I’ve been writing a lot about schedule and prioritization lately because it’s been so top of mind in my daily life.
We’ve all been through times in our work (and personal) lives when our schedules are manic, and all we can do is stay afloat. And other times when we seem to just be gliding through the weeks, with very little friction.
So I’ve been taking a closer look at my schedule and how I feel at the end of a day/week to try and find the patterns between my inputs and outputs, my energy, and the results to the business.
The important thing here is that this is never “Done”.
Rather it’s a framework I’ll continue to use on a regular basis to check myself to make sure I’m doing as much of the right things in my weekly schedule and as few of the busy work, time-wasting, low-impact activities.
Weekly Time Audit
For me, the first step is to gather some analytical information about my week and how I feel during it.
This is impossible to do after the fact because recency bias (and our eternal optimism as founders) clouds our memory. Things just aren’t as bad or as good after the fact as they really were in the moment.
As a result, you need to audit your time in real time so that you can capture the true essence of those moments.
I use this simple spreadsheet to track my time every 15 minutes. Then I give a value to the time, and rate how I feel after doing it. More $$$ are good, and Green means it gives me energy, Red means it’s sucking out my soul.
Note: I don’t do this all the time. Maybe one or two days a quarter is sufficient. You just want to sample a representative day or two to ensure that what you’re doing most of the time are the things that you should be doing. Both from personal satisfaction, effectiveness, and impact perspectives.
Prioritize The Week
With the results of your time audit in hand, you can start planning out your week.
There are a couple of priorities in which I lay out my perfect week:
- What gives me energy
- What is high value in the business
- What “needs” to get done
- What is in my Zone of Genius
If any activity satisfies any of these, it gets the thumbs up to get scheduled in the week.
Next, because this is never done (and I’m nowhere near perfect) come the things that I “have to” do. These are activities that I’ve not automated, delegated, or just completely done away with.
None of us are perfect, and as founders, sometimes we have to live in the shit. Nobody else is going to do some of these things.
This category is things that:
- I don’t have documentation or process around to delegate
- Can’t be automated away
- There’s no budget to hire someone for
- I’m pretty good at it, but just don’t really love (Zone of Competence)
Most of the time, these things fill out most of the rest of the week.
To me, these items are like the bird/snake creature from Fantastic Beasts: they fill all available space.
All jokes aside, this is the real danger of not being intentional about your time. It will control you if you let it.
If you don’t audit your time, then you’ll find yourself hating your job and company, and it’s no one’s fault but yourself.
I’ve learned this the hard way. There have definitely been times when I didn’t love what I was doing. But upon reflection, it is avoidable most all of the time with a bit of discipline, a bit of the power of NO, and a bit of intentionality in how I plan out my weeks.
Kaizen That Shit
Perfection is not the goal. It’s unatainable, and shouldn’t be what we’re aiming for.
The goal here is just to be aware of what’s working, what we’re enjoying, and try to do as much of those things as we can.
So here’s a plan for how I’ve improved my average week, and how I think you can too:
- Start by auditing a few of your “normal” days – use this spreadsheet to track every 15 mins of your time. If you’re context-switching more often than that, well, we have other things to talk about.
- Review the results and start by Removing, Automating, or Delegating things that show up as Red or are low value activities
- Everything else should be pretty important, and gets scheduled.
Structuring Your Week
How I’ve implemented it is this: I have 2 days each week with zero calls. The resulting 3 days are pretty intense with calls and meetings. But my other 2 days are all about content creation.
So my week looks like this:
- Monday: Team and 1:1 meetings. Sales and Partnership slots available.
- Tuesday: Focus day – no calls. I’m creating content (YouTube, podcasting, newsletter, etc.)
- Wednesday: Team and 1:1 meetings, Sales and Partnership slots available.
- Thursday: Team and 1:1 meetings, Sales and Partnership slots available.
- Friday: Focus day – no calls. Create content and work on the business.
On Tuesday and Friday, I literally have my calendar blocked. So no fancy ways to trick Savvycal or anything. My team knows that I’m mostly away these days.
And in these days, I get a TON of stuff done.
The key is not to let the admin from Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday overflow into these days. My Focus Days are not admin days where I just do email, send contracts, follow up on sales leads, etc. No, those need to be contained in their respective days.
To be honest, I struggle with this overflow the most. I’m not as disciplined about keeping Focus days as pure as they should be, but I am at least aware of that as a limitation, and I’m working on it.
Keep Getting Better
The key here for me is just making it a little better all the time. Start wherever you are, and make it 1% better next week.
Block of a half a day if that’s all you can “afford” in your schedule.
Don’t read email first thing in the morning.
Delegate something instead of saying “I’ll just do it, it’s quicker this way”.
I say all this as a reminder to myself because I have a long way to go, but I’m making progress.