Before you even open your eyes to wake up and start your day, you’re probably already mentally combing through your to-do list.
Your phone may already be pestering you with email and calendar notifications.
As we’re hustling and bustling through our days, planning and attending meetings, checking emails and texts, we may feel like we’re busy, but what are we actually getting done?
Do you look back over the week, feeling tired and worn out, and wonder, what did I actually get accomplished this week?
Well, you’re not alone. We can all feel like we’re just running on a treadmill of tasks but not actually getting anywhere.
There used to be days when I’d start my work day and was constantly interrupted–by phone calls, by emails, by people coming into my office asking questions. I’d rush off to meetings while my to-do list would continue to grow without making much headway.
Tasks would continue to roll over, day after day, until of out both necessity and frustration, I had to just lock myself in my office to get things done. It became a vicious cycle that I felt like I was trapped in. I felt like I was barely hanging onto the treadmill of tasks.
I also felt like my business’ growth was stuck in a rut. We were doing OK, but I was starting to miss opportunities that could have taken the business to the next level.
Why couldn’t my schedule be more efficient and flexible at the same time? Is that a question that plagues you, too?
Well, let me ask you this: what if there was a way for you to get off that treadmill start making real headway with your workday and elevate your business?
What if you could enjoy work and have a personal life?
This isn’t a fantasy or a pipe dream. The secret lies in your schedule.
In this blog post, you’ll learn how to maximize your schedule to create more time for your business and for your personal life.
Successful Executives Know Scheduling Is Key
As a business owner, you know how challenging it can be to run a successful business.
Now imagine having a successful business on the scale of Tesla, or a nonprofit foundation like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation?
Well, how do people like Elon Musk or Bill Gates get through their days?
Bill Gates isn’t running Microsoft day-to-day anymore, but he is a Technology Adviser. This is in addition to heading up his charitable foundation.
And then Elon Musk has been pushing the envelope of technological innovation with not only Tesla but also with SpaceX and The Boring Company.
Both men are juggling a lot of balls, and yet are able to keep them all up somehow without losing their sanity.
So what’s their secret to success?
It’s actually really simple–almost boring and mundane. You may even laugh when I tell you.
They set a strict schedule.
I’m sure you’re thinking–well, hey, so do I! My schedule is jam-packed every day! This is some secret, Kevin.
Well, it’s a little more granular than you’re thinking.
Elon Musk manages his schedule down to 5-minute increments.
Bill Gates schedules his day down to the minute.
Now, does your schedule look that intentional?
And here’s another thing–are you rushing from meeting to meeting, with barely any time to relax? Do you think that busyness really equals productivity?
If you’re a robot, I’d agree that keeping busy without stopping is good.
But we are not robots. We need regular breaks in order to keep our edge and to avoid burning out.
So let’s walk in the company of giants and learn their ways of scheduling success.
Some Initial Guidance
Have you ever left a long meeting and get back to your office and think, what in the heck just happened? Did we actually get anything done?
One way to make your meetings more time-effective so you don’t end up running over is to bake in some transition time. Set a timer on your phone or watch for 10 minutes before the meeting ends and start to wrap up the meeting then, with any questions, comments, and a plan for action steps that need to happen afterward.
Think about how it was for you in high school. In between classes, you had a few minutes to get from class to class. If you were lucky, you didn’t have to dash across campus to get there, but you still had a little time.
So you can start scheduling everything–walks, coffee breaks, meetings, phone calls, email time, personal time–with buffer time in between activities. And then try to stick with it. See what works for you
Personally, I schedule four key events into my calendar every single day.
- Meditation. Twice a day for 15 minutes. One early in the morning and one in the afternoon. I find that taking just a small break to get re-centered and focused dramatically impacts my productivity.
- Lunch. In the past, I found that if I did not schedule this into my day, it simply got pushed back or I forgot about it all together. Failing to fuel is an easy mistake to make when you are busy.
- Exercise. While my commitments to exercise vary from year to year, depending on my goals, I always schedule in my workouts. Again, if it’s not on my schedule, it may never happen.
- Email and other digital correspondence. I turn off all notifications on my phone and computer for most of the day while I focus on clients, projects or my team. I schedule in task blocks where I check and respond to inbound messages.
By far, this has been the most challenging, but rewarding way I manage my time. I wrote a whole other article about this here.
Three Reasons for Scheduling Everything
Maybe you’re not yet convinced to schedule every minute of your day. Maybe it feels a little too restrictive and confining.
Remember, though–you need to see what works for you. Your schedule can remain flexible–it’s not etched in stone or written with a permanent marker.
If you’re still not convinced, here are three reasons for scheduling all your time:
- You’ll start to find that time really is your most finite resource.
- You’ll learn you have a lot less time than you thought.
- You’ll re-prioritize what matters by learning what tasks you can reasonably take on in a week.
You probably already know that you don’t have all the time in the world. But you are in control of how you spend your time. The more time you place on a certain project or person, the more value it holds for you. By intentionally carving out more time for the things that matter and cutting back time on the things that don’t, you’ll start to free up time.
But you have to be intentional. This won’t happen unless you commit to at least trying.
This can go beyond your workday, too. Be intentional about the time you spend with your family and friends.
Also, don’t forget breaks–both in the work day and on the weekend. Breaks are a great way to reset your mind and body.
Whether it’s a brisk walk, listening to some music, meditating, hitting the gym, going out for coffee–make sure breaks are scheduled every day, multiple times a day. You’ll find that time starts to expand for you because you’re more rested and relaxed.
More Tips on How to Schedule Everything
This may feel overwhelming, to try to schedule out your whole day. So start small and build up to it. To be in the company of giants, we can’t grow to be 7 feet tall overnight.
- First, start with 30-90 minutes chunks of time. For example, break a larger project into smaller segments and plan for the time it takes to complete each chunk of time. This is a page right out of project management. If you want to even see this visually, use a Gantt chart.
- Don’t start off by scheduling individual tasks. Instead, schedule time to address core business priorities. It can be tempting to start a running list of all the things that need to be done. But you need a top-down approach instead. Here are some questions that you can ask yourself and your team to get started:
- What is the most important work item that must be completed today before you can move on to anything else?
- Are there parts of the project you can delegate to free up time?
- What can be done last?
- What must be done first?
These questions can help you to plan for a more efficient day. But remember–you’re not tied to your calendar. Things come up, distractions happen, so just be flexible.
- Schedule a 60-minute slot for reviewing strategies instead of a 15-minute meeting for project updates. You can fold project updates into larger strategy sessions. You’ll find that you’ll get more done in less time. Remember to set a timer; not only will you be able to ensure your meeting ends on time, you’ll be able to keep on track when you’re holding your meeting.
Beyond Your Desktop Calendar – Scheduling Apps to Get You Started
You may be tied to your Outlook or Google calendar to help you keep organized, but there are other apps that can help you with scheduling and with tracking your time. Check out these apps to start: Time Doctor or Desktime. These apps also help you to track your team’s time.
These apps can provide data on how you spend your time so you can start to make changes to your schedule. You may not realize you’re actually spending hours of your day with email, or that you’ve been on Facebook a little too long. Apps like these can help you to look more objectively with your time, without judgment.
Or, you can simply go old school and analyze your past appointments. Tally up how many hours a month you are spending on meetings, doing paperwork, etc. How much time are you spending on sales, marketing, operations or the financials of your business?
After you tally up how much time spending on different parts of your business, and your life, consider how these time commitments are matching up with what’s really important?
If you are struggling to jumpstart sales, but are spending all your time in operations or admin meetings, well, it’s time to re-evaluate how you schedule and spend your time. If you find you can’t re-allocate your time, it’s time to re-examine or re-engage your team to ensure you are supported.
Easy Does It
The prevailing wisdom is that it takes about 30 to 45 days to form a new habit that sticks. So take your time with this process. It takes time to learn how to effectively manage your time! But soon, you’ll walk in the company of giants such as Elon Musk and Bill Gates. But in the meantime, consider this as an experiment to see what works and what doesn’t work.
As you start this new journey of scheduling your time better, you’ll start to see what you can get done during your work week. You’ll begin to see that as you take more breaks, you’re getting more done and you’re a lot less stressed. You’ll find that you’re getting out of meetings sooner and getting more things accomplished.
Ultimately, this is going to affect your business’s bottom line in a big, positive way. Even your personal life will start to improve as you’re more present for your family and friends.
Remember that you control your schedule. By scheduling your time with more intention and focus, you’ll be a better steward of your time and the time of others.