I am always deeply curious about how the really effective, productive, successful people plan their days and spend their time.
Do they spend it swanning around, lazing by the swimming pool or perhaps hanging out at rooftop bars?
I think not.
I think they are ruthless about their time management and planning what matters in their life.
And if there’s one thing that I’ve learned over ten years in business, is that:
Discipline equals freedom.
I’ll let you in on a secret. I’m a free spirit, who for many years used to say “I want to do what I want, when I want and I want to choose where I want to travel and I only want to work on these things today.”
I realised pretty quickly though that what I was doing, wasn’t actually giving me freedom.
This was being disorganized, not being accountable to what matters and not taking responsibility for how I wanted to live my life and how I wanted to spend my time.
If you are one of those people too, I totally get it.
But you are actually becoming your own worst enemy by living like this. You are creating your own version of chaos by not planning out what matters, what is actually important and how you wish to spend your work, creative and free time.
If you are somebody who has so many daily things on your To-Do list you’re also setting yourself up to fail because, what I realised a couple of years ago, when I took a very good hard look at my calendar is this:
We don’t actually have that much time. We don’t have that much time from the moment we awake.
If you take out time for eating sleeping, fitness, friends, family, social events, meetings appointments and all those other wonderful things that just make up life and are also important, guess how much time you actually have?.
Research has proven it to be around three focused productive hours of work a day. THREE!
Results from a study by VoucherCloud in the U.K revealied that employee productivity averages just two hours and 53 minutes per day.
Now of course, we have more than that depending on how effective we are as entrepreneurs and freelancers!
But in reality if you take into account disruptions, distractions, procrastinating and life, at the end of the day if you actually just allowed yourselves three hours a day, and that’s all you do, I can guarantee you would use those three hours so much more effectively than you currently do.
Behind the scenes of how I plan out my day and week for productivity
If you watch my vlog here you’ll see me actually sharing my calendar on my laptop screen.
I want you to not freak out because it looks really full on with lots of beautiful colours. What I want you to focus on is how I block out exactly what I want to work on as well as my free time which is baked in to my calendar.
That means date nights with Josh, walking with the dogs, fitness, massages, dinners with friends, cultural events and afternoons off.
What I’m then left with then is exact amount of time that I have in my day to work on the stuff that matters.
This might be more free time and fun events with people I love. Or it might be really really focused work on my business.
Doing this, is the single most important switch that I have made in my life. It’s what we teach in our Life Pilot 10 Day Challenge – how to structure out your goals and actions each day, week, month etc and put YOU time + self care + holidays first.
That’s because you and I know, from experience, that the first thing that gets taken away when you’re stressed out or really busy is your free time on weekends and evenings, as well as your holidays and vacation time.
If you’re saying “Natalie, I never give up my holidays!” – well good for you because that’s the way it should be.
But I do see too many entrepreneurs going:
“I’ve just got to work this weekend” or;
“I’ve got to do another late night” or;
“I’m going to skip yoga to finish this client deal” or;
“I’m not going to make it to my gym class because I have to finish this proposal today”.
This has to stop!
If you knew how much as possible to achieve in a day, in fact in three hours or less, and you actually were more realistic about where your time goes and what you can achieve, you would condense the amount of work that you have to, into a shorter time frame and do far more effective work.
How I use my calendar for daily planning
Step 1: Block it out
I block out 15 minutes of planning every single morning at 6:45am. This may not sound like much but it lets me look at my three things in my Life Pilot spreadsheet for the day and ask myself, whether these tasks (that I set the night before) are still a priority for today.
I also look ahead at my weekly goals to make sure I’m on track to meet them, and then I check my calendar to make sure that once I’ve hit those three most important things, I’ve allocated time for other activities too, including downtime.
Then I go in and schedule chunks of time throughout the day for work projects including a time for email, so that it doesn’t distract me from the important work.
Most of this I colour code in blue for business, that way I can see green for lifestyle, yellow for personal growth/ learning and more.
Remember what gets scheduled, gets done!
The only reason my calendar system works is that I commit to it.
If the rebel in you looks at your calendar you’ve set out and says “Nah, I don’t feel like doing that right now”, then make damn sure you move that task to a time on the same day, or that week so it still gets DONE!
Step 2: Track your time
I use toggl.com for tracking every minute of my day. I love it.
I use the desktop application and simply put in the description of what I’m working on, assign it to a project e.g Freedom Plan Book, Freedomist Vlog, Launch Planning etc.
That way at the end of the day, I can see exactly how much time things are actually taking me to do throughout the day.
Over a period of days and weeks this gives you a really clear picture of where your time is going, versus where you think you’re spending it.
It also gives you a very clear idea of what things take up too much time and where you don’t spend enough time. You can’t hide from the data.
What’s more you can share this with your team members and also see their reports, you can Toggl client work to the second as well.
Step 3: Pomodoro it
The Pomodoro method is a lifesaver. You simply set a timer on your phone, watch or use the Toggl Pomodoro setting, and work for 25 minutes on ONE thing.
After that time is up take a 5 minute break. This is critical to your energy and motivation levels.
Even if you’re in flow, trust me, take a break!
I go out and throw the Frisbee to the dogs, I drop down and do some press ups or sit ups. I jump around and dance to music I love, I kiss Josh, or jump or I might leave a friend a quick video or audio message to say hi.
When that timer goes off, get straight back into it. That’s it. Then rinse and repeat, but after 2-3 hours straight, take a good half hour break for lunch or a workout or a walk in nature.
I can I tell you those time constraints by using the Pomodoro methodology is amazing for making you just focus in on what exactly needs to be done and do it as quickly and effectively as you can.
Step 4. Schedule in fun and reflection
In my calendar I have breakfast with Josh or at a cafe, lunch, workouts and fun time.
At 9pm I also have reflection time where I look at how my day went, I do my gratitudes and I check the Life Pilot spreadsheet to see what I hit, missed or progressed in terms of my three most important actions.
Steph 5. Rinse and repeat
After the reflection time I then set my three goals or intentions for the next day, based off my weekly goals and even my monthly. That’s because I have all those baked into the Life Pilot tool, including my 3 year vision.
The results speak for themselves
For those of you always wondering how to turn your big dreams into a daily action, this is how.
Life Pilot, Google Calendar and Toggl have helped me build a very clear picture about my behaviours and habits.
It has shown me a clear pattern, over 17 months of using it, for what is really working in my life and where I continue to procrastinate or let myself down.
These colour-coded trends on the key areas of my life show me what times of the day I really shouldn’t schedule in deep work focused work – like writing, producing, strategising or proposals.
As well as the best times of the day that I’m better off doing a workout and recharging, or hosting a meeting.
Before I never fully understand just how ‘little’ time I actually had in any given day, I was always overestimating and putting too many tasks into my days and weeks to achieve and then coming up short.
I also wasn’t balancing out the key areas of my life – not that it was all work, in fact if anything it was more lifestyle!
But health, my relationships, wealth, personal growth – I wasn’t factoring them into my everyday activities, which meant I wasn’t focusing on them, which ultimately meant I didn’t improve them or get anything done or progressed.
It’s been a game changer for me and has been transforming other people’s lives because it is a system for life planning that focuses on your head, heart and gut – therefore what really matters to you.
It’s the reason why I can go into September feeling excited and nervous about the launch of my Freedom Plan book and Accelerator, but fully aware of exactly what I need to accomplish and how to fit that in around life, fun and self care.
Its been transformative. I want that for you to.
Head to lifepilot.co to join our next LIVE 10 Day Challenge.