This weekly scheduling method uses time-blocks to help busy writers manage the various elements of their chaotic lives.
I’ve decided to abandon traditional schedules. The why is easy. They don’t work for me. The how is a little more complicated.
Blame my 6th grade teacher, Mr. Chiment. Rather than regulating every moment of our school day, Mr. Chiment gave us a list of the work he expected us to complete by Friday, separated by subject. After making sure we understood, he’d go about teaching class like he might normally, but we could choose instead to work on our own.
I always opted to work on my own. By Wednesday, I’d be curled up on the class beanbag chair reading my books completely free of schoolwork until the following Monday. From Mr. Chiment I learned, left to my own devices, I could complete more work than most in the same amount of time and still have plenty of time for everything else I wanted to do. It took me years to figure out how to apply that lesson to my adult life.
A different kind of scheduling approach
Here’s the process that works for me. Maybe it will help your days run a little smoother as well. Of course, being self-employed and working from home helps a lot, but it can work wonders even if you work for someone else.
It might seem a little backwards, but I’m going to describe the process from the end of the cycle to the beginning. It starts with a weekly review. I like to do the review at the end of the week, but you can pick any point of the week that works for you. I use the AIM technique:
Air things out (Acute clarity)
Clean out the clutter of your work / project space – physical, virtual, and mental. Even if you’re not a neat freak, having things in their expected place makes it easier to get back to work when it’s time. Notice I don’t tell you to “clean up.” Some people actually thrive in clutter, but make sure things are back where you expect them to be. When you’re done organizing, take a few minutes to close your eyes, celebrate the wins you had last week, and breathe deeply to clear your mind.
Identify your new goals (Intense focus)
As you clean out your to-do list, decide what to re-prioritize into the next week and what to eliminate. Then analyze your other lists. Here are the lists I keep:
- Master list for the business (things like marketing and billing)
- Master list for other projects/goals (to be worked in whenever they can)
- Master list for personal needs (fitness, family, household maintenance, personal time)
- Random list (things that occurred to me through the week)
Master list for each client (each project broken down into smaller, action steps)
Decide what you must do during the following week, what no longer has your interest, and what needs to hold until your schedule is more open.
Move your plan (Massive action)
This is the easiest part of the review. Go through your list and plug your identified tasks into their appropriate time blocks. By assigning tasks to time blocks, you can be sure to make at least a little progress toward your most important goals every week.
Here’s where the magic happens. My life is chaotic. It never runs according to a clock no matter how hard I try. But I know I can always fit at least two time blocks of 90-120 minutes into every day, sometimes as many as six of them. Blocks I use include:
- Business Growth
- Work Completion
- Other goals
The first block of my week is usually a Work Completion block and contains the highest priority items for my clients. I then determine how many more of these blocks I need in the week to deliver projects on time. The last block of my week is a Business Growth block scheduled just for the weekly review. Add fixed appointments to the calendar. Then you have the rest of the week to add blocks or move them around as your schedule evolves. You can schedule a full day for each block type, try to fit each block type into every day, or whatever works for you. A block-based schedule like this is highly flexible and removes the focus on time that can mess so many people up.
Try it and let me know in the comments how it works for you.
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