You probably feel ‘important’ when you use your time ‘usefully’ and you don’t want to ‘waste’ time on things that only bring you fun and joy but don’t help you ‘get things done’ …
What if you can have both? How can you plan your week to be productive, while still creating space for flexibility and listening to your body?
I felt inspired to write this month’s blog post after I saw a weekly planning platform that claimed to have found the most effective way to ‘nail your productivity system’. It said: “When you plan your week, you need to time block all 168 hours of the week ahead.”
I don’t know about you, but the thought alone made me feel overwhelmed.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been living in Peru for the past seven years, or because I’ve struggled with chronic disease… I wasn’t sure if it was just me, so I checked with an American friend of mine: “If you were planning your coming week, would you time block all 168 hours of the week?”
She was like: “I’m getting an anxiety attack from the thought alone! As a perfectionist, I would want to follow that schedule to the dot and I wouldn’t even listen to my body anymore.”
There it was.
I thought to myself: there MUST be a better way to help people with planning their week in a FLEXIBLE way.
Today, I’d like to share with you my 3 top tips tostart creating a flexible schedule:
Dare to listen to your body
Pick your 1 main focus + 3 smaller priorities
Take it down a notch (20% to be precise)
Let’s dive in!
1. Dare To Listen To Your Body
I think we can all agree that scheduling is a mental activity. You use your brain to think about your priorities and your to-do list, you calculate how much time you need for each task, you coordinate activities with colleagues or family members,… It’s all in the mind, right?
Once, I tried scheduling a dinner on Friday night in Peru. It was Tuesday, and my Peruvian friend said: “Friday!? I don’t know how I’m going to feel on Friday. *Vamos coordinando.” (*which is a vague Spanish expression to say: Let’s not plan too much in advance.)
I’m not saying you should get all flaky with your friends, but she did have a point here.
What about the way you’re FEELING that day?
Do you put aside how you’re feeling just to follow your schedule to the dot?
A headache? It will pass.
Didn’t sleep well? I got stuff to do.
Not feeling it? Suck it up.
It sounds odd, but we’ve forgotten how to live in our bodies, especially in the Western world.
One rule I've lived by ever since chronic disease entered my life, is: “Live in your body, not in your schedule.”
When you have a headache, your body is telling you something. Your body is the most accurate biofeedback tool. You don’t need a smartwatch or any other fancy equipment, your body is already giving you the data. You just need to listen.
You can have a fancy planner, and still feel like you’re ‘behind’.
You can even follow that fancy planner to the dot, and still feel like shit.
The key word here is FEELING.
Start using your body as your compass. It’s not easy when you spend most of your time thinking, creating, and problem-solving. I have clients who are musicians and photographers, and they spend so much mental energy trying to not lose grip on challenging linear tasks. Listening to your body takes baby steps.
If you’re looking for an easy way to give your brain a break and reconnect to your body, I have a 10-day audio course of just 5 minutes a day that teaches you the easiest tricks and techniques to wind down your busy brain for just 9 bucks. Click here to listen to Day 1 for free!
You are not a robot. You are not superhuman. If you think you can do it all, go to my Top Tip number 3!
2. Pick Your 1 Main Focus + 3 Smaller Priorities
Three years ago, my health coach (Yup, every coach needs a coach!) challenged me to stop using a to-do list. Yes, stop! She asked me: “If you stop using a to-do list for two weeks, do you think things won’t get done anymore?”
At first, I thought: I’d have to remember EVERYTHING!
But guess what? Stuff still got done.
My brain would start using its precious energy to only focus on the most important tasks. All the other ‘would be nice to do this someday’ items are just fluff that put pressure on us. By saying goodbye to an endless to-do list, I said goodbye to the fluff, too.
You know that little voice in your head reminding you that there are always more things to get done? It was gone. And it was so so freeing.
Today, I ONLY use a to-do list when I feel a bit overwhelmed in the morning because I know it’s going to be a busy day. Other than that, I only use my Weekly Review Template and keep my focus on the main theme or the main priorities I want to get done this week.
When you review your week, you can refresh your focus and quickly identify your top priority for the coming week.
You can download my free Weekly Review Template below and give it a try. You will learn from what’s working for you at this moment to get things done and feel balanced, and also learn from what is NOT working and how you can make improvements week by week.
Only by doing this exercise every week, you will feel more balanced, focused and satisfied, so that you can truly disconnect from work and enjoy your time off.
Weekly Review Template
Download this FREE Weekly review Template and start every week with more clarity and focus.
My last top tip is a very necessary Let’s Get Real Moment between you and me, my friend.
You and I are not so different from each other.
Yes, I had to learn the hard way to chill out and stop being overly productive. In that sense, chronic disease was really a gift.
Other than that, I still want to do a million things.
I still sometimes believe I never run out of battery.
I still think I’m superhuman, even though my energy levels will always be lower than others.
Whether you're a natural organizer or you despise it, you want to get stuff done. Period.
But you know what? You can do yourself a favor right now and start simplifying your life. Life will never stop happening, so take it down a notch and learn to go with the flow.
Have an honest look at this week’s schedule, right now. As if you were looking at it from a friend’s perspective. Are you overdoing it?
It’s like serving your plate when you’re very hungry (and maybe even hangry): you want to eat it ALL and you serve yourself a big portion, but in reality, you can only eat half of it.
The same goes for our schedule. If you’re a high achiever, you are hungry (and maybe even hangry) to get stuff done, so you fill up your schedule like crazy, only to find that half of what you’ve planned can’t be done. And then you get frustrated and disappointed in yourself.
Our baseline of what we think we can do in a week is often so distorted. Sometimes, I have my clients keep a journal about what they got done in a week, so they can create a new realistic baseline.
In this case, I might not know you in person and a blog post is more of a one-way street, so I’ll give you a rule of thumb: schedule the way you are used to scheduling, and then take it down a notch (20% to be precise).
A schedule is a mental idea of what we can get done in a day or a week. It’s just an IDEA.
Take it down by 20%, and you’ll feel a lot better about yourself to start with.
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