Schedule for Success
“If only I had the time!”
Sound like something you’ve said? More than once, I’m sure.
We all wish we had more time to accomplish what we need to do. And this problem can reach critical mass when you’re changing careers. Time is a resource that’s limited and more precious than gold.
I’m not waxing poetic here. Gold cannot buy you time. But time can “buy” you wealth and success … if you spend your time wisely.
That’s the key: Spending your time wisely.
There are two parts to spending your time wisely. The first is avoiding distractions that suck away time and eat away your chance of success. I’ll be talking about these in a future issue of The Golden Thread.
The other part of using time wisely is mapping out exactly how you’re going to spend this precious commodity. You do this by writing out a schedule for every day of the week.
Learning from my students …
Back when I was working as a teacher of severely disabled youngsters, I had a huge challenge with time. I had between 9 and 12 students, each with a detailed individual educational plan with structured objectives.
If we wanted to accomplish these objectives, we simply could not wing it. We had to make sure we used every minute of class time productively. The only way to do that was to set up a detailed schedule.
When I knew I’d be transitioning to copywriting while I was still working, I had an even bigger time challenge. Work took at least a 50-hour chunk out of every week. Copywriting training and the writing itself took almost as much time.
I knew if I was going to survive, I’d have to develop a schedule. So I used the same strategy I used for my classroom schedule. Here’s what I did that you can do to help build your success …
1. Look inside yourself …
The key to a successful schedule starts with knowing when you work best. When do your ideas flow most freely? You’ll want to schedule around those times of day as much as possible.
2. Gather your schedule materials …
To make my strategy work, you won’t be using just a pen and paper. You’ll also need:
- “Butcher” paper, about 4' x 8'
- Index cards
- Different colored markers
- A space where you can spread everything out
3. Draw your weekly schedule skeleton …
Draw eight columns (up and down) that cover almost the entire butcher paper. Fill in the days of the week across the top starting in the second column. Draw horizontal lines across the paper to represent times during the day.
Fill in times in the far left column starting at least an hour before you normally wake up. Continue in half hour increments until you get to an hour after you normally go to bed.
Your calendar would look something like this:
Once you have your skeleton laid out, it’s time to start filling in your schedule.
4. Start with inflexible times …
Write directly on your schedule the times during your week you have absolutely no control over. This could be COS class times, your other job, church, time committed to helping an aging parent, dinner prep.
5. Take care of your “semi-inflexible” activities …
There’s a difference between inflexible times and activities with “semi-inflexible” times. Semi-inflexible times are activities that need to be done at a particular time, but maybe you don’t have to do them.
For instance, if you drive in your child’s car pool, that’s a semi-inflexible time. You can negotiate with your car pool members.
Choose a different colored marker than before and fill in the semi-inflexible parts of your schedule on index cards. Use as many cards as needed to cover every day for those semi-inflexible times.
Put these index cards where you’re currently doing those activities.
6. Take care of your flexible activities …
Exercise, housework, laundry, regular household maintenance. These are things you have to do, but you can do almost any time you want. Fill index cards with these activities in a different color marker. Put them where you normally do them or where you’d like to do them.
7. Plan for relaxation …
You cannot work without taking some time to renew yourself. Pick several times during the week for relaxation activities. You don’t have to be specific. Write something like “free time” on index cards using a different color marker.
Pick some times when you’re normally at your lowest work energy in the day. Place these cards there.
8. Stake out your work times …
Once you have this first draft schedule, you’ll see free spots to commit to your copywriting success: writing, studying, researching.
It’s likely some of this time isn’t during your best work times. This is why you used index cards. Shuffle all the flexible, semi-flexible, and relaxation cards around until you free up as much time during your peak times as possible.
How much time? It’d be great if you can commit one to one and a half hours a day, everyday. But I know not everybody can do that. So, aim for five hours a week.
Once you look at your master schedule carefully, you’ll probably see blocks of non-copywriting time you can reduce or eliminate. Or wake up 30 minutes earlier. Or go to bed 30 minutes later.
Once you have these work times established, write them directly on your schedule in marker. These are now inflexible “my success” times.
9. The final steps …
Once your success schedule is final, hang it up where you – and your family – can see it. If it’s too big for that, copy it onto a smaller paper. Hang that up.
Show it to your family. Explain how your success times are inflexible. Then stick to it. You’ll find the greatest challenge to staying on schedule is you.
What do you think of this schedule strategy? Do you have one that works for you? You can let us all know by commenting in the comment section below. We’d love to hear from you.
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