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February 1, 2016

5 Steps to Create Your Ideal Schedule

Do you end your day frustrated that your “to do” list is longer than when it started?  Maybe you feel like you ended up doing a bunch of stuff that other people wanted you to do but you don’t feel like you made any progress on your own goals?  I know Stapleton is full of type A go-getters so I’m guessing you can relate.

I have these feelings often.  So one of the things I’m focused on right now is building out my ideal schedule.  As my friend and business coach Steve Reiner puts it, if you don’t know what your ideal schedule looks like, how are you ever possibly going to hit it?  (simple statement but he’s right and I have a ways to go!)

I’ve had goals written down for few years now because I read so much about the “magic” of having written goals.  It’s true, writing them down and reviewing them often works.  But that’s only half the battle.

If the goals aren’t written down and then incorporated into your ideal schedule you might never have any time to actually make progress on their goals.  One of the most valuable quotes I’ve come across reads:

“You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily.  The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” – John Maxwell. 

You have to think intentionally about your time, have a very set routine and then have the discipline to execute on the routine.  This is the key to being “present”, which is something I’m striving for.  If I am doing what I’m supposed to be doing and I know the other priorities in my life have their place too then I can relax and do my best in the moment.

Sounds basic right, but I’ve been operating without a set schedule for years and I’m just now trying to work on a more defined daily routine.  In fact, this is day two of my ideal routine efforts…which is why I have time to write this post.  It’s a priority and I’m making time for it!

Like any new thing, I’m sure I’ll mess up, I’m sure it won’t be perfect and I’m sure I’ll pivot as I go.  (Focus on progress, not perfection, right?!)  But I’m excited to be more intentional about my time.  I want to share it with you because I think you might find value in it as well.

Ok, so if you can relate to the issue of feeling like you’re getting nowhere on your goals because of a hectic daily routine, how do we start to make change?

5 Steps To Planning Your Ideal Schedule

Step 1 – Set aside time to contemplate your ideal week

The first thing do is to take some quiet time to sit down and envision your ideal schedule for the week.  Here is a blank template for a weekly schedule you can use. It’s broken down in 30 minute chunks.  I like the idea of sitting down and writing it in on paper before you build it into your gmail calendar or whatever online system you use.  This allows you to go somewhere quiet, get away from the internet and focus.

Step 2 – Set your priorities & schedule them first!

Before you start to fill in all those time blocks on your ideal week calendar take some time to think about all the areas of your life.  Don’t just think work stuff here, think about your goals in areas such as family, body, spiritual, relationships and then work.  Write these out in order of most important to least important.  Come up with a different color for each one so you can visually see how much time you are setting aside for each area of your life.  Now start to fill out the schedule starting with the most important categories.  The point is you need to schedule time for your key relationships, your health, your spirit, etc!  This is really the critical revelation, if you don’t schedule these things the world (mainly your email inbox and your google browser) will hand you tasks to keep you busy from now till the day you die.

Step 3 – Step back and review the week compared to your goals

Now that you have your ideal week filled in step back and look at your week compared to the goals you have for yourself.  Are you setting aside time to move the needle on your goals?  If not, maybe you need to adjust your week (what could be eliminated, automated or delegated?) or if you can’t find space maybe you need to move those goals over to your “someday but not now” category.  By doing this you’ll take the pressure of yourself that comes with having too many goals and not enough time.  When I did this I realized why I wasn’t making progress on some goals…I had no time allocated to them at all!

Step 4 – Share your goals with your family & others who need to know

Ok you have your ideal schedule set.  Great!  Now it’s time to share it with others who may be affected by your new routine.  This is important because if they don’t know the routine they could unknowing make things harder for you.  For example, if you have some time blocked for prospecting and you need to focus they will know and wait till later rather than interrupting you.  They will also be happy to see “date night” on the calendar…remember that goal you had?!

Step 5 – Start using your ideal week & pivot as needed!

Plans on paper are great but the world will challenge you!  Everywhere you look there is distraction so staying focused and on task will not be easy.  But get started, learn and then adjust as you go.

Like I said, I’m on day 2 of my ideal schedule and what I’ve learned so far is being disciplined takes some planning! You can’t just wake up and start your day with no plan, you have to think ahead and get yourself prepared. For example, the night before take a look at your calendar. Is it realistic for the next day? Do you have your 3 most important tasks already determined so you know what you will focus on? If health is one of your goals do you have your exercise and your food planned out? If not, you’re more likely to not hit the gym and to eat out rather than eat healthy. From what I can tell so far this advance planning, which allows you to operate on “auto pilot” the next day, is the key to you actually realizing your ideal schedule.

Some of you may be skeptical. You might say this all sounds too rigid. Or you may say that you don’t have a routine and you’re doing just fine. You may be right, but if you’re frustrated you’re not hitting your goals, if you’re having trouble being present or if you want to have a larger impact putting time into your ideal schedule is time very well spent.

So as an example, here is my ideal weekly schedule.  It won’t happen perfectly, for example I have Saturday as “Family Time”.  I know in advance that will not happen 100% of the time because as a real estate broker I’ll need to show homes and write offers on some weekends.  That’s ok, I have Family Time written down and a rule for myself that I only interrupt that time for critical showings and offers.  (not other work tasks that can wait till Monday)

Big thanks to my business coach Steve Reiner from Southwestern Consulting (if you want to hear more about Steve let me know or check out his Linked In profile here) who is walking me through this ideal schedule concept and I should also give credit to Michael Hyatt who wrote a very similar post called “How to Better Control Your Time by Designing Your Ideal Week”.

Hope you found value in this exercise. If you give it a shot and you’re going to try to execute on your ideal schedule I’d love to hear how it goes! Like I said, focus on progress, not perfection. Good luck!

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