Planning and Time Blocking: Build your power week around your energy and create flow.
So everyday you get to work, line up a cup of coffee, flip open your laptop and fire up your Inbox and start reading your email. Millions of us do this, and we are all getting it wrong!
You must start your day with planning! Everyday, without fail, spend time lining up your tasks and prioritising them and then block time to do them, and then get on with those activities. See this as a gift to yourself and then guard that gift ferociously from distractions.
Planning your day need not be chore or time consuming. Once it becomes part of your routine you will be able to effectively plan your day in 20 minutes. Doing right from the beginning is important and that may take you a little time to setup.
Create a Power Week around your Energies
You need to start with creating a power week and the type of energy you want to expend on the different days of the week. Batching related tasks that require the same or similar energies on specific days means you remain in the same frame of mind when moving from one activity to the next. If you have ever tried dealing with customer queries and complaints and writing a blog or an article on the same day you will know that, the article you would normally have done and dusted in an hour is only being finished well after closing time. The reason is the energy required to move from the one to the other depletes you. I divide my weekdays up into different energies with Monday being my Tempo Day, which I reserve for planning and I have all my project and staff meetings on that day and allow my people to interrupt me with project related queries and assistance. Tuesday is admin day, clearly labelled as STEEL DAY, doing activities such as reviewing company financials, budgets signing off expense claims, reviewing metrics and paying people. I only pay people on Tuesdays! I also put aside any investment opportunities for review on Tuesdays. Wednesdays are saved for being creative and I block from 8am to midday as “DO NOT DISTURB” in my calendar. I spend that time writing stories, whether is be this blog, posts or development requirements (We call them stories). Thursday is my people day, or BLAZE day. I kick start the day with a breakfast date with Julia, my wife, it is a non-negotiable set in concrete event, I call clients, spend time with my Sangha (Community) and reach out friends and family. Friday is open to deal with anything that couldn’t be handled during the week. Weekends are reserved for Spirit activities, spending time outdoors, looking after my general wellbeing.
Create a Default Calendar and Timeblock
I use outlook, but this applies to all the calendars out there. Create an All Day event for the different energies and have it a recurring even for the whole year. What this does is gives you a visual reference when planning a meeting or event.
I then add in all my regular meetings as recurring calendar events. After that I block time. Timeblocking is critical to ensuring you are focused. Time blocking is like laying down train tracks. Once the tracks are laid you have no choice but to follow them, and they help you avoid distractions and stay on …. track. You wouldn’t want there to be gaps in your train tracks so don’t have gaps in planning. A gap in your track could derail you completely. The main reason though is to avoid Parkinson’s Law taking effect. Parkinson’s law states that “Works expands so as to fill the time available for it’s completion”
This is what my default work week looks like:
I hear you say, “But Cliff, that’s not realistic, there’s are always meeting, interruptions,…” Remember you time-blocked default week is not you actual week. When you plan your week or day, you now have a blueprint of your week. So, depending on the nature of the action you want to take or the meeting you want to schedule you can work out where best to slot it in, so that it complements the type of energy would be expending and so that it is the least disruptive. You are also now able to decide on what to compromise on.
Don’t stop there, timeblocking is not just for planning you work activities, the train needs to pull in a station sometime. Plan in your personal time and treat that time a precious. Even if it is the same every night of the week, block it! Here is my evening plan on the same calendar
Be patient and Flexible – take your time to revise your default calendar until you get it right.
Keep Email In-a-Box – Don’t be tempted to deal with email, and other messaging outside the time you have given it. (see final tip below)
Take Breaks – Once you have finished a chunk of work, stop, breath, rest the eyes take a short walk. If you can, schedule them.
Tell People – if you have time that you do not want to be disturbed, let everyone know but also let them know when you have set aside time for collaboration and when it okay to be disturbed. This applies to any habit or change you want to make; tell lots of people it makes the commitment greater and you know have loads of friends to hold you accountable to the commitment.
Plan in some time for overflow – I use Friday afternoons for this, where I deal with urgent or high priorities actions that I have fallen behind on or never got to.
Final Tip on Email
Your inbox along with Social Media and kitten videos are the biggest detractors. Unseeingly, our email can be the worst of them, having your email program open, with alerts popping up whenever a new item drops into your inbox takes your attention away from the task at hand. Even if you don’t go and open the email and just read the pop-up it breaks your concentration and diverts your energy momentarily. Worse than that, is a mail will come in that you deem is important and you stop what you are doing to go an open it and deal with it. Your concentration and energy on the task at hand is gone, and you are now into the rabbit hole of your inbox. If it is really urgent, the person will phone you or come to you. Check your mail twice a day, once mid-morning and another towards the end of the day. Try have your inbox at zero unread items at the end of the day.
To help you achieve this use the Genius Planner to plan your day, align your daily activities with your goals and dreams and line those up with your Purpose, Passions and Life Values.
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