Work Focus; Rest Focus
After breakfast, I sit down and schedule out the rest of my day.
I literally schedule every single minute.
An activity that takes no more than five minutes.
Scheduling my day used to take 10 or 15 minutes, but I’ve gotten better at it over time. And even if it took 15 minutes, it’d be worth it — time spent scheduling is not time wasted.
When I’ve got that plan for how I’m going to spend my time, and what I’m going to do when, I get more done during the day, and my day is significantly less stressful.
I used to think a schedule meant I’d never get to have fun. Because if you’re scheduling your time then you should only put Super Duper Important things on your schedule.
Well, I do only schedule Super Duper Important things. I just have a smarter definition of Super Duper Important.
Did you know I schedule time to watch Netflix? I schedule time for a mid-day nap if I want. Time to read for an hour and a half in the middle of the afternoon. Time to take my wife out for dinner once a week. Time to go running at the gym. Time to play trains with my kids. Time to have lunch with a friend. Time to help my wife with dinner. Time to write for as long as I can handle in the morning.
In fact, by scheduling every minute of my day, I help make sure I do all the things I want to do — for work and for play.
I’m not here to talk about the how and why of scheduling every minute (I’ll do more of that in a few weeks over here).
The Week’s Wildly Important Goals
What makes it easy for me to schedule every minute of my day is this: I already know what I want and need to do that day.
I get this because on Sundays, usually in the late afternoon, I sit down and list all the big things I want to accomplish over the next 7 days.
In 4DX terminology, this is me listing out what the Wildly Important Goals are for my week.
For a recent example, here are the outcomes I listed out for the week of February 1st:
- Build the Elements of Focus class into something that people could sign up for at any time.
- Finish migrating all of our email lists to our new email service provider.
- Work with my developer to finalize the plan and timeline for our next buildout and addition to the Focus Course website.
- Finish reading The Four Disciplines of Execution
- Outline the content for the Time Management online class we’re doing next month.
- Publish my two podcast interviews with Cal Newport and Havilah Cunnington.
Knowing what my desired outcomes are for the week means I can assign some time to them.
By assigning time I know when I will be doing the things that are important. This is far more effective (and stress free) than just having a list of things I want to do and hoping that I’ll get around to doing them.
Planning the Week’s Focus
With my week’s goals listed out, I then sit down and plan the main things I’ll be focusing on each day for my Monday – Friday.
For this, I have two areas of focus: work and rest.
Deep Work Focus: I have capacity for about 3 hours of deep work each day — 2 hours in the morning and 1 hour in the early afternoon.
Thefore, for each day of the week (M-F) I list out what my one or two areas of “Deep Work Focus” are going to be.
Rest Focus: I know I’ll have down time in my day because, as I mentioned above, I schedule it. And so I also choose ahead of time how I am going to spend that time.
For me, it’s important not to spend every spare moment I have checking Twitter, email, or watching TV. Having a few pre-chosen activities for how I’m going to spend my down time goes a long way in helping make sure my down time actually leaves me feeling more rested and re-charged.
(This is what I was getting at when I wrote about some alternatives to the just checks.)
For example, during the week of February 1, my down time was spent reading 4DX.
Other: Of course, you don’t have to stop at work and rest. You could also define a family and relationships focus, a health focus, and a personal inner-life focus. (For those who’ve gone through The Focus Course, this is exactly what we address in Modules Three and Five)
* * *
Being proactive with your time and focus is liberating.
Trying to plan ahead like this can be difficult at first. We are so used to being reactive and responding to the tyranny of the urgent. Or we are afraid of “boxing ourselves in” by making a choice ahead of time.
But the effort is worth it. In no time you’ll be able to whip up a plan in just a few minutes. And the freedom it will bring to your day-to-day life is awesome.
* * *
P.S. You may be interested to know that I’ve put together a time management class that is as relevant to those who thrive on spontaneity as it is to those who love to nerd out over administrativia.
Everything I know and practice about time management, scheduling, and prioritization is in this class.