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Have you ever looked at that page in your Full Focus Planner dedicated to your Ideal Week? And have you found yourself saying — how the heck should I use this thing?
Here are some basics about planning your ideal week.
What is an Ideal Week?
Note that it’s called your “ideal” week, not your “realistic” week.
We can’t always have our week unfold exactly as we might have wished. But the aim is to plan what we’d like our week to look like, and then try to stick with it, especially when someone else tries to ambush our day.
Okay, so why would we want to establish an ideal week?
In short, we are more productive when we can do a few things:
· Megabatching tasks so that we can focus on similar tasks; going back and forth between tasks is less efficient. Megabatching is a bigger version of “batching.”
· Allow ourselves to work at times that best align with internal clocks, especially to do high-leverage work when we are at our best.
· Ensure that several different tasks or activities get done.
In his book, Free to Focus, Hyatt names three activities that we do which have three personalities.
· High-leverage activities
· Administrative activities
· Personal activities
The key is to consider how each of these three personas “behave.”
I have much more to say about what constitutes a high-leverage activity. But basically, it’s an activity that moves the dial. It’s not mundane; it’s not a routine or recurring activity. It’s not a baby step toward something desirable.
Rather, it’s a task which, if accomplished, is a giant step toward reaching your goal or goals.
Examples of high-leverage activities might be:
· recruiting candidates for a job opening
· following up with a hot lead
· writing 2,000 words for a new book
Personally, I do best by tackling my high-leverage activities before sunrise; I’m the classic lark. My creative juices are flowing. On the other hand, my husband, the owl, gets his best work done long after dark. So, pick whatever works best with your internal clock.
Here’s an example for Fridays: I do high-leverage activities every Friday morning. I do personal activities (e.g., get a haircut) every Friday afternoon and evening. With the exception of my accountability mastermind small-group coaching commitment on Friday afternoon, I do not schedule meetings on Fridays.
Administrative activities are what we do to run a business. Typically, that would include checking email, attending or conducting meetings, reviewing spreadsheets, returning phone calls, approving various documents and requests, and much more. I try to do these activities at times when my creative juices aren’t flowing as readily.
Some administrative activities are recurring. If you look carefully, you’ll soon see some that occur every week, every month, or maybe every quarter.
Let’s say you need to send invoices for services, pay bills, or check metrics for your blog. Ideally, you’d delegate these tasks, but if you don’t yet have an executive assistant, at least lump those tasks all together in a dedicated block of time each week.
Meetings are, at least for me, administrative in nature. Admittedly, they can be creative, but usually, they aren’t!
Since I own my own business, I can determine when many of my meetings can occur. On Mondays, I run my 1:1 meetings with employees who report to me. I do team meetings on Thursday morning. I book all of my coaching clients on either Monday or Thursday afternoon. I rarely deviate from this schedule.
Personal activities are everything outside of work. These activities pertain to you, as well as to your family. Typically, these include obligatory activities or fun activities, but they could fall into some other category, I suppose.
Examples might include grocery shopping, attending your son’s baseball game, getting your hair cut, or volunteering at the local soup kitchen. Or it might be the time when you go to the gym or do other forms of self-care.
Above, I’ve described three classifications to help you plan your day: high-leverage, administrative, and personal activities.
But what if that taxonomy just doesn’t make sense to you? Here’s a different way to plan your ideal week. Using a sociology model, Goff describes activities as being akin to what actors do in play, and others show how it works in the theatre.
1. Front stage
3. Off stage
I like this, I do!
This is not an official definition, but I look at it this way: if I feel the need to do my hair and makeup, I know I’m facing a “front stage” day.
Here, you’re interacting with one or more people. It might be your team, your clients, your vendors, or anyone else. As you can see from some of the examples I just described, I like to lump all of my “people” activities together. Frankly, people wear me out. So, I’m at my best when I can just handle all of the “people” activities in one day.
Personally, I see this as a two-part thing.
Part A would be those activities which require little or no face time with other people.
Typically, these activities require problem-solving or analysis. Examples might include activities such as:
· reviewing the budget or finding places to cut expenses
· planning a quarterly team meeting
· responding to an email from a client who is struggling
Notice that I might need to involve others in this work. I may need to call the CPA, or get input from my executive assistant, or Zoom with a client. But my interactions are fairly limited.
Then, there’s what I’d call Part B of backstage work. Here I sequester myself. I turn my phone on Do Not Disturb and shut off my Slack notifications and close my door. Often, I just work from home when I’m a backstage Part B mode.
Creative work requires me to be completely off stage. It took me years before I realized that it’s very hard for me to get “in flow” (as described in Csikszentmihalyi’s book). And in his book, Cal Newport refers to this as “deep work.” Now, I schedule this creative time on my ideal week plan, and I make it happen.
For me, creative work and high-leverage work are often one in the same. If I’m drafting a book or developing a new course, I need a big chunk of time alone, off stage, to accomplish that. As Steven Pressfield says in his book, The War of Art, “the Muse comes” only when I’m alone.
So yes, creative work and high-leverage work are both back-stage activities for me. They are, in fact, very close to being one and the same.
However, the reverse is not true. I would classify interviewing job candidates as a high-leverage activity, but not a backstage activity, and not particularly creative.
Honestly, it probably doesn’t matter how you label or classify these activities. The important thing is, figure out how you like to work, and then schedule activities at a time that seems to work best for you.
Off stage means not working. Period. So that’s equivalent to personal time.
Some off-stage activities require the presence of other people, and often, a little drive time on the road. So, once again, I try to lump them together. (You might not care at all.)
Especially if these activities require you to be out and about, you can get them all done in the same block of time that you’ve set aside as part of your ideal week. Examples might include a visit to the dentist, a grocery shopping, or a trip to the DMV.
When should we re-visit the construction of our ideal week? It’s always good to revisit your ideal week when you do your quarterly planning.
Also, review your ideal week any time that something changes at work or at home. See if a change from your “usual” structure might make better sense.
Excellent examples include:
1. Getting a new boss
2. Having a different role, even in the same job
3. Standing meetings that occur at a new time
4. Any changes with your family situation
5. Alterations in your commute
How to make it work
I’d imagine that anyone can organize their ideal week in whatever way they wish.
However, in general, I try to use at least one-third of my week in high-leverage activities. Remember, those high-leverage activities are what move us — and our businesses — forward.
How have you organized your ideal week?
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