This the final part in a three-part series on designing your perfect week. You can read the first post: here.
William Jennings Bryan said about destiny: “It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” Achieving your destiny starts with some lofty goals, broken down into strategic objectives, and executed in manageable tasks.
Whether your life is so busy you can hardly find time for your goals, or so free that you struggle with focus, to get more done towards achieving your destiny, you must design your perfect week. Here are the six steps I use:
1. Select a medium.
Your perfect week will serve as a constant reference. It must be easy to use and readily accessible. If it takes too much time to maintain, it will fall out of date; if it takes too much effort to get to, it will be left unused.
I have scribbled tasks down on a sheet of paper or digital document, used a complicated, color-coded spreadsheet, and tried various note-taking and calendar applications.
- I eventually landed on Google Calendar. I can quickly access it anywhere. And I can create a separate calendar to store my perfect week without interfering with my every day calendar—my perfect week is the goal.
2. Block out things you have to do.
Depending on the season of your life, the things you have to do will be few or many. Block out the things you have to do first:
- Block out tasks you have to do at specific times. I block out my day job before anything else.
- Schedule tasks you must do but have some flexibility. I schedule time for breakfast and dinner next.
Keep the design as simple as possible. I could squeeze a task in my lunch break at work, but it is simpler to keep focused on my day job and get out on time.
3. Schedule your top priorities first.
No matter how busy I am, I make time for my top priorities.
- Basic needs. I must take care of myself to have anything to give. I block out an hour each evening for daily exercise, an hour to wind down before bed with a good book, and I ensure adequate time to sleep.
- Spouse. I leave margin when I get home so Olga and I can reconnect, I plan extra time for dinner so we can relax and talk, and I drop everything for Friday date night.
- Family. I spend an hour or two each Saturday on the phone with my dad. My mom, sister, and nephew live close by so we get together about once a month.
I look forward to the day I have more time for my top priorities, but little time is better than no time.
4. Schedule time for your goals
A primary benefit of designing a perfect week is to attain greater focus and progress on your goals.
- Schedule the next tasks. I review my goals every Sunday and decide the tasks I can accomplish next week to keep each moving forward.
- Focus on specific goals. Given limited time, I often focus on specific goals. But not matter what, each goal gets a little time—even if it’s just 15 minutes.
5. Leave a little margin.
Margin is the time when you have absolutely nothing to do.
In his book, Margin, Dr. Richard Swenson warns that, “No one in the history of humankind has ever had to live with the number and intensity of stressors we have acting upon us today.” Dr. Swenson argues the physical and emotional importance of restoring margin to a busy life.
4 places I keep margin in my week:
- Edges of the work day. I take my time getting to and from work to breathe, think about my goals, and listen to podcasts.
- My daily exercise. My exercise routine typically takes 30 minutes, but I schedule an hour so I’m not forced to rush.
- Wind down. I leave 30 minutes at the end of the day to wrap up any projects or tasks, or to take a little extra time to rest, before winding down for bed.
- Weekend. We usually shop and run errands on Saturday, but our weekends are largely unscripted. I still write and work on projects, but try to leave nothing for the weekend that absolutely has to be done.
There are times when you must power through and leave rest for later, but they should be the exception, not the rule.
6. Share your perfect week
The easiest way to get derailed is to take on tasks that are out of scope from your plan. The best defense is offense. Share your perfect week with the people in your life before you have to say no to one of their requests for your time.
- Share your perfect week with family, friends, colleagues, and even your boss. Share your vision and show them what your perfect week looks like. Explain how important your goals are to you and ask their input on the steps you are taking to achieve them. They will be flattered to serve as your council and at least understand when you must deny future requests for your time.
Start towards your perfect week
You’ve heard one of my favorite quotes before, “Plans are useless, but planning is everything.” The late Dwight D. Eisenhower understood that planning is about getting your head in order.
Just because you have your perfect week on paper does not mean it will come true, but you’ll be amazed how you can transform your week once you’ve set your mind to the task.
What would having a perfect week do for you?