How to plan the week by creating your Week Map

We often struggle to “find time”.
Find the time to exercise. Find the time to read. Find the time to socialise. Find the time to finish an important task.

Balancing your available time can be a challenge.

And yet, whenever we have a spare hour or even a whole weekend, too many of us treat it like money found in a coat’s pocket.
Because it wasn’t expected, it gets spent on whatever next thing comes along. Usually an unnecessary one.

Even worse. Available time is always so little and so scattered, that you can never use it intentionally.

In the meantime, meaningful activities keep waiting.

How can you maximise your time without adding a ton of stress to your week?
How can you boost your productivity, and balance all the areas of your life?

Enter your Week Map.

The Week Map is a plan for the whole week.
It considers everything that’s important:

  • your long-term goals
  • recurring activities
  • breaks and commute
  • enjoyable time off
  • learning and personal growth
  • social time

It’s made to include and balance all different areas of your life.
It also leverages constraints to compress more things in a week.
And, just in case you’re wondering, it also leaves as much time as you desire for last-minute planning.

Here’s how to navigate through this guide:

Part 1: What’s sabotaging your week
Part 2: How to create your Week Map
Part 3: Move your schedule to your calendar
Part 4: How to track your time every week [advanced]
Bonus: The week of your dreams [advanced]

Let’s jump right into it.


how to plan your week1

Part 1: What’s sabotaging your week

Before going into creating your weekly strategy, let’s have a quick look at why you should even bother.
You might have the best intentions, and all the motivation in the world. But somehow, things never go according to plan.

Here are invisible forces shaping your day when you don’t come prepared.

Missing the big picture

Most people plan the next hour, many plan the day.
With such a narrow perspective, it’s hard to be intentional.
No wonder we get stressed over a deadline we could have seen coming (or avoid altogether). Or decide to lie on the sofa even when…we said we couldn’t wait to go to the gym.

Most people plan the next hour, many people plan the next day, high performers plan the next week. Click To Tweet

Behind the scenes, here’s what happens.
When we think about the future, we engage a different part of the brain than we do when thinking about the present.
We are wired to make lighthearted decisions about the future, and then stress out when it becomes the present.

Decision fatigue

Willpower has a daily cap. Research shows that our ability to make rational decisions diminishes as we move through the day.
No matter whether you’re deciding on breakfast, what task to work on next, or whether to say yes or no to friends wanting to meet: the more willpower you use, the less you’ll have left.

decision fatigue

At a certain point in the day, you will go to your default choice, or the easiest one to take. Most of the time, it’s a half-hearted yes.
With plenty of choices every day, we spread our willpower on things that don’t matter, and then have none left for things that are actually important.

When you don’t plan and miss the bigger picture, you’ll fall victim of your weakened willpower. You will take the easiest choice, rather than the most important or most enjoyable.

Parkinson’s law

In 1955, C N Parkinson studied the growing bureaucratic machine of the British empire. He noted: “It is a commonplace observation that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
Since then, this has been dubbed ‘Parkinson’s law‘.

parkinson's law

Do you know when you’re faster and nimbler as a deadline approaches? As available time shrinks, you become hyper-focused and productive.

Well, it turns out—it’s not just you.

During the first world war, a decision by the British government to cut hours at munitions plants made workers healthier and also more productive.
In more recent times, Sweden has been trying out a six-hour workday, with a variety of companies cutting their working week to improve wellbeing. So far, companies involved have reported improvements in productivity and lower staff turnover.

And yet, when you miss the bigger picture, it’s easy to think you can expand your current activity into the next hour. And then the next hour again. You keep procrastinating and let work expand to fill in the extra time.

Here’s a summary of all the things influencing your week.

Plan your week, design your life

In 1527, cartographer Diogo Ribeiro made the first scientific world map. The largest empires at the time were developing a system of maps to help them define, understand, and navigate their way through the world.

Expanding tasks, last minute invitations, underestimating future commitments, other people demanding our time, and then work, family, reading, fitness,…

The obstacles along your week are many.

To create a balanced week, draw your own Week Map.
This will help you define, understand, and navigate your way through your time.

Without a map, how will you get to your destination?

The freedom of maps

I know what you’re thinking.

Planning the whole week sounds scary.

And that’s exactly right. It sounds scary.
But it actually takes all the stress away.

Like a world map, it allows you to spot difficulties ahead, and come prepared. And, because it allows you to see the bigger picture, you can see the future consequences of your present choices.

Yuor present choices determine your future choices. Click To Tweet

Plus, we’re not just going to plan the week.
We are going to design our own map, giving priority to what actually matters to us, regardless of what last-minute commitments look like.


how to create your weekly schedule template

Part 2: How to create your Week Map

Taking back control of your week

The biggest advantage of having a Week Map is that it allows you to be in control of how you use your time.

We all spend our 24 hours at the speed of one minute per minute.
The only choice we have is about what to do with those 24 hours.

The reactive approach only looks at one activity at a time: the next activity.
A text from a friend asking to go for a drink, the next task on your to-do list, an email pulling you away from what you had planned for the next hour.
This approach relies on a first come, first served basis, and uses ‘yes’ as the default answer.

The proactive approach looks at the whole picture to ensure that all the important activities get the priority they deserve. This is across the different areas of your life: work, fitness, family, friends, relaxing, learning, or whatever is important to you.
This approach uses a priority principle and has ‘no’ as the default answer.

proactive reactive

The quickest way to switch from reactive to proactive approach is to realise that saying ‘yes’ is actually another way to say ‘no’. Whenever you decide to use your limited time on a particular activity or with a certain person, you are also saying no to everything else. Even though it may be more important.

Whenever you say yes, you're actually saying no to everything else. Click To Tweet

Design your Ideal Week

The first step to creating your Week Map is to…design your ideal week.
I first heard about this concept from Michael Hyatt, who uses a simple spreadsheet to plan the week you would live if you could control 100% of what happens. Total game changer.

This is your blank canvas to design your time: what would you do if you had control of all the variables in your week?
Once you create it, you won’t have to touch it ever again (unless you want to experiment or change your weekly rhythm).

I have created a template for you, which includes time tracking (we’ll talk about that below).
Sign up here and I’ll send you a Google Spreadsheet you can copy and use to design your own week and track time.

What to include in your week

Your ideal week should contain everything, from events to tasks you need to get done. In other words, include everything that takes more than 15 minutes.

plan your ideal week

Don’t get too granular: you won’t know each week’s specific tasks, but you can estimate your weekly workload.
For example, I know that I am going to need at least 6 hours of uninterrupted time to write. I like to break those into two 3-hour chunks, Wednesday and Thursday.
I might not not what I will write on a specific week (yet), but I know that writing will be there.

Having “writing” in my week map allows me to make sure I always have time to focus and get lost in my own writing. No sweat.

Sometimes it may take me a bit longer or shorter, and I will adjust (and then learn) accordingly.

how to plan your week2

Part 3: Move your schedule to your calendar

Boom. Now that you’ve designed your ideal week, it’s time to bring it all into your calendar and create your first Week Map.

I like to use Fantastical for Mac and iOS: I love the interface and how easy it is to add events and amend existing ones. However, you can do this in any calendar.

Look at your ideal week spreadsheet, and select the activities that repeat every single week. Then add them to your calendar, and set them to repeat every week.

What about those activities that are different each week?

Great question. If it’s an important activity, put a placeholder in the calendar. You might have to move it around, but it will make sure that you book some time for what’s important.

Here’s an example.

In my schedule, I have blocks for social time and training.
I train pretty much at the same time, but not on the same days.
And socials…well, they’re not regimented by definition. That’s great!

I can move around my social and fitness blocks every week, but they must fit somewhere. You are setting up an event for events that matter, to make sure that the unimportant won’t take over.

If you leave your calendar empty, someone else will fill it up for you.

Other examples of flexible blocks are:

  • team meetings
  • client calls
  • me time
  • fitness
  • cooking and meal planning
  • socials

You can then adjust each week on your planning day to create your Week Map.

⚠️ Things to keep in mind ⚠️

Don’t be a perfectionist.
Trying to get your blocks perfect will throw you off track.
Aim for 80% accuracy, and adjust for the rest.

Don’t overdo it.
Keep your blocks high-level, don’t be too specific on the task.

Life isn’t a regimented experience.
Make sure you leave blank space for breaks and leeway.

Batch similar tasks.
Working on similar tasks at the same time is a great way to reduce your time and increase effectiveness. It also creates great blocks for your Week Map (and stops you from being too specific).

Should you use different calendars?

I used to use different colour-coded calendars for different things (writing, social time, exercising,…) but I stopped when I realised…they’re all part of my life.
Dividing them into specific calendars I was putting each activity against each other, instead of looking at the big picture.

However, I love to use emojis to connote each kind of activity, and I suggest you do it too, as it will help you understand your day and week at a glance, and learn from how you use your time.

Here are some of my favourites:
💕 = social or me time
🦄 = growth
💬 = coaching
💪 = training
📖 = intentional learning
💌 = replying to readers’ emails
…and a few more.

Don’t create too many, or you won’t be able to categorise how you spend your time at the end of the week.

Quickly plan the next week in advance

Every week, set aside some time to plan the week ahead.
I like to do this on Sunday afternoon, but Saturday and Monday work too. Make sure you add this to your calendar.
This may sound counterintuitive. Investing one hour to map your time will save you many wasted hours as the week unfolds.

During my mapping session, I review my past week (more below) and plan out the next 7 days. I review my monthly objectives, my ideal week, and my commitments ahead.

Here’s what to consider:
1) How you feel: you might need more sleep, be more social, or just hyperactive. However you feel, make sure you structure your week to take that into account.
2) Your objectives for the month and week: what do you want to accomplish by the end of the week? What will get you closer to your monthly goals?
3) Your commitments this week: whether it’s a flight to catch, a conference to attend, or a night at the theatre, every week will be different. Look at your commitments to be realistic.
4) What’s in your ideal week: when you start mapping, your calendar will already have lots of recurring events. Some will stay where they are, but others will be moved around to fit each particular week. Spot patterns to learn and improve your map, but also add activities you’ve kept on the back burner for now.

The all-important rule (why this won’t work for you)

Using your calendar to create your Week Map is a powerful tool that allows you to take control of your time and have a balanced week.

As a side benefit, you can rely on your calendar without having to remember whether you’re free or not, and weigh the consequences of saying yes on the spot. Open your calendar, and you will be reminded of your priorities and commitments.
More on your calendar, less on your mind.

This brings an incredible sense of freedom and removes the stress of having to take micro-decisions about your time.

But.

You have to commit 100%.
If you don’t use your calendar for everything, you won’t be able to trust it, and you just get frustrated and give up.

The golden rule is: if it’s not in the calendar, it doesn’t exist.

If it's not in the calendar, it doesn't exist. Click To Tweet

 


how to track your time

Part 4: How to track your time every week [advanced]

The main challenge when it comes to scheduling your time is that sometimes you have to guess, and sometimes…you just don’t know how much time you actually spend on different activities.

If only we could look at our calendar and see everything we did during the week at a glance…

Track your time as you go

Mapping out your whole week in advance gives you a bird’s eye view of your next seven days, allowing you to prioritise and balance your activities. You can make better decisions without falling victim of the forces influencing your week.

Having your week map adds another great advantage: at the end of the week, you can look back and learn how you actually spend time.

You have to do one thing: adjust your events as you go.

For example, say that you scheduled a whole afternoon to…write a blogpost (random example).
You factored in 6 hours, but it only took you 4.
At the end of the day (or right there and then), make sure you adjust that event to reflect what actually happened.

calendar planning

In those extra two hours, you might have…read a book or call a friend. Well, make sure you add that in as an event (and categorise it accordingly).

Then, let’s say you decided to move your workout from Wednesday to Thursday in order to see a friend for dinner. Or maybe you just didn’t feel like working out and dropped it.
Cool. Make sure you move or delete the event accordingly.

Your calendar needs to reflect and predict reality.
If you can only trust it 99% of the time, you will end up not trusting it and you will stop using it.

What to track

Now, during your weekly mapping session, look back and keep track of what’s most important to you.

For example, I like to keep track of how much time I spent writing and how much I actually produced.
This showed me that I am becoming a faster (and hopefully better) writer, but also that giving myself less time to write makes me more productive and creative.

Here’s what I track, and what I think you should too.

  • Who I spent time with. 💕
    This has lifted the quality of my life, and keeps doing so.
    Writing down everyone I intentionally saw during the week shows me how socially active I have been, and whether it matched my mood and workload.I then go through the list and ask myself ‘why?’.
    Any answer works here, but they usually range from “I enjoy spending time with them”, to “I helped them do x”, or “they helped me do x”.
    If I don’t have an answer other than “I couldn’t say no”, I know something is not right, as I am taking time away from relationships that are more than a zero-sum game.
    This has given me extra awareness, helped me upgrade my friendships and strengthen the ones I care about the most, since I am able to dedicate them more time and attention.
  • How many times I went to the gym. 💪
    On most weeks, this happens 4 times. Working out supports my energy levels, my health, my sense of progress, and my discipline.
    If it’s less than 4 for more than two weeks in a row, this is a red flag to readjust my priorities and my workload.
  • If I went on my weekly run. 🏃
  • How many hours I spent on my number one business goal. 🦄
    This allows me to keep my finger on the pulse of…my own progress. If I haven’t spent enough time on this category, I look at the rest of my week (and the goal itself) to understand how I can do better and regain momentum the next week.
  • How many hours I spent on language learning. 🗯️
    To put things into perspective, this is usually between 2-3.5 hours, and it’s the result of two daily 10 minute sessions plus a weekly call.
    Compound gains!
  • How many hours I spent on intentional learning. 📖
    This is, how much time I spent on a specific topic I intentionally want to know more about?
  • How many weekly comfort challenges I did.✋
    I currently strive for one or two.

Like mapping your week, tracking your time will take some commitment. If you did your homework and adjusted events during the week, it won’t take long (and you won’t have to guess).
The returns are incredible, as each week you will continue to upgrade your performance and overall happiness.

Learn from the past week to create a better one, each week. Click To Tweet

create your schedule

Bonus: The week of your dreams [advanced]

One last time mapping secret.
If you are working towards a major life change, including a new job, a new house, a new city, a new family, a new or growing business, or if you just want to push the reset button…I suggest you create the map of your dreams.

This is the kind of week your current constraints don’t allow you to live on a regular basis (yet), but that you aspire to build and live.

Following the exact same steps as in Part 2, map out the week of your dreams. What will you do once you have made that big change happen?

map your wishweek

This is particularly important if you are working towards a life changing goal: deciding what your weekly life will look like will make it more concrete and give you an extra dose of motivation.
But it will also allow you to start from a blank slate before new commitments and old behaviours shape it out on your behalf.

It will create a clear goal for how you want to be spending your time.

Plan the week, design your life

Ok, now you have the principles, the steps, and even the tools to map out your week.

You’ll be creating a custom template for your own weekly schedule.

The first step is to move from the reactive approach—where you always do whatever’s next and struggle to balance everything, to the proactive approach—you’re not afraid to say no and you prioritise your activities looking at the medium-long term.

To do that, design your static ideal week, and then move it to your calendar to create your week map.

Every week, reserve one hour to map the week ahead and look at your previous week, so you can track how you spend your time, and learn how to improve every week.

Finally, you can take it one step forward and create the week of your dreams, to have a clear vision of what to aspire to, and start creating change daily.

Now it’s your turn to take action and design your own week, each week.
If you don’t do it, you will be always playing catch up, chasing rainbows wondering why you can’t ‘find’ the time.

To help you take action, I have created a template for you, which includes time tracking (we’ll talk about that below).
Sign up here and I’ll send you a Google Spreadsheet you can copy and use to design your own week and track time.

Welcome to your best week yet.

— Matt

 



plan your week