished what we set out to do today and minimizes that feeling of never being finished.
Daily Recap (5 minutes): The last thing you do before you close your laptop review your top 3 to make sure they are complete and put a check mark next to them. Recap your day and review unfinished items. Do they need to be deleted, delegated or moved to tomorrow’s list?
Join my email list and receive a free Daily Planner tool, which you can immediately use to get unstuck by clearing the mental clutter and start getting stuff done!
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