How to Set up Your Schedule for Best Results
As more and more things enter our agenda, we more and more have to keep up with getting all those tasks in order, prioritizing them and getting them done.
We often have to make hard decisions because of those various opportunities. We regularly have to choose for example between meeting clients, doing calls, creating content etc. It’s often hard to know which of them are best to do and when to do which one.
And that’s exactly where we can use the concept of a categorical schedule…
What is a categorical schedule?
In a categorical schedule, you have a pre-set amount of time you spend each week on a certain activity. That means every incoming opportunity or task gets placed into your schedule – until there is no pre-determined time left anymore.
This could look like the following: you decide to spend 4 hours every week for calls, 15 hours for meeting clients, 8 for creating content etc. – and not more.
That means, as soon as one category of your schedule for the week is filled, no task of that category can take place in that week anymore. Every surplus upcoming activity gets placed in the next week where space exists.
As a result, you won’t be overwhelmed by all the things coming up – those 20 new clients, those calls etc. – because you immediately know if there’s a place in your schedule or not.
Consequently, you won’t neglect any category because you’re flooded by tasks of another one and are forced to press them into your week.
That way, tasks of certain categories that come up frequently have to wait.
It’s like when you want an appointment for a MRI: you often have to wait a few weeks because all appointments for the next weeks are assigned. They also don’t stuff all incoming requests into one week – they spread it to the following weeks.
But there’s one vital thing to know when having a categorical schedule: which amount of time should you distribute to which category?
Obviously, the most important one should get the most attention from you.
The big problem: most of the time, all of them look similarly important.
That’s also why we get easily overwhelmed with all those tasks and opportunities. And why we try to stuff them all together in one week…
But there’s a way to find out which of them really maximizes your desired results.
The Pareto principle
In the late 1800s, Italian mathematician Vilfredo Pareto observed something interesting in his garden by looking at his peapods.
He found that around 20% of the peapods produced around 80% of the peas.
After that, Pareto came to the same conclusion after looking at the Italian land: 80% of the Italian land was owned by 20% percent of the population.
That’s exactly what he then showed in his first publication "Cours d'économie politique".
Pareto’s findings are not only true for peas or Italian land. Today this 80/20 rule is widely accepted and is called “The Pareto principle”.
It works in a lot of cases – so does it also in business and in trying to get things done.
According to that, 20% of the things we do are accountable for 80% of the results.
Knowing that, we have to find out which activities bring us the majority of results. Those should be the one(s) which we prioritize – and which we distribute the most time to in our categorical schedule.
Still, that’s not the final solution.
Most of the time, we actually don’t know which tasks are the ones that bring us the most results. All those tasks still seem similarly important.
So how can we find out those 20%?
How to find out the 20%
To find out the activities that bring you most results, you can ask yourself several questions. The answer to those will bring you the insight on what you should prioritize.
The first question to ask yourself is: “If I could get done only one thing today – what could I do that brings me closest to my long-term goal?”
The answer to this should always be your number one priority and should get the most time on your schedule.
Of course, to get an appropriate answer, you must know the desired long-term outcome of what you’re doing.
If you don’t know that, it’s time to gain some clarity for yourself. If you do something without knowing the purpose, you can’t be productive at all. You won’t go anywhere if you don’t know the direction.
A second question to ask yourself is the focusing question from the book “The One Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. It goes: “What one task makes all the other tasks easier or unnecessary?”.
The task that fits here will be the one with the highest leverage.
After doing that task, your workload will decrease, and all following tasks will become easier and faster to get done. Therefore, all your results will be easier and faster to come in.
Keller and Papasan describe this with the example of dominos. If you make the right domino fall, all the following ones will fall too.
The clue is: every domino can make a domino fall that’s 1.5 times bigger in size than itself. So, if you find the right task, you’ll gain extreme leverage that will bring you your 80% of results soon.
Finally, after having found your 20% of tasks and having them prioritized and scheduled, just schedule the rest into your remaining time blocks and see the massive results coming in – without becoming overwhelmed and while always knowing how to act.
About the Author
Maurice Leibinn is the creator of Productive Energy Management – a method that helps people get a maximum amount of results in a minimum of time while sustaining their energy and avoiding any kind of overwhelm.
He is a productivity Coach serving serving overworked entrepreneurs and professionals. Read more...
Keller, G. Papasan, J. (2013) The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results. Austin, Texas: Bard Press.