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Optimal Doesn’t Happen By Accident: How To Design Your Ideal Week

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Mike and I spent the last week of 2016 reviewing what really worked about the year and what didn’t work so well. (To hear the ritual we do around this, listen to our podcast episode about it.)

During our annual reviews the two previous years we’d had the same take away: we did too much.

It felt really great to look back on 2016 and finally not feel as though we’d done too much.

I ended up doing less out of necessity in 2016, not so much out of design. Parenting a tiny person unraveled me to a degree I completely didn’t expect, and I simply didn’t have the bandwidth to do all of the things I used to do. My resources were needed for caring for my girl, caring for myself, and caring for our marriage. Whatever was left over was channeled into business.

Yet, our business didn’t suffer. Revenue remained strong. And it even grew a little bit.

Despite my conditioning to expect otherwise, my doing less did not send my world, nor really any other parts of the world, into collapse.

Everything kept on going just beautifully for the most part.

Noting how well doing less and having a more spacious schedule had worked the previous year, I decided to map out my optimal week.

I used to follow other people’s plans for what their ideal week would look like. I read blogs on time management systems and books, too. I always seemed to be chasing a system but never really sticking to it and then finding myself wrong for what I saw as a lack of discipline.

Then I realized that I wasn’t following other people’s plans for managing time because they were other people’s plans.

Rather than continuing to get sucked into the crummy notion that someone else knows how I should live my life better than I do, I decided to design my own optimal week.

Here’s what I did:

  1. I got out a big piece of flipchart paper. (Writing things big makes them feel important. Plus I like a visual reminder to keep on the wall of my workspace.)
  2. I got conscious about the things that I really want to do each week and need to do each week.
  3. I batched these things.
  4. I blocked out time for them in the calendar.

 

Here’s what I came up with:

Optimal Week

Remember: this is my ideal week. This does not mean your week needs to look like this, nor should it. But, by all means, let this be inspiration for you.

I have 3 dedicated days per week for doing business and 4 days for other stuff. Business is often done a little bit here and there on the other days (during P’s naptime usually), but I know for sure the days that are dedicated to business because those are the days I know I have childcare.

I could easily have full-time childcare and work full-time, but for this particular season of my life I’m choosing not to. And I reserve the right to change that choice in the future when/if I feel the season begin to shift.

Since I’ve implemented this optimal week schedule I’ve already noticed meetings creeping into my content days, so I had to renew my boundaries around that and make sure it was blocked on my calendar which reminded me:

Identifying your priorities does not guarantee that they’ll get your attention. You’ve got to remain ever vigilant to ensure that the essential gets the presence it’s due.

Managing your time optimally is a practice. This is not a one and done. You will bob and weave and ebb and flow.

And just because you set up your optimal week doesn’t mean each week will be the same, nor should it! Our bodies and the Earth are in constant cycle with nature. Expecting ourselves to produce and operate the same every week is like expecting the leaves to stay on the trees all year long. We’re just not designed that way.

Some weeks I get way more done. Some weeks I’m super distracted. During a launch I get extra childcare, and when I’m not launching and I feel like picking up P early from daycare, I do.

Optimal doesn’t have to be rigid. I listen to my body and my energy levels on any given day to inform my plans. But having the structure to dance within has helped make sure what I say matters to me gets the energy and time devoted to it that something that matters truly deserves.

As you design what optimal looks like for you, remember:

Hold your ideals lightly. That way they have breathing room to evolve. twitter-logo

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Identify optimal, use it as a sacred container for your work and life, and then adjust as necessary.

OVER TO YOU:

What does your optimal week look like? Was this exercise helpful for you? What did you learn or notice? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

 

  • Cheryl says:

    I have designed my optimal time like this: I teach online courses from 6am-9am Monday- Friday. On most days the rest of the day is free for self care, teaching prep, and self care. Sometimes I meet with a student in the afternoon but most of my work is done online in the morning. I no longer have children at home so this works perfectly. And I have increased my income and it is less stress.

  • Tracy says:

    I needed this exact post today! Time to create MY optimal week and renew a few boundaries.

  • Cassi says:

    I love, Love, LOVE your weekly routine! I’ve been trying to use all of these tools that basically allow me to plan specific tasks for certain dates of the month and/or times of each day of the week… and those are GREAT frameworks for nitty gritty task management, but I haven’t gotten that initial monthly planning session done. And my plans for January didn’t get done because I listed a bunch of projects and then didn’t follow through with plotting each individual step or task… This blog post has totally inspired me!

    I think what I’ll do first is plot out a super loose, basic weekly routine like you have done, and then see how each project or task fits into it! :)

    Thanks, girl. Hope you, Mike and Penelope are well!! <3

  • Caroline says:

    Hi Kate,
    Thank you for sharing your optimal week! There are two things that really resonated with me:
    1. “Identifying your priorities does not guarantee that they’ll get your attention.”
    For years I would make lists of priorities/goals for the months or year ahead. I somehow thought that getting clear on what mattered most would lead me to taking action! I’ve since learned to take additional steps after making those lists – write WHY these were my priorities, what would they bring to my life, why it is essential that I fulfil them; decide what actions are needed to achieve my priorities and analyse what resources I would need for those actions (how much time, whether I need help, material resources…); and finally fit these actions in my planner, and set reminders for them.
    2. “Optimal doesn’t have to be rigid.”
    After the process described above, I’d end up with pretty much every hour of every day mapped out, and very little flexibility! When I would not respect my schedule for any reason, I’d feel terrible and guilty… What was meant to help me grow and reach my goals was doing the opposite! I had to learn to let go, learn to make space while still making commitments to myself. It’s a work in progress and I’m enjoying the process!
    Thank you for being an inspiration – xx Caroline

  • Beth LaGrone says:

    I recently started breaking my work time into power hours (60-90minutes), with at least an hour break in between to walk outside, eat, dance, rest, basically, not work.
    I’m getting a ton of work finished in a day, I feel good at the end of day -not just mentally but my body feels so much better not sitting at the computer through the whole day.

    And from your do less experiment, I am maintaining free space a little everyday since I tend to schedule every minute. It’s been hard and uncomfortable but wow, my day feels so much more balanced.

  • Lisa Camhi says:

    This exercise was so helpful to me. At the beginning of the year I mapped out a plan for my “dailies” (things like a morning meditation), “weeklies” (time with family and friends) and “monthlies” (a day trip…. a completed project, etc.) and….. by the middle of January I was off track. SO off track. The idea of writing on a big flip chart and leaving it somewhere I can see it daily, is very helpful. I work out of my home so I don’t like to leave things like out where everyone can see, but maybe I’ll put it in the bedroom or kitchen! As always, thanks for all of the inspiration, support and sisterhood!

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