What's your plan for next week? You'll probably head into the office on Monday morning, get stuck into the task list, then spend a lot of your time (and energy) over the remainder of the week focused on work.
If there is any time left over you might have dinner with colleagues one night, squeeze in a few fitness sessions and spend a bit of time with family and friends.
The reality is that most people have specific goals around what they need to achieve at work (in the simplest form, this is called keeping your job) yet spend very little time planning life outside of work.
Spending time planning activities at work (including meetings, time for thinking and planning, time to work without distraction) and using the same skills to plan your personal life (fitness activities, hobbies and passions, learning, quality time with family and friends) is what I call a “Better Week”. It's never going to be perfect, but locking a range of activities into your diary is a proven way to keep you accountable, help you feel more in control and allocate time to what is important in all parts of your life.
What to include in your Better Week
At The Performance Clinic we get people to plan four key areas – psychology (the way you think and connect), recovery (the way you balance stress), physiology (the way you eat and move) and productivity (the way you work).
• Plot some quality time to spend with family or friends. This doesn't include watching television together. An example might be switching off the internet and all electronic devices on a Wednesday evening and actually talking to each other, like we did in the old days. Or a weekly or fortnightly date night with your partner.
• Schedule time for your own interests and hobbies such as playing the piano, studying or volunteering at the local sports club.
• Plot one or two activities that help lower the heart rate and slow down breathing, like a warm bath (without your mobile), deep breathing or meditation.
• Choose something you can do each day for five to 10 minutes to recharge (taking a lunch break counts, as long as you leave your desk).
• A 30-minute massage is a great way to recharge your body quickly.
• Book permanent fitness sessions in your diary. An example might be a run before work on Tuesday morning, tennis on Wednesday night and a weights circuit with colleagues on Friday morning.
• Make yourself accountable with a family member, friend, colleagues, or a personal trainer.
• Plot the meetings you have regularly, but be ruthless though and try to cut out the meetings that don't add value. Aim to compress the others (45 minute default meetings are great).
• Schedule time to plan each day. Spending 10 to 15 minutes mapping out your day is a proven way to stay focused and reduces the risk of being distracted all day and doing what's called 'majoring in minors'.
• Put in time for “forced isolation” (ie. thinking and planning) so you can work uninterrupted at least for a few hours each week.
Leave a margin
It's important to not book every minute of every day. Remember as schoolchildren how we had to rule a five-centimetre margin in our exercise books? The metaphor of leaving some white space in your Better Week is a good one to follow.
Better Week case study
Pete Birch, Bankwest's head of productivity, is constantly seeking out new ways to improve efficiency and optimise processes. He mapped out a Better Week in relation to the way he worked, including email techniques and putting specific time in his diary for thinking, planning and working better with his support team.
“I was sceptical at first but this process has enhanced my levels of control and comfort, allowing me more time to participate in all parts of my life,” he says.
“Specific time for thinking has increased my productivity in a way I never thought imaginable and this process has freed up a lot of extra hours per week at work, plus I'm much less reactive.”
The extra time and energy Birch is saving by working a lot smarter – in addition to making himself accountable by putting a range of activities in his diary as permanent bookings - means he has more capacity to engage in activities in his personal life. “Fitness is now a core part of my week. I still don't love it, but I know what it does for me,” he says.
“I mostly stick to my training plan. I have lost 25 kilograms and my energy rating has gone from two out of 10 to a nine. I also plan more activities with the family and they have noticed a huge difference in me being present.”
What are your tips to achieving what you need to, both at work and at home?