TIB 51: How to own your time
After reading this, you will know how to enjoy every day a bit more, from now on. And the secret lies in… your calendar.
Hear me out, don’t click away yet!
We’re all busy. We’re trying to fit work, love, maybe a family, hobbies and the occassional side-hustle into 24 hours.
On top of that, most readers of this newsletter are self-employed or working towards that.
For many that means you either have loads of time, but hardly any structure
You have barely time at all because there are always 1000 things to do and take care of.
Unfortunately, most people get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things they have to do. This is especially first-time founders and creators.
You start the journey of independence dreaming of freedom and autonomy. But in reality you find yourself operating at max capacity all the time.
Long time readers know I am big on creating a vision for your future. It gives you something to aim for and get excited about.
When I started my journey of self-employment 2,5 years ago, I quickly found myself swamped in work.
Even worse, I became more and more aware of the skills I required but did not yet have. It was overwhelming and I found myself working and learning in continuous cycles. And all of that without knowing if or when it would pay off.
Then I realized that I had left a 22 year corporate career, because I wanted more autonomy. Instead, I was now pursuing that dream through working ridiculous hours with hardly any pay.
I did not want that. I want to enjoy the journey today, as well as working towards a possible amazing future. So, I came up with a solution.
Because if you want to enjoy your autonomy, you need to find ways to:
- Own your time and energy
- Do what needs to be done
- Be able to recharge
- Plan, but not too strictly
- Work towards your dream life, while enjoying the autonomy today
Juggling all the challenges of building a business is a huge challenge. And you are learning a lot about yourself in the process
It is easy to feel overwhelmed and even burned-out. And thats without even a day-job and/or a family.
Let’s prevent that from happening by designing your ultimate day.
In a recent tweet I asked about people’s opinion on using calendars and schedules. And in a huge surprise to nobody, many people hate using them.
To those people, calendars feel like an external tyrant tellling them what they should be doing every minute of the day. They often pile up tasks and appointments in hopes of getting a lot done.
Instead they feel stressed out all the time, and are unlikely to ever get done what they plan for the day.
But thats not what a schedule is for.
Your schedule is there to design the day you would like to have.
It should not only include responsibilities around work or family. You also need to schedule time for activities you actually want to do that day. Or at the very least, leave room for those things
That way, your calendar will be a helpful tool to enjoy your day. You might even consider it your friend. 🙀
Not only will it help you make time for the stuff you like to do, but it will improve your focus and productivity as you design a balanced day for yourself.
The key to enjoying your time more is to know what you would ideally do with your time.
Design your ultimate week.
”Ultimate” meaning: How would I like spend my time, while honoring my repsonsibilities.
So, don’t put “have millions and drink cocktails on the beach all day” across all 7 days of the week.
Grab a pen and paper and write down what you would like your week to be.
For example, my ideal week includes:
- Weekdays start with family startup.
- Daily work routines for social media, e-mail and newsletter
- Several blocks of uninterrupted time to do focussed work
- Long lunch walk or exercise
- Afternoons are used to do coaching calls and admin
- I end my day with a”WorkDay Wind Down” to help me detach from work mode
- Then its family time again
- Evenings are reserved for music making, social time or relaxing
Keep in mind this is a template for what your ideal week.
Don’t worry about your actual schedule just yet.
Now identify patterns in your ideal week:
• Would you like to start your workday the same way?
• Or you prefer to spend at least one night a week to hang out with friends.
• Maybe you to have a family dinner time every day
Make note of these patterns.
A lot of stress and anxiety is reduced if we know what is coming.
We all have those days where your schedule is out the window before 9am.
Having patterns like these create islands of predictability in your hectic days. It helps your to anchor and reset. And if nothing else, you’ll eventually get to bed and start again tomorrow.
Bonus note: This is a great time to mark one or more of these islands of sanity as “Non negotiable”.
Which items on this ideal week template, do you want to stick to most consistently?
Your ability to do so, will highly depend on the control you have over your time. But I urge you to find ways to mark at least one moment in your day as an anchor, preferrably 2 or 3.
Mine are usually breakfast and dinner as family time.
Now that you have your ideal day or week in front of you, put it in your calendar.
You can do this in several ways:
• Create a new calendar on your computer
• Put these activities in as recurring events in your current schedule
• Make a nice spread in your Bullet Journal to refer to during weekly planning sessions.
Some planners, like Fantastical, allow you to enter activities and set the time taken up by it as either “Free” or “Busy”.
I suggest entering recurring events set as “Busy” for your non-negotionables.
And everything else gets marked as “Free”. That way, it will not interfere with existing plans.
Do not plan everything back to back. Leave room to breathe, allow for hiccups in planning, traffic jams, rabbit holes.
Repeat after me: “Calendars are Friends, not Tyrants”
Too strict planning only adds stress.
For example: I would like to have a 3 to 4 hour block of uninterrupted time every workday morning. I can put that in my calendar, shown as “free” and have it recur every weekday.
I also do this for leisure activities. All tuesday nights are reserved for music making in my case.
Still with me?
From now on, you have a template of your ideal week in your calendar, recurring weekly.
This is now the default from where you start planning your actual days.
Seeing your ideal week, helps to plan tasks and commitments in the proper spots. You will have to plan around your non-negotiables. And you will make more deliberate choices when it comes to your responsibilities and priorities.
This forms a killer combo with the “Prioritise Like A Pro” method from issue XX.
If you have a shared calendar at work, block your non-negotiables too. It reduces the number of meetings planned because you’re unavailable then.
This is how you own your time.
In the immediate future, currently planned acitvities may heavily interfere with your ideal week. But as you start planning your days around this template, you will be more in control of your schedule.
Over time you will bring your average day, closer to your ideal day.
This is a great way to enjoy the journey while moving towards your desired destination.
• Sustainable consistency
all while being mindful of what you find most important.
Thats it for this week. Enjoy your journey!
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