1/6/13

Establishing a weekly and daily routine


Several friends and blog readers have asked me about my daily and weekly routines, and about how I plan my time. I have a few principles I try to follow, and I thought I'd see if I could articulate them since a few of you have been curious. 

This turned into quite a long post, so thanks in advance for bearing with me! I hope you find a nugget in here that could be useful to you in your own routine. 

{Quick caveat: Keep in mind that I am on sabbatical, so I'm not "working" in a traditional sense this year, though I'm trying to use my time purposefully to explore how I might re-invent my life and my career outside of the usual traditional definition. And I have two kids in school five days a week until 3pm. So, I completely understand that this year I may have the luxury of a lot more time than many do, and that some of these principles therefore might not apply for many. I wanted to share them, though, in case there is anything helpful that could be adapted.}

Principle #1 | Establish certain days for certain activities, then stick to it
This is the uber-principle that helps me structure my weeks. I like the predictability of having a regular routine that I follow each week. It makes decision making about plans faster, and it feels like I move through my week more efficiently because I get into a groove. I can always mix things up and break the rules (and I do) but this is a great starting place for my weeks.

Here's a day by day look at what works for me:

Mondays | I use Mondays to close out the last week, and open up the new one

Closing out the past week means three things: 

a) re-setting the house to clean up anything left over from the past week or weekend, and getting the house back to "neutral." I like the house to be orderly when I start a new week.

b) looking back at last week's goals and jotting some notes about how I did and what I learned. Sometimes I do a blog post recap, or put the notes into my Project Life album for that week.

c) putting together my Project Life spread for the prior week, including processing the photos, doing the journaling, and creating the blog post. Doing this every week at the same time helps to ensure that I don't get behind, and helps me with better accuracy and detail on the journaling. 

I like having a routine that wraps up the prior week. Once I've done that, I feel like I can move on to opening the new week. 

Opening up the new week means three things:

a) Setting my goals for the week. I have found it's super helpful to spend a few minutes thinking about and writing down what I want to accomplish for the week, usually at a project or theme level, rather than a list of "to dos." (I also write to-do lists, and they are much more tactical and usually ladder up to my goals.)  A few people have asked me how I decide on my goals for a given week, and that's a blog post for another day. But the brief answer is that they generally spring from my broader sabbatical goals.

b) Updating my calendar to review the week's commitments and appointments, and make any new appointments, including blocking time for projects and to make progress against the week's goals. I also  take a moment to decide whether anything needs to be canceled. Sometimes knowing what to postpone or decline can be key to making a week work.

c) Making my menu plan for the week and going grocery shopping. This is not the fun part, but if I take the time to get myself organized for the week's meals, I'm much better off. I try to do all my shopping from one store, just one time each week, to save time. And, having a plan in place minimizes the "5pm what's for dinner?" connundrum, which I like to avoid. 

Speaking of that, this is a good time for a sidebar to mention Principle #2, 3 and 4.

Principle #2 | Minimize Mid-Week decision making.
This applies to meal planning, as I mentioned above, and other areas too. By having set out my goals on Mondays, and having blocked out my days for the week, I don't have many opportunities to wonder what to do with myself during the week. I know that some people might find that constraining, but I really like having a plan. It minimizes my downtime, and reduces the chances of mid-week blues.

Principle #3 | Maximize the time blocks.
This one is the hardest to achieve. I've found that it's easier to get traction on meaty projects when I have long blocks of time. From 9 to noon is the core time block that I try to protect. The 10am coffee date or classroom volunteer slot, while always fun and/or rewarding, is a productivity buster. It breaks up the morning exactly perfectly so that neither the time before nor after is really long enough to gain traction on anything. So I try to make appointments on the tail ends of my day, either first thing in the morning, or even better, in my sweet spot for appointments, from about 1 to 2:30, after lunch and before school pickup. I always have this principle in mind when I'm updating my calendar for the week (described above.)


Principle #4 | Exercise first.
If I don't do it first thing, it slips. I've tested this principle many many times, and it's an ironclad truth, at least for me. So I get my exercise in immediately after dropping the kids at school. This year, my schedule is to run with the dog on Mondays and Wednesdays, and to go to the Daily Method on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On top of this basic structure, I'll add "social" walks/runs, such as my Thursday hikes with my sister, and my Sunday walk/runs with my half-marathon buddy Cristina.

So, getting back to my Monday schedule, considering all the principles so far...

I start my day with a run, then I move into my "opening and closing" activities described above, in that nice 9-noon time slot. Then I do my grocery shopping last, and have lunch, before I go pick up the kids from school. Once the kids are home, my remaining time is determined by their activity schedule. Overall, I love Mondays, and if I've done it well, I start the week feeling in control, organized, and optimistic about what the week has in store.

Mid Week: Tuesdays, Wednesdays | These are the core workhorse days of my week, and I use them to take action

I'm taking action on my current projects and gaining traction on my weekly goals. I'm getting out of the house to get things done, and to connect with friends. Two additional principles help me make the most of this time:

Principle #5 | Minimize errands, and group them together when they're absolutely necessary.
I will do almost anything to avoid an errand. They suck up huge amounts of time and are usually not that fun. So I order lots of things online (I'm an avid Amazon Prime user), I limit myself to one grocery store, and I don't feel guilty about procrastinating errands. (It's amazing how many errands become unnecessary after all if you put them off long enough.) By the time I finally decide to allocate time to errands, I've got a bunch of them saved up and I do them in a string all together, which saves tons of time.

Principle #6 | Connect with friends over a shared interest, vs just for coffee and chit chat. I love meeting people for lunch or coffee, but I love it even more when I'm getting together over a shared interest. Where there is a focus and an activity that goes beyond catching up and chatting. My weekly artist date with Kelly is a good example of this, as is my regular hike with my sister, and my Sunday runs with Cristina. I find that not only am I hitting two birds with one stone this way (connecting with a friend, while getting exercise or doing a project of some kind) but also I find that my relationships tend to feel deeper and more satisfying when I do it this way. This is an area I'd like to challenge myself in the coming months. There are several people with whom I'd love to establish a more regular routine of getting together over some kind of activity or shared interest. 

Late week: Thursdays and Fridays | I try to use the end of my work week to both take care of myself, and finish strong

I schedule self-care appointments for late in the week (like haircuts, summer pedicures, etc.) as a reward and wind down to my week. I try to get a 3-way Power-Up into my Thursdays by hiking with my sister (the three power ups being exercise, connection, and being out in nature). I attend my weekly meditation group on Friday mornings. And I squeeze in any remaining activity necessary to wrap up my goals for the week, or catch up on any missed exercise.

Weekends | For me, weekends are for family time, and there's generally little to no structure and lots of down time. Sometimes I wonder if our weekends could benefit from a bit more structure, actually, but that's a blog post for another day.

There you have it. Six principles for how I manage my time, and my sample weekly schedule. It's a work-in-progress, and I'm always looking for ways to improve and learn from what others do. I'd love to hear your tips!

2 comments:

  1. This is an AWESOME post! Very, very helpful. Two things I noticed right off the bat--I like that you look back at the previous week. I think I should do this more, just to take in what has been accomplished and to feel the momentum going forward. Also, I like that in the beginning of the week you might cancel things to get yourself some more time blocks. THANK YOU FOR THIS POST!

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