This post on how to create a schedule with margin is an excerpt from Your Best Year Final Draft: Productivity Workbook and Online Business Planner. Buckle your seat belts because, oh boy! This is the biggest, baddest Your Best Year yet.
I wrote the book with lofty goals: I want you to find and embrace unlimited potential. I want you to accomplish whatever it is you set out to do for the betterment of your life and business. I want you to obliterate time-wasting inefficiencies, mindless busywork, and bad habits.
I love this chapter on how to create a schedule with margin so much, that I wanted to share it with everyone. It gives you a taste of the motivation and empowerment that’s just waiting to be unleashed inside the book.
How to Build a Weekly Schedule
Have you seen the exercise floating around about creating the perfect day? The gist is, you list everything you would do on an ideal day, from the time you wake up until the time you go to bed. The idea is to create the perfect daily schedule, and that exercise agitates me to my core!
I don’t want just one ideal day. The average American only gets 29,200 days in their lifetime; I want each of mine to be gloriously enriching and unique! So, I cringe at the idea of scheduling one day from start to finish and calling it ideal.
What I do love is an ideal weekly schedule, in which you outline an optimal workweek. That way, you can get your work done and then go live your enriching and glorious life around it! After all, my motto is …
your life, your business, your way
I want you to create a routine for project completion, and set the pace for a marathon, not a sprint. Try not to charge full speed ahead, but rather methodically apply effort in such a way that the work keeps you always eager to get back to it.
For example, the excitement of a new product might tempt you to skip meals and put in extra hours under extreme, self-imposed deadlines. Trust me, that’s a recipe for disaster.
Instead, give yourself a comfortable timeline and set hours you can maintain for the duration. There are two guarantees on this roller coaster ride to the next level: Projects will always take longer than you think and the muddy stages will always be thicker than you imagined.
“A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days.”—Annie Dillard
Stephen Covey’s “big rocks” method (which he learned during another business expert’s lecture) is my favorite way to organize a schedule. Here’s the story, in his own words:
“As this man stood in front of the group of high-powered over-achievers he said, ‘Okay, time for a quiz.’ Then he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar and set it on a table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.
When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, ’Is this jar full?’ Everyone in the class said, ‘Yes.’ Then he said, ‘Really?’ He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.
Then he smiled and asked the group once more, ‘Is the jar full?’ By this time, the class was onto him. ‘Probably not,’ one of them answered. ‘Good!’ he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, ‘Is this jar full?’
‘No!’ the class shouted. Once again he said, ‘Good!’ Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, ‘What is the point of this illustration?’
One eager beaver raised his hand and said, ‘The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!’
‘No,’ the speaker replied, ‘that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.’
What are the big rocks in your life? A project that you want to accomplish? Time with your loved ones? Your faith, your education, your finances? A cause? Teaching or mentoring others? [Put them] in first or you’ll never get them in at all.”
Your schedule can and should be custom-fit to your lifestyle. Some people make magic with the “eat that frog” method — which means, they wake up and do the most daunting task on their list, and then finish whatever else needs doing. Others work in distraction-free time chunks. And still others take note of their most productive hours of the day, and maximize them by applying laser-focused effort during that period.
I combine all of these techniques. I use the “big rock” method by working backwards from my annual vision. Each day, I put the big rocks first during my first two powerblocks of the morning (my most productive time).
We all have to complete tasks that overwhelm or otherwise burden us. Leave no stone unturned until you find the system that works best for you.
Listen, my friends: the internet is not that interesting. It is not changing nearly as much as you click to see if it’s changed. I can guarantee you that checking your email and Instagram account 80 times a day is not going to get you your goals. It is a bad habit of mindlessly seeking validation and safety in an endless and unfulfilling loop.
Wouldn’t life be so much better if instead you had meaningful white space in your day? Imagine having time to learn a new hobby, take up a sport with a loved one, or indulgently get lost in a favorite fiction for hours—completely uninterrupted.
My theory? Luxurious white space is 100% available to us if we’d cut out nagging energy drains, unfinished business, emotional vampires, useless busywork, mindless clicking, and otherwise stop wasting hours on things that don’t matter.
A week scheduled too strictly creates constant pressure. People who exist in a state of constant pressure tend to get stuck in their head. Being stuck in your head leads to unnecessary worry thought, which triggers survival mechanisms, which results in panic. It is a vicious cycle, a self-induced pressure cooker.
When people are panicked, they have no idea what they’re doing or WHY, so they rely on outworn patterns and old routines. They create more of the same mess.
“[Working] in a state of pressure-induced self-consciousness is like fire walking while giving your full attention to the painful heat in your feet rather than focusing on where you’re going.”—Matt Fitzgerald
One thing that is often missing from our schedules is a healthy dose of white space. You are creative, as we all are, and you need time to dream, strategize, and explore new opportunities every week (if not every day).
An ideal schedule is going to include a lot of focus with plenty of room to breathe. Have you been breathing lately? The feast-or-famine pressure-cooker we often create for ourselves doesn’t allow many healthy deep breaths! It’s time to remedy that once and for all.
Some essentials for your ideal work week are tasks that keeps you on time, tasks that gets you ahead, tasks that allow you to seek and find new customers for your business, time to clear up unfinished business, and breaks that allow you to refuel your creative energy on a regular basis.
If you find this exercise to be challenging—because there’s too much to fit in—something’s not right. As Tim Ferriss said, ” … busyness is a form of laziness.” Either you don’t have the right systems in place, you’re doing too much work that doesn’t matter (and seeing little growth and profit from it), or you’re doing everything yourself, making good money, and bottlenecking your business by not outsourcing. If you can’t create a schedule with margin, something is fundamentally off.
Your Best Year Final Draft
I can hardly wait for you to get your hands on this beast! Your Best Year contains dozens of exercises arranged into thoughtfully planned sections to help you make the most of the upcoming calendar year. At the start of the book, we’ll discuss what it really takes to reach your goals in online business and beyond.
You’ll find new ideas on survival and endurance that will help you get your mind right for the battle ahead. You’ll assess the current status of your business and what you’re up against. You’ll then create a clear vision of the goals you plan to reach and an airtight schedule (with margin) for when you’ll work on it.
Seriously. You’ve never seen Your Best Year like this before. It is EVERYTHING you need to create a successful, record-breaking, goal-getting year. Once you get the review and strategies out of the way, it’s time to take action! The new system will have you prioritizing your monthly goals, assessing your professional strengths and weaknesses (thereby teaching you exactly what to showcase and what to train for), and always identifying ways to improve your work – life balance.