08 November 2011

Crafting your Ideal Week ... and achieving so much more!

Time management is hard!  We are increasingly maxed out with  multiple projects in our personal and professional lives vying for our attention at every moment.

We all have 168 hours every week.  Left to our own devices, much of our personal time can be easily filled with our favourite TV shows, goofing off or otherwise wasted time.  Our work time gets filled with endless (and often unnecessary) meetings, interruptions and massive task lists.

Creating a template of an ideal week can help you determine your time priorities, and keep you on track to meet your work-related and personal targets.  

Mapping out your must-do's and setting appointments for yourself in your weekly schedule can turbo-charge what you get done in a week.   To create an Ideal Week template, use colour blocks for different tasks,  as a visual reminder of the things you need to get done in a day.

Schedule time blocks for:

  • VIP Time.  Schedule time for priority tasks first up in your day. Whether you allocate 30 minutes or 1 hour, starting the day with focussed time on your VIP tasks will help you accomplish more in a week than most people will in a month.
  • Email processing. 3-4 times per day, maximum!  Most people become time poor because they leave their email open and fill their day working on other people's demands that come in via email.  Limiting your email processing will free up your time to get your priority work done.
  • Regular meetings. Blocking these out will show just how much of your week is taken up with meetings.  Look for ways to reduce the number of meetings you attend, and the length of time scheduled for them.   
  • Break times. Working through your lunch hour is not time effective.  It wilts your brain and makes you less productive through the afternoon.  Taking regular lunch break helps you re-charge your energy, focus and creativity.
  • Planning. Allow time for daily and weekly planning (usually the end of the day before).  Many people end up in chaos, reactive to what's happening around them, due to lack of planning.  Put yourself on the front foot by scheduling time to think ahead.
  • Client interface.  Depending on your job role, you may need time for client appointments, or interaction with internal customers.  Salespeople can dramatically increase their productivity by scheduling heavy client interface days Tues-Thurs, leaving Monday and Fridays clear for admin and reporting tasks.
  • Admin. This is required time for processing orders, reporting or general admin.  
  • Spare. Even with the best planning, you will get interrupted, get given additional jobs to do, or have any manner of unexpected things occur in your week.  Schedule around 20% of each day as spare, to allow for the inevitable catch-ups required.
Other time blocks you may consider also scheduling include:
  • Reading.  Giving yourself some weekly reading time to catch up with newsletters, publications, and informational emails can help hugely to keep you on top of your game.
  • Filing. Keeping on top of your paper and electronic filing can help save you time later looking for things.  Even 15 minutes weekly can make the difference between sanity and chaos.
  • Projects.  If you're working on an especially important task (or would like to be but can't find the time), then blocking out some project time can get you in control. 
Mapping your Ideal Week is easy to do.  Simply create a Grid with 15 minute increments down the left hand side, and 5 columns for each day of your work week.  Then colour code the different activities listed above in blocks across each day in the week.  For example, you might schedule lunch breaks in yellow from 12-1pm each weekday, and your Wednesday staff meeting in purple from 9-10am, etc.  Place this visual reminder on your desk to keep you on track (not to mention keeping your colleagues aware of what you need to get done when they try to interrupt you). 

Your Ideal Week map provides a reminder of how to get the most out of every day.  It's not designed to be a prison that binds you, but instead, a liberating force to keep you on top of what needs to be done and when.