Managing Time with the Optimal Week Tool
by Samantha Cooprider.
Wouldn’t it be incredible to get everything you wanted done? To finish everything you started? That would be the best week ever. And while perfection is oft sought, but rarely achieved, having more productive days is really a skill of time management.
Having the best week ever would mean making a conscious choice to look at the reality of how we spend our time. We all have personal and professional responsibilities as well as goals for ourselves. Yet, for most of us, there’s a disconnect between what we’d like to see in our lives and how we are actually spending the hours of our day.
The Optimal Week is a tool that allows us to make our time reflect our priorities in a way that’s aligned with reality.
It helps you make the shift from being at the mercy of time… oh, I really need to exercise more, or I want to sleep more, or spend more time with the kids… to being in reality about your ability to make conscious choices about what you do with our time – which is another way of saying that you are interested in being more conscious about how you live your life.
It’s about learning to opt-in on a slightly different mind-set. When I first learned about this tool I said, yes, thank you! I had done so much work around finding clarity on my priorities, my goals and my responsibilities. And yet, it was hard to actually fit them all in.
The Optimal Week tool was the missing link, and also a wake-up call that I might not be able to do everything now. There’s a real freedom in getting to reality about what I can fit in, and letting go of what I can’t.
What about less definable categories about how we spend our time, like email and texting and the buzzing of our smart phones?
We’re addicted to urgency, and in the midst of our addiction, all the little fires get put out while the things that are really important to us fall by the wayside. The beauty of the Optimal Week is that it sets up a structure for us so that we can’t ignore the important things that act as a barometer for us to see how we’re doing.
Just noticing that can be enough to start the shift on how conscious we are about time spent texting, emailing, checking social media sites, etc.
Let’s Get Started
Identify a way to physically represent the days and hours of a week. This is a template, a picture of how you want your Optimal Week to look and you’ll use it as a barometer for the way you are actually spending your time. You just need a basic 7-day week layout, one that includes the hours of the day.
Some people use a printout, or a spreadsheet and some even hand-write it with pencil and paper. Drawing it out yourself is a very tactile experience, and really works for some people.
The spreadsheet idea works well because it can give you the freedom to rearrange the cells as you work out the logistics. It’s a creative process, and it’s important to remember that. Think of this as an experiment and a way of being more conscious about your life. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and it’s going to change.
What comes next?
Start to play with and fill in the moving parts of your week, in this order:
1. Existing commitments
You need to be at work at a certain time, you need to get your kids to gymnastics; you have a weekly Monday morning meeting etc.… Start with everything you are already committed to, that you’ve already made a choice about. Add it to your template, and make sure you are realistic about how much time that commitment really takes.
You might think it takes you 20 minutes from bed to door in the morning, but when you think about it, it really takes an hour. Put that in. 7:00am-8:00am, get ready for the day. Add your driving times, paying attention to the commitments in the previous step.
3. Regular errands
We all go to the grocery store. We all go through mail and attend to our finances. The day or the hour may vary, but as much as possible, identify the regular errands and tasks of your life and give some thought to the actual amount of time they each take, and plug them in to your template.
It’s important to remember that this is a tool that will help you recognize how you spend your time. It’s a way to put it all in front of you, and you can change it as you go. If you write down “grocery store” as ideally happening on Saturday morning and then you decide to do something else, that’s okay. The Optimal Week just gives you the opening to ask yourself, so when am I going to get this thing done?
Okay, commitments, logistics, errands. Wow, it’s looking pretty full.
This is where the rubber meets the road. Often people say, no wonder it doesn’t feel like there is time for anything else. That’s part of getting to reality on our choices.
I ask my clients to take this as an opportunity for reflection. What is important to me that isn’t yet on the template? And how much space is left? Are there changes I can make to re-prioritize or streamline?
What would an optimal week look like for you? Start today by taking time this week to create the first part of this process. See you at the starting line! ~𝛿