While it may seem basic, too many people allow their calendar to be filled up by default - other people's priorities. If you’re happy with the result, then there’s certainly no problem with going with the flow. But too many people are living for others all the time! If you’re feeling like you’re not really living the life you want, (or worse still, if you’re just plain miserable), you may want to give some thought to your schedule.
We could break this down to typical days, weeks, months, and years. The scale is important because when we think about our ideal balance of activities, it’s probably not realistic to do everything we want every single day.
Let’s start by thinking about a typical week. What activities do you want to be doing? How much do you want to be doing them?
Sketch out a week on a sheet of paper. Breaking it into rough blocks of time seems to work well: Morning, afternoon, evening, night. If you are an early riser (or want to be) you could adjust your blocks accordingly.
How many blocks do you want to be working? How many with friends? Consider adding each of these:
- Anything else you want!
I recognize that it maybe seems odd to be scheduling “leisure time”. For many ambitious people, though, it’s incredibly necessary. I can say from my own experience that unless I block off “downtime” on my schedule, the space tends to get filled up with other activities.
You may find that you get frustrated with this because not everything fits. Do the best you can to choose the most important things and find a place for them. Remember – you’re not locked into this routine – you’re just trying to get a sense of what a typical ideal week might be like!
If you like, you can break things down to the hour and get realistic about what fits and what doesn’t. Here's a rough example with 3 blocks per day:
When you think about a larger time scale – like a month or a year - what comes to mind? In a typical year, for instance, are there things you need to schedule? Perhaps you have an annual trip with your college buddies, or a family vacation?
My wife and I met a couple while travelling who explained that each year they made sure to include four things: A week vacation as a family, a “Boys’ Time” where the husband hung out with his buddies, a “Girls’ Getaway” where the wife and her friends had their time to themselves, and a week of vacation as a couple with no kids. They seemed to love their structure! (Although they happened to be on their week away with no kids...)
Use your imagination and have some fun with this. It’s important to note that the “default settings” for most people aren’t necessarily optimal. 10 hours of work, 2 hours of commuting, 2 hours of tv, 0 hours of exercise, and 6 hours of sleep may be your habits, but they don’t necessarily make for a great life. On the other hand, 12 hours a day of relaxation on the beach can get old pretty quickly too. You need to decide for yourself what balance you want, and start to design your life to work towards that!
By thinking about what you want to include in your schedule, you’re inherently clarifying what’s important to you and making yourself more likely to succeed.