My Top Time Management Tips: Plan Your Ideal Week

You don't accidentally climb Mt. Everest. If you don't plan to, you won't. As you set your goals for your life, one of my top time management tips is to plan your ideal week.  Michael Hyatt  shared this tip back in 2011 on his blog and it has made a huge difference since I picked it up in 2012.

[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@coolcatteacher”]You don't accidentally climb Mt. Everest. If you don't plan to, you won't. Vicki Davis[/tweetthis]

Why does planning your ideal week work so well? In The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg shares how making an appointment with yourself significantly increases the likelihood that you'll do the item! I've found this true. When you plan your ideal week, you're visualizing what it looks like. As you make choices of what you will (and won't) do, you're aligning your week with your goals.

While I don't always follow my “ideal” week, using this method, my ideal week follows me. As my Google calendar reminds me what I SHOULD be doing, I tend to keep up on grading, lesson plans, and videos. I also have worked out five days a week when I redid my calendar in January to include a workout first thing in the morning.

You are what you do. What would you do with your time if you could plan your ideal week? Here's how I do it.

Plan your ideal week - here's mine.

My ideal week includes time to exercise, read, write and plan. I also include essential tasks for teaching so that I can keep up. This one habit helps me plan my week and get more done. I color code my week by changing the default colors. Sometimes I can't do all of these things but that is OK. Notice it isn't on my main calendar so that I can turn it off and ignore it anytime plans are slightly different.

Step 1: Create an Ideal Week Calendar

First, create a special calendar on your Google Calendar or Outlook. (see above) You can also download an Excel template (link at end) and do it in there. I call mine “Routine of Excellence.” You'll want a separate calendar so you can turn it on and off. I turn it on as I plan my week.

Step 2: Intentionally Schedule the Things You Want in Your Week

There is an ironclad rule of farming. When Dad planted corn in the back field, he never… not once harvested soybeans. It doesn't work that way. You plant what you want to harvest.

Make Time to Exercise FIRST

If you don't plant physical exercise in your body — you won't inherit a physically fit body that can climb to the top of a Mayan temple when you're on vacation. If you plant all the physical worry of being a teacher and don't plant something to help soothe your nerves and handle stress — you'll harvest a shorter, less healthy, unhappier life.

Psychologist  Dr. Charles Lowery calls exercise, “The silver bullet of psychology.” He claims no medication invented today is better at handling depression and giving you better health than the one habit of exercise. But if you don't schedule it, YOU WON'T DO IT!

Charles Duhigg in the Power of Habit says:

“Typically people who exercise, start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.”

Schedule exercise FIRST. Plan it. Make time for it. Everything depends upon it – most of all your own happiness.

Make a List of the Essential Things You Want to Do Every Week

Second, make a list of the essential things you want to do every week. Here are some ideas:

  • Exercise — How often? What times are idea?
  • Going outside – When is a time and place that works for you?
  • ReadLeaders are readers.
  • Important routines (I'll be sharing more about this but see my Pareto Saturday post)
  • Reading and Learning – You'll see “IRD” which means “Intentional R&D”. I use Feedly for this quick time of reading and learning in field.
  • Journaling? Quiet Time? Reading your Bible or other inspiration? Prayer? Meditation? How do you quiet down and focus on the values that are important in your life. You are what you think.
  • Errands like Groceries or Dry Cleaning?
  • How do you need to close out your day, so you have a list for tomorrow?
  • Essential job tasks: Lesson Plans? Recording Videos? Grading? Email?
  • Social media or writing tasks?
  • Special projects? Rather than choose what project I'll be working on, I note that special projects will happen at certain times.
  • Pareto Power Zone activities like weekly review, planning menus, laying out clothes.
  • The times when you prefer that you have appointmentsClustering appointments saves time!
  • Spending time with key people: spouse, children, parents, siblings, friends. Include “messing around” time to make memories. Goofing off time is especially important with kids. They spell love T-I-M-E. You don't have to BE doing something just be around them.
  • Hobby time
  • Time spend moving your goals forward (See Thomas Edison's info below)
  • Essential housework activities.
  • Essential things that you attend: church, meetings, clubs, exercise classes.

Step 3: Schedule Your Time and Set Clear Goals

Using your special calendar from Step 1, plan your ideal week including the items in Step 2. If something is in a smaller chunk than 20 minutes, then consider making it a routine or ritual. (See info on the 30/30 app in my 18 Epic  Productivity Apps blog post.) You're going to run out of room and have to make CHOICES. It is best to make the decision now.

Make Time for Accomplishing Your Goals

In a sermon series on Leadership, my pastor, Michael Catt, shared that Thomas Edison had a goal to create a major invention every six months. He had as a goal to create a minor invention every ten days! EVERY 10 DAYS. Edison wasn't an accidental inventor – he was an intentional one. IF you are fortunate enough to know your calling – GO AFTER IT WITH ALL YOUR BEING. I love this quote by John Maxwell

[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@JohnCMaxwell”]You can spend your life any way you want, but you can only spend it once. John Maxwell [/tweetthis]

I schedule time to write my books. Books don't write themselves. I won't have a new book unless I put my derrierre in the chair and WRITE. (Same with this blog!)

Step 4: Plan Your REAL week this week

Fourth. Once you have your calendar as you like it, then get ready to plan your week. If you've used an electronic calendar, then just copy the item over to your “real calendar”.  If you need to move it around you can because of other appointments.

I attached a sticky mailing label on top of an old magnet. After I wrote the places I want to share, I cut them apart. As I share in that place, I move it to the day where I shared it. This way I can keep up with the last time I've shared in each place. When I do my social media routine, I Just start with the oldest magnets and move them forward. The question for me is forward progress - not if I get to every place every day. Can people trust me to consistently share helpful things. Routines like this help me keep up with it.

I attached a sticky mailing label on top of an old magnet. After I wrote the places I want to share, I cut them apart. As I share in that place, I move it to the day where I shared it. This way I can keep up with the last time I've shared in each place. When I do my social media routine, I Just start with the oldest magnets and move them forward. The question for me is forward progress – not if I get to every place every day. Can people trust me to consistently share helpful things. Routines like this help me keep up with it.

 Remember to Plan time for Routines

For example, I've had a routine for years designed to help me be someone who is consistently sharing helpful stuff on social media. Now, I am spending more time writing books and want to finish this third one. So, I'm shifting my routine so that I schedule many blog posts and social media items ahead of time. Then, I take 15-20 minutes every afternoon to respond to current conversations on various social media. That way, I'm sharing good stuff and participating in the conversation but also carving out larger chunks of time to be able to write books. I use magnets (shown below) to track when I've shared and when to keep up with it.

When I get to school, I have a beginning school routine that I do that makes my day flow so much better! (See 3 Little Tricks to Smooth Out Your Day)

Good luck! Plan Your Ideal Week!

So, good luck working on your personal routine. Consider your ideal week. To hit something, you must aim for it. If you aim for nothing, don't be upset where your arrow flies. Life is too short just to let it go by, be intentional so you can be a leader but it starts by leading yourself!

Leaders are repeaters — they repeat the routines and habits that help them consistently achieve greatness. When you want to achieve something – whether it is an awesome classroom, a book, or a family vacation — don't let yourself get in way of your dreams. Schedule it. Plan it. Do it! BE IT!

Helpful Links

[reminder preface=”QUESTION”]Did you try this? How did it work for you? Do you do something similar. Please share in the comments![/reminder]

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Amy February 5, 2015 - 2:11 pm

Vicki, thank you for the idea of planning an “ideal week” using my Google calendar. I already have an ideal day mapped out in my planner, so it won’t take much to turn that into a week on my Google calendar.

I’m glad you included hobby time, reading, and journaling. I think we sometimes allow ourselves to get too “busy” and neglect these important items. Much like exercise keeps us physically fit, tending to our personal interests keeps us mentally and spiritually healthy.

Vicki Davis February 5, 2015 - 2:59 pm

I so agree, Amy! Let me know how it goes. The fact you’ve planned your ideal week makes it so much more likely that you’ll get closer to it! Thanks for adding these important thoughts!

edtechdunny February 16, 2015 - 2:43 pm

Vicki- I swear, every time I come to your site, it has just what I need! I was just saying this morning how I need to stake out time to do the things I need to do to reach my goals. But I had no system for getting there. I am going to try this right now! (A little worried my Step 2 might go on and on and on and on….) I’ll let you know how it goes! -Kyle

Vicki Davis February 17, 2015 - 6:32 am

Let me know, Kyle!!! It does work. I’ve been doing it for quite a while now and it lets me be intentional. The other thing is that if I don’t have time to do something at the designated time, I tend to reschedule it in my mind and do it later. Plus it is amazing how I Have to face my perfectionism and admit that I can’t do it all! ;-)


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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere