Time management in today’s world is an essential aspect of our daily life if we are going to succeed, so it is crucial to balance your life purpose within your daily routines.
In Stephen Covey’s classic productivity book First Things First, he includes a comprehensive review of various time management approaches, evaluating their strengths and weaknesses.
Some approaches are very high level, focusing on goals and values and life purpose. At the same time, other methods deal with optimizing daily workflow, which is all ok.
Covey argues that trying to manage your life from the higher-level perspective of your life purpose or the lower level perspective of your daily to-dos is both suboptimal approaches.
What’s needed is a perspective that balances your highest aspirations with your daily tasks. Covey explains that the philosophy of the week is ideal for this.
My productivity experiments lead me to agree. Thinking about my life purpose is excellent, but it’s hard to translate such high-minded ideals into simple daily actions — every single day.
If I tighten my focus and handle tasks one day at a time as they come up, I’m likely to drown in urgent but unimportant tasks. I’ll spend too much time on trivial items, extra emails, and other fluff — actions that have little to do with expressing my purpose.
My days will fill up with busywork, much of which has little or no long-term impact, which I know happens to everyone.
But when I plan out my life one week at a time, I have the space to reconnect with my purpose, values, and highest aspirations. I’m not distracted by the clutter of one day’s activities. I can think consciously and intelligently about expressing my purpose over the week, even if I have other tasks on my plate.
In a week, I have enough room to attend to several essential items — if I schedule them intelligently in advance.
If you manage your life one day at a time, specific tasks and projects will never get done. You’ll always find reasons to procrastinate on them. The daily perspective is such a narrow focus that you’re very likely to become urgency-driven, attending to whatever comes up and putting off your significant project.
How to Plan Your Week
The week’s perspective is long enough that you can take time to schedule the essential tasks and projects you want to work on, especially the long-term non-urgent ones, and then fill in the remaining time with your more urgent to-dos and nice-to-do items. This ensures that you spend adequate time working on those items that can make a positive difference in your life.
Planning your week is easy if you use some planning template. You can use a calendar application, a software template, or just pen and paper. The tool you use doesn’t matter much. What matters is that you’re taking the time to pre-plan the essential items into your week, deciding in advance when you’ll do them.
For some downloadable weekly planner templates you can use, search on google weekly planner template; there are plenty to choose from and some from Steven Covey.
Many templates based on Covey’s work use his Roles and Goals method. Your roles are your primary areas of responsibility, such as health, work, relationships, spirituality, personal growth, etc. You can be as general or as specific as you like. I have four different roles for my work: one for creative projects, one for general business and administration, leadership and teamwork projects, and my growth explorations and travel. I also have three more roles for my personal life. Use whatever functions make sense for you. Covey suggests having no more than seven positions since otherwise, it’s hard to keep them all straight. ( Great Advice)
It’s okay if your roles overlap a little. The point isn’t to make them separate and distinct. The point is to help remind you to pay attention to what’s most important to you.
On some templates, you’ll find a different role for sharpening the saw. This is to remind you to take time for renewal physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually. This is what you do to strengthen yourself. Note that sharpening the saw is an activity. It isn’t just taking a break or getting extra rest. It doesn’t mean putting the saw down. Physically this is a reminder to exercise. Mentally it may include reading and self-education. Socially it may involve relationship building. And spiritually, it can refer to whatever practices renew you in that dimension, such as meditation.
For each role you have, set one or two goals for the coming week. Many Covey-based planning templates provide space to list your goals for each part.
I also have long-term goals and projects for each role. I use Trello to manage these (a free online service). When it’s time to set my weekly goals, I review my Trello boards and define weekly goals to progress towards my long-term goals. For example, improving my filing system is part of a larger plan to create a more organized and efficient home office, which is part of a greater purpose to become a more effective executive.
Once you have your roles and goals for the week, then schedule your items onto your calendar. You can assign each task to a day or give a job a specific time slot. You may need to break down some of your goals into more specific actions you can complete during the week. Ensure that the action items you place on your calendar are real actions that you can take, not just wishy-washy ideas that you don’t know how to execute.
Lastly, fill in the extra space with your less critical and more urgent tasks. I use the borders around the template page to list my other to-dos for the week, and then I fit them into the schedule AFTER I’ve scheduled the essential goal-based items. Let the urgency-driven things fill in the gaps in your program. That includes deciding when you’ll handle email, check social media, etc. Be sure to leave some gaps in your schedule for meals and breaks too.
Now that you have your week planned out, you have a straightforward roadmap for what you’ll be doing each day. Work on your tasks one at a time in the order you listed. This aspect of time management takes practice and a desire to become more disciplined. If you need help disciplining yourself, read my free series on self-discipline.
Don’t worry about minor setbacks. Unexpected delays will happen. Some tasks will take longer than you expect. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t stick to your plan correctly. Just do your best.
If you really blow your schedule badly and cannot stick to your original plan, then pause for a time-out, grab a fresh template, and re-plan the rest of the week from scratch. It’s perfectly okay to do this.
If you have a lot of unpredictability in your schedule, include extra flexibility in each day. Add longer gaps between tasks. Don’t pack your schedule so tightly. I often give myself extra padding for creative functions since it’s tough to predict how long they’ll take.
When you look back on a finished week that you planned and executed reasonably well, you’ll be pleased with all that you accomplished. The benefits of planning and managing your week based on important long-term goals are lovely. As you go through day after day making real progress on meaningful projects, you’ll begin feeling more motivated and excited. You’ll also enjoy the benefits of seeing your essential projects and tasks through to completion.
If you like this organizing style and wish to learn more about it, I also highly recommend Covey’s First Things First book. It’s a timeless classic on time management.
So enjoy your weekly planning session; hopefully, you start it on Sunday. As you do it, you will experience a liberating feeling of achievement of all your goals and have the time to enjoy many other things in between every week.
If you have never done it before, you have nothing to lose and a lot to gain by creating a weekly roadmap that works for you and empowers you.
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Live in harmony, peace, and love.
To your success
Your Coach Lionel Sanabria
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