Recently I started completely scheduling out every weekday from waking up to going to bed, which I'm calling "Hard Scheduling". This approach is a bit off the beaten path but with my recent move to a consulting lifestyle, I can schedule appropriate time for clients, recharging, and personal improvement.
Blocking out the Day
I have a few repeating events that change as little as possible. These events effectively scaffold the outer boundaries of my day. My day starts at 4am with about an hour to wake up, eat breakfast and start traveling to a gym, where I allocate a two hour block to working out and traveling back home. I then spend one hour writing (and not necessarily publishing) on any topic I feel like.
The other end of my day is where I've allocated an hour to reading and an hour to falling asleep after reading. Reading before bed is done on hardcovers and paperbacks so I'm not staring into a screen. This makes it easier for me to get to sleep at the appropriate time since reading is a solid wind-down activity.
Types of Blocks
I have a few recurring blocks of time, typically scheduled at an hour a piece and sometimes for two hours. The blocks can be rearranged or replaced (because life happens) but the goal is to set them up each week and not alter most of them.
The first is client work and product work. Scheduling Client/Product work allows me to ensure I keep my commitments each week. I've found that certain types of work, such as engineering inside a complicated codebase, require more than an hours effort at a time. Most, however, can be scheduled into hour-long chunks.
I also include working on my own product in this type of allocation. Since I try to keep at least an hour for my own products each day this helps keep forward momentum, which is the most important thing in my opinion.
I meet up with friends to help them with their products, grab coffee, or just hang out. This all falls under a Social allocation for me. Sometimes repeating social engagements turn into work, which then gets allocated under Client/Product work.
I also schedule pure down time, for which nothing productive is done. This allows me to refresh and reset for any work that needs to happen later that day. Down Time allocation can be as simple as going alone to a specific lunch spot to try new food or playing a video game.
Professional development includes learning new languages (Rust, Go), new tools, reading blog posts (startups, building culture, etc), and more. Anything that sets me up to be successful 6-12 months from now in a variety of skillsets (Engineer, Entrepreneur, Author, Designer, etc). This answers "What do I want to be" in the 6-12 month range.
Personal development is similar but more introspective. It can include time for meditation or actively integrating content from a book I just read into my life. Answering the question "Who do I want to be" on a 6-12 month timeframe.
Both of these tie in with a GitHub board I use to track my goals on a 6-12 month basis.
I specifically allocated a two hour block for the gym because I prefer to focus on Olympic style lifting (mostly cleans and squat right now) and it can take up a full hour to get through two or three big exercises. I can't jerk or snatch right now because the ceiling is too low. I taught myself how to lift this way in high school for Volleyball and continued through college. I also have to allocate travel time. I usually end up spending 1.5 hours at and traveling back from the gym so this leaves a little room for growth for accessory style work or alternative workouts. I also intend to schedule recurring running and yoga blocks but haven't figured out where they fit yet.
I've found that this kind of very heavy lifting is extremely good for my mental state, so I'm happy to allocate the time here.
I allocate writing time in the morning and reading time at night. This accounts for about two hours each weekday.
Finally, I also schedule maintenance such as "Make Instacart Order", "Get Haircut", etc.
- This schedule is compatible with a GitHub board which I use for long term goal tracking. With the complete scheduling I can make sure I allocate time to progress in areas that mean a lot to me.
- I feel more productive. More things get done and I can get lost in each before moving on to the next.
- Overall I find it useful to be putting more thought into how I'm allocating my time, what I'm spending that time on, and how that differs from my goals.
Social and Other People's Schedules
A decent amount of social engagements happen at night, starting at 6pm or later. If I move my sleep back at night, then I move my wakeup time back in the morning (because losing sleep is a non-option in terms of long-term tradeoffs). This means I'm choosing between working out in the morning and social time in a number of situations. I often choose social time in this tradeoff because I'm not currently training for high level athletics like I used to and time with friends is highly valuable.
One of the interesting outcomes of scheduling all of this time is that I can make conscious decisions about when and how to re-allocate time. If a friend wants to meet up earlier in the day I can move blocks around and still make sure I get everything I want to done. Another interesting note is the ability to consciously prioritize one activity over another by deleting the calendar event and making a new one. The newfound awareness of where I'm spending my time is something I will continue to think about as this goes on.