In case you missed or forgot them, the first two steps in getting back in control of your business and your life can be summed up as follows:

  1. Brain Dump – write a list of absolutely every big (and little) thing that needs to be done in your business and personal life. Don’t try to organize anything, just write.
  2. Two-Part Priority Assessment System – assess every item on that long list according to 2 metrics:
    1. Its importance – on a scale of 1, 2, and 3
    2. How willing you are to do it – on a scale of A, B, and C

You can get fuller explanations about these two strategies in my two prior blog posts. However, before you go on to the third step, it’s really important to complete the second part of the system by dividing all activities into 3 basic categories:

  1. Vitally important items that you must do (or delegate)
  2. Somewhat important items that you can do if time allows (or delegate)
  3. Unimportant items that can either be delegated or dumped from your list altogether.

Now comes perhaps the trickiest part of gaining control of your schedule and your life, the part I call Designing Your Time Bucket Puzzle.

What in the heck kind of system is that?

It’s viewing each segment of your day (I divide mine into half hours) as a time bucket, and then assigning certain types of tasks to different time buckets.

Perhaps the most important buckets to fill first (and the ones we tend to sacrifice the most) are times to set aside for sleep (what?), meals, exercise, family time, and personal renewal time.

Frankly, I consider one of the greatest gifts of the Hebrew Bible to be the concept of a Sabbath, a Day of Rest. If you cannot see your way to unplugging and taking an entire day a week as personal time, start with a few hours on a given day and work your way up to it.

For the rest of the time buckets, I use an Excel spreadsheet, listing the days across the top of the sheet and the time I don’t set aside for sleep listed in half hour increments along the side of the sheet.

I also add a column listing all the general types of activities that I need to include in my schedule, everything from marketing tasks to eating lunch.

In that same column, I also add a section of periodic items, including networking events, speaking gigs, podcasts, and having my hair cut. (Yes, that’s necessary once in a while.)

Then it becomes a kind of game or puzzle to figure out where all the pieces go in the various time buckets.

Don’t be under the illusion that this is a one and done system.

What I have discovered is that life and business unfold in amazing, unpredictable, and sometimes surprising ways; so flexibility in how you fill your time buckets is a necessity. (Fortunately Excel makes that easy to do.)

Every once in a while, when things start to feel overwhelming again, it’s a good idea to go back to basics: 1) do a Brain Dump, listing everything on your to-do list; 2) reassess what’s truly important using the Two-Part Priority Assessment Systemand 3) once again Designing Your Time Bucket Puzzle.

Good luck!

And by the way, I couldn’t resist adding some more ideas for you to consider; so if you’d like a preview of coming attractions, click here.