You asked and now I’m answering. Whenever I get suggestions about topics to blog about, at the top of the list are always questions like: “how do you organize your time?” or “how do you schedule your days?” or (my favorite), “what do you do all day?”
This topic is certainly one that is near and dear to my heart. It is probably the single most important factor (other than prayer and the support of my wife and all that good stuff) that leads to my ability to accomplish what I believe God has set in front of me. Simply put, without this, I’d be lost.
And that is the process of SETTING A WEEKLY SCHEDULE.
In my eyes, the most valuable commodity I have – even more valuable than money - is TIME. You can always make more money if you want, but time is the one thing that you can’t manufacture more of. What you’ve been given is all you have so you better make the most of it.
So time is precious to me and I do my best to make the most of it. And the way I do that is by trying live according to a weekly schedule.
A weekly schedule is to your time what a budget is to your money.
Because I value money, I create a budget for every month. That budget is a well-thought-out plan – made after thinking through all of my expected spending for the month and keeping in mind my short-term and long-term financial goals. It’s a plan of how to spend every dollar before I even receive it.
My schedule does the same thing with my time. It keeps me on track to meet my life goals – ie, what I want to accomplish and where I want my life to go. It allows me to plan my time and “spend it on paper” before I even receive it.
The question is HOW. How do I set my schedule? What tips can I share with those who want to get on a schedule but just can’t seem to stick to it? What are some “best practices” that I can share?
Ask and you shall receive.
Best Practice #1: SET A WEEKLY PLANNING MEETING
Step 1 is to set aside time to make a plan. This is an easy way to get a quick “win” and start the ball rolling. Set a time that you think you can keep regularly to preview the upcoming week and make a plan. At the beginning, the process could take up to 30-45 minutes, but with time, you’ll get it down to 15-20 minutes.
Best Practice #2: CREATE AN IDEAL WEEKLY SCHEDULE
Next, you need to come up with your picture-perfect, if-everything-goes-according-to-plans, ideal weekly schedule. This is something that you’ll never reach but it’s important to start with as a model of what you’re aiming for.
Ideally how many times a week do you want to exercise? How much time checking email? How many hours at the office? Create a picture of what your ideal week would look like.
Best Practice #3: DIVIDE YOUR DAY INTO 3-4 TIME ZONES
Don’t try to go from having no schedule to planning every minute of the day with extreme detail. That is a recipe for failure. Instead, divide your day into what I call “time zones.” Generally speaking, every time zone has a different focus. For example, most of my weekdays are divided into the following time zones:
Zone 1: Morning (9 am - 12 noon)
Zone 2: Afternoon (1 - 3 pm)
Zone 3: Late Afternoon (4 - 6 pm)
Zone 4: Evening (6 - 8 pm)
Time Zone 1 is my FOCUS time. I’ve found that I’m most effective in the mornings so I use this time to do the most important tasks. This could be prepare my Sunday message, think through and plan an important church initiative, meet with key staff members, etc. This is my focus time.
After lunch, I’m not nearly as fresh and focused so Zone 2 is where I have my ACTIVE time. This is where I’ll work on less intense projects, answer emails, take appointments, do monthly periscopes, etc. I need something more active after lunch so this is when I need to be up and about.
Zone 3 is MISCELLANEOUS time which varies from day to day. This is when my kids have soccer games or cross country meets. This is also when I might exercise or run errands or schedule doctor appointments, etc.
For Zone 4, my goal is to keep this time slot empty three out of the five weeknights, but on the other two this is when we might invite a family over for dinner, or visit with friends, or participate in a church Life Group. I call this my RELATIONAL time zone.
Best Practice #4: UPDATE YOUR PLAN SEASONALLY
Life is lived in seasons and you have to be ready to adjust according to the season of life that you’re in. I adjust my plan approximately every 3-4 months as we move from Lent into Easter, from Easter into summer, from summer into the start of a new school year, from there into Thanksgiving and Christmas season, etc.