A topic that comes up often in coaching conversations is our relationship with time. As women, we often have SO many more things on our plates than we can realistically tend to in the fashion we desire.
About a year ago, tending to my husband's care began to overtake my life and schedule—he's living with ALS, the fatal neurodegenerative disease that inspired the ice bucket challenge.
Despite always having been able to find a way to ‘make it work' no matter what life threw my way, it was becoming a colossal struggle to juggle running a business along with my new (and mounting) responsibilities as a caregiver. That struggle began to deeply undermine my self-confidence and identity as a person who can be relied on to deliver on their commitments.
At the time, I was still consulting for nonprofits and stumbled on this post by Phoebe Zinman on the community-centric fundraising blog. While she wrote this piece from the perspective of a nonprofit professional, her experience will likely resonate with many readers of this site.
This particular statement slapped me in the face:
A simple and seemingly obvious insight, but it really helped me to appreciate the unrealistic expectations I was setting for myself and why I was struggling to get things done in my business.
And yet, even with that realization, nothing really changed. Then I read Dan Martell's book, Buy Back Your Time. Martell provides a framework for designing Your Perfect Week™, which is essentially a simplified framework for time blocking.
Taking inspiration from both of these sources, I've developed my own weekly planning framework that protects against packing too much in and also encourages a more balanced approach to protecting the activities most important to you.
Snapshot of my current ‘ideal week'
In her post, Zinman also suggests benchmarking goals for the month, not the week. While I've opted not to include goals for now, this insight inspired a second DESIGN*SHEET™ for visualizing the month ahead. By mapping out each week while being able to see the month at a glance, it's easier to spot the forgotten or overlooked atypical events that tend to muck up our routines.
To be clear, I do NOT plug these time blocks into my calendar. Instead, I keep a copy near my desk to reference when I'm scheduling meetings or assessing whether I have time to say ‘yes' to unexpected requests.
You don't need special calendars or worksheets to adopt this approach for yourself. In fact there's not much here that's truly innovative–it's more a matter of making the time to do the exercise of laying everything out for the month ahead and then again each week. That said, if you'd like to play with these templates, you can save a copy to your Canva account via this link.
There are no perfect systems
One of the dangers of finding a system that works, is we often tend to evangelize that system, forgetting that what works for us won't work for everyone else. Hence the dizzying number of time management tools and planners (both physical and digital) on the market. The trick is to keep testing and adopting what works, iterating on the rest, and remembering that what works now, may no longer serve you in the future.
Do you have tool-bending tools or strategies that have been helpful to you? We'd love to hear more; share your thoughts, questions, or insights as a comment post (scroll down to the bottom of this page).