How you map out (or fail to map out) your calendar each week is an important component to how you experience time and money. It’s the old saying, fail to plan your time, and someone else will plan it for you.
Since time often equates to money, failure to systematically plan your calendar can be quite costly. You can actually maximize your time and increase your bottom-line by following a few simple steps:
Step One: Engage in a Weekly Process
If you’re getting up each morning making a daily to-do list, you’re already late in the game. Why? Because it’s already started, and you’re just putting on your shoes.
The most effective business leaders understand the importance of engaging in a weekly process that helps them set forth their goals and objectives for that week.
In his renowned work, First Things First, Stephen Covey addressed the need for a weekly process. I have lived by this premise since the early 80’s. I typically set aside time on Sunday evening to review appointments, emails, and telephone calls that need to occur the following week.
I have to admit, sometimes I get rather cocky and think I can skip this process. Without fail, that is the week that crumbles into stress and confusion.
My most productive weeks start with looking at what’s already on my existing calendar in advance. I then block in time for the most important responses or inquires I want to make sure to address via email or phone.
Step Two: Block Out Time for Projects and Priorities
There’s only one way to move the needle forward in your business and that’s to schedule blocks of time for those upcoming projects or priorities. By priorities, I mean things that are not necessarily urgent but they are important to your success and the growth of your business.
For example, I have several keynotes coming up over the next few months. If I procrastinate until I’m closer to the week of the event, I’ll find myself overwhelmed. What this means, then, is that my weekly process includes looking forward 2-3 months or more to determine if there is an incremental action I can take now towards that long-term goal.
I might block out time to work up a title and the objectives for the keynote. Or, I might spend time designing the marketing materials for it. As the event draws closer, the blocks of time typically increase to allow for necessary creative preparation.
Rule of thumb: Every calendar week should be moving the needle forward in your business and your life. If you’re only focusing on the day-to-day tasks, you’ll always feel like you’re chasing time and money.
More importantly, you won’t get the results, and it’s the results that earn you income.
Step Three: Allow for White Space on the Calendar
White space is the difference between peace and chaos. I must confess I was one of those people who thought I had to have every minute of every day mapped out in my calendar.
That type of practice is just as bad as failing to plan altogether. Being too flexible or being too stringent both produce the same effect: stress and chaos.
If you’re chained to your calendar, you’re missing the point. Your calendar is a tool that should help you stay focused and organized. More importantly, it should help you honor your commitments.
White space gives you the opportunity to respond to life when it gets in the way. Emergencies occur, employees get sick, or new clients pop up. You want to be available to respond or seize the moment.
Whatever the scenario, white space allows for flexibility and choice. When we have choices, we experience less stress. It allows you to shift your goal timelines as appropriate. Goals that must be pushed aside on one day now become a priority on the following day.
Step Four: Commit to 3-5 Major Goals Per Week
This component is contrary to a To-Do List which often has too many tasks most of which you’re going to accomplish anyway.
When you put the most important things first, you ease the pain. This is especially important for people who have great difficulty prioritizing their day.
Committing to 3-5 major goals per week will help you really determine what is in fact a priority.
You’ll get the multitude of tasks done one way or another. In committing to 3-5 major goals, however, you’ll get to experience the magic of accomplishment.
I find that when I map those goals out into my calendar, I’m better equipped to say no to unnecessary interruptions.
If you’re saying yes to everyone and everything, you’re probably wasting a lot of time. One of Covey’s mantras was, “It’s easier to say no when you have a bigger yes."
Your bigger yes stems from intentional planning.
Step Five: Sync All Your Devices
Please, sync all your devices. Remember, people want to do business with people who honor their commitments and are responsive to their needs.
One of my pet peeves is people who can’t schedule an appointment with me on the spot because they don’t have their calendar with them. In today’s world, this simply equates to inefficiency. Everything can and should be synced between your phone, your office calendar, iPad, whatever devices you’re using.
Bottom line, you want to design your calendar to help you be more efficient, effective, and prosperous. Find a system that works for you and commit.
You don’t have to do it my way. Just to do. I can promise that you’ll experience an increase in your productivity which will increase your earnings. You’ll also experience less stress, greater focus, and higher credibility.