I am constantly asking myself how to make space for the important things in spite of the urgent things. It seems like I’m constantly being distracted by all of the little things the pop up and interrupt me; there’s constant competition for my attention. This competition usually leaves me overburdened and feeling under-productive. If I’m not careful I usually import those feelings to my weekly planning, which results in nothing but dread.
With my recent role change, I’ve started to try to take back my schedule through some more careful planning. I came up with a simple method to help me wade through the cloud of possibilities to identify the most important things to try to tackle each week. I wanted to share that with you:
I print one of these off every week and fill it out the first hour of every week. I thrive off of ideation, creativity, and changing direction. Writing down the “big rocks” helps me to know when I can call an audible or flex my creativity.
Before I describe the elements of my resource, let me just highlight a few assumptions about my working rhythms.
- I live (and die) by my calendar. I schedule everything because I’m forgetful, but also because it helps me to see when I do and don’t have time to do extra things. If I’ve been careful about scheduling and a good opportunity comes along (work or play), I feel much more freedom in saying Yes to it.
- Automate where I can. There are certain things in my work where I can use technology to my benefit. Two things which immediately come to mind: Evernote’s in-app picture capture function and youcanbook.me (neither are sponsors). I write things out on whiteboards frequently. Evernote’s picture capture function can convert a picture to a high-contrast PDF, eliminating my need to re-type what I’ve already written. Youcanbook.me is really a really helpful scheduling to which streamlines the meeting scheduling process. I’d highly recommend both.
“Big Rocks” Scheduling tool
As you can see from above, there are six sections to my tool. Here’s how I use them:
- Date - I write the days covered by my work week. I save the sheets in order to see what I’ve accomplished that week, as well as reflect back on ideas I didn’t quite get to.
- Criticals - These are things which need to happen this week. They tend to fill up my calendar first so I can schedule around them. Criticals are top priority.
- Parking Lot - Like I said earlier, I’m constantly ideating. The Parking Lot is where my ideas go when I don’t have the space to work on them but want to return later. A more focused attempt to flesh out these ideas might make the calendar if I find myself with some extra space unexpectedly.
- Research | Resources | Implementation - These three categories are the broad strokes of my current job description. Each one has sub-points, but broadly everything I’m doing should fit into one of these three categories. As I write out the things I’m working on each week, it helps me to visualize how I’m spending my time. Sometimes a week is heavy on research, so I might ask, “Does it make sense for me to spend this much energy on Research this week?”
As I write out what I’m hoping to accomplish with each of these different spheres, I put the tasks necessary to complete them into my calendar. That includes both time to catch up from things that run over, as well as designated ideation time.
These are the things I’m using to stay focused on the right things. How do you do that? Are you using a specific system? What have you found to be helpful?