Set Out Your Day-Tight Schedule: Step 4 of the 7 Step Maximum Productivity Process

4th in a series of articles outlining my 7 Step Maximum Productivity Process.
Click here if you’d like to start at Step 1.

Set out your Day-tight scheduleThis week we take all the actions you’ve mapped out in order to reach your goals and fit them into a schedule that is easy to maintain yet designed for maximum productivity and peace of mind.

The first article in this series referred to ‘day-tight compartments’ as described in Dale Carnegie’s “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”, where he discusses Dr. William Osler’s speech to Yale medical students in 1913 where Osler discusses his secret to success using a ship’s water tight compartments as an analogy for successful time management:

… The load of tomorrow, added to that of yesterday, carried today, makes the strongest falter. Shut off the future as tightly as the past. … The future is today. … There is no tomorrow. The day of man’s salvation is now. Waste of energy, mental distress, nervous worries dog the steps of a man who is anxious about the future. … Shut close, then the great fore and aft bulkheads, and prepare to cultivate the habit of life of ‘day-tight compartments’.”

The basis of my 7 Step Maximum Productivity Process is this method of keeping total focus on what you are going to do today — and choosing what to do today based on the goals defined & prioritized in Step 2 and the actions mapped in Step 3.

Step 4: Set out Your “Day-tight” Schedule

  • Initial set up of your schedule will take a couple of hours and you may need to tweak your methods as you go along and see how it works for you.
  • Make your scheduling easy with the right tools.
    I use Google Calendar for scheduling as I find it has all the features I need to keep me to my schedule:

    • access to the calendar on all my devices: desktop, laptop, mobile phone, etc.;
    • ability to ‘invite’ other users if any activities involve them and share calendars with business partners, staff and family — even my kids have their own calendars and get invites to work on the chores I have prioritized for the day;
    • separate yet integrated calendars for business, personal and other organisations I deal with;
    • alerts to keep me on track – via email, text or pop-up notification
    • easy ways to add and edit events (i.e. drag and drop to change date or time of activity when using the desktop)
    • ability to add as repeat events.

You may have an app or other tool that you are already using for calendar/tasks that will be just as handy, but make sure you get most of these features. (If you have a calendar/tasks app that you love, please tell us about it in the comments below.)

  • Schedule time at the start of your ‘business’ day to review what you are going to do today and mark the start of your focused work period.
Your "Day-tight" Schedule

Google Calendar

  • Determine the number of top priority activities you can undertake in the time allotted for the day. Always keep in mind that you only want to schedule enough activities that you can give complete attention to and do your very best with.  If you try to cram too many things into a day, you are setting yourself up to fail. It’s better to have some extra time, either for yourself or to work on the next day’s tasks, than to feel that you haven’t accomplished enough in the day and have a back log of activities to catch up on.  There will be no more ‘catching up’. You just reschedule and keep moving forward!
  • Schedule in your every day activities, household and other personal activities that you must do right along with the business tasks that you will undertake. Usually people only create schedules for their business activities, but when you have a lot of high priority personal activities, these must be included and taken into account.
  • Schedule in rest. Again, I agree with one of Dale Carnegie’s principles: “…to prevent fatigue and worry, the first rule is rest often. Rest before you get tired.” You need to have regular breaks to refresh and recharge. How many of us just push ourselves further and further until we are ready to collapse?  It’s not only bad for us physically, but you aren’t going to be performing at your best under those conditions — and you won’t be able to sustain it for very long. One thing I learned during pregnancy and still know is true — by the time you really feel tired, it’s too late.
  • At the end of the time allotted for business review what you did and didn’t get done, note any areas that you may improve on.  For example, if something came up that caused you to take longer on an action or something unscheduled that kept you from getting to a scheduled action, look at why it wasn’t scheduled, did you not estimate the time correctly, etc.?

Every day your ability to estimate the time to do tasks and what tasks to schedule will get better and better. Don’t forget to reward yourself when you do complete all of your tasks as scheduled!

Next week, in Step 5, we are going to look into the future!

What to watch out for…

Be realistic with the timings.  
You may have found managing your time hard before because you weren’t getting things done in the amount of time you thought you would.  That’s a good excuse to just stop scheduling altogether. You were probably trying to get too much done in a short period of time or being overly optimistic.  There is a time for optimism, but this is a time to get real!

“Keep your eye on the prize.”
For each activity in the schedule, note what goal it is that the activity is leading you to and how much closer you will be to your goal when you finish that task. This can really help motivate you to keep focused and move closer to your goal.

Are the emergencies that pop up, really emergencies…
…or are they the things that you just hoped wouldn’t happen? I was going to suggest that you add in some time as a buffer for just in case, but I now realize that is a cop out. Real emergencies do come up and you need to reschedule to handle them. For other things that pop up and aren’t REAL emergencies — with a good schedule there won’t be as many things that you’ve forgotten to do and then have to interrupt your planned activities for. Then there’s those things that you just hoped wouldn’t happen so didn’t plan well for. You need to plan and anticipate for everything you need to do, even those things you don’t particularly want to do — and you need to keep control of your time. If you just allow a meeting to go on and on because you do not want to put off the client by being upfront with your needs or terms — it is your choice to give up that control. From now on you need to make the choice to keep control!

7 Day Challenge for the Week

Each day practice what you’ve built in the previous steps:

  1. Be mindful that you don’t have to get EVERYTHING done today, just the things that you have determined that you will do today — to the very best of your ability.
  2. Focus on your highest priority goals…
  3. …and the actions required to meet those goals.

Set out your day-tight schedule:

  • Select the tool that you are going to use to maintain your schedule.
  • Allocate time in your schedule for regularly occurring activities:
    • every day activities
    • actions mapped for your goals that occur on a regular basis
    • rest and recreation
    • review at start and end of the day

For the next 7 days, stick to your day-tight schedule:

  • At the start of each day, determine how much time you have in your schedule.
  • Schedule in the the days activities, from the actions mapped in Step 2
    • in order of priority and necessity
    • ensuring that you have the time to give complete attention to and can do your very best with each action selected for the day.
  • If you complete tasks more quickly than expected, pull in the next highest priority action.
  • Stay focused only on this day’s activities — not what you didn’t do in the past or need to do in the future.
  • At the end of each day, review your progress for the day. If you didn’t complete all the planned tasks — and also if you found yourself with a lot of time remaining — reassess your plan and note where you went off track and what you need to improve on in order to get the maximum productivity in the future.
    • Reward yourself when you complete all the actions in the day.

If you are finding this a lot of work, but each day you stick with the system you will find it easier and easier. The most effort is at the start when you are setting up and getting used to scheduling.  After this week it will become natural and the next steps will also help you get more successful with it.

Any questions or challenges, please leave a comment below.
Do you have any tricks to maintain your schedule that I haven’t mentioned?!