I was reminded of effective scheduling while listening to the audiobook by David Goggins called Can’t Hurt Me. I highly recommend the audiobook over the physical book (I own both) because at the end of each chapter it’s more of a podcast with questions and answers. But one section he talked about setting your life as a series of daily missions. Each day is a new mission to tackle and conquer. I take it one step further, I schedule every minute of my day.
Take a little journey with me.
Think of how much time you waste in a day. I’d be willing to bet its hours upon hours spent doing unnecessary tasks that can be streamlined. Taking 45 minutes over the day starting and stopping a task when you could batch it together in one 10 minute setting for more efficiency.
Tim Ferriss wrote about batching extensively in his book “The 4-Hour Workweek”. And it has really resonated with me. As a quick example, I used to check my work email constantly throughout the workday. Spending 5-10 minutes an hour responding to messages, stopping the work I’m doing, etc. Now I only check my email twice a day and spend maybe 20 minutes in total on this task. I really enjoy finding better and more efficient ways things can be done.
The daily mission concept takes batching one step further. Ahead of time, you take your day and divide it into three sections: work, play, sleep. The key here is to schedule and plan your day AHEAD of time and stick to the schedule. When you plan things, it’s much easier to see the big picture. To not get hung up in the details and get done what is really important. It is all too easy for us to get halfway through the day and not get anything done, following this method makes sure the important items don’t fall through the cracks. Let’s take a look at the 24-hour mission, then take it deeper to schedule every minute.
The 24-Hour Mission
The most basic way to look at your day is a series of three 8-hour sections that form your 24-hour mission. This is a vast oversimplification for sure and I have another recommendation in the next section, but let’s dive in here.
This is usually the easiest section to define, but items in the work category include your actual job, duties around the house, and other obligations. While it’s easy to see the Monday to Friday job in here, it’s also critically important to see that there is ‘work’ to do while you aren’t making a paycheck. This could be the side job you are working, the website you are building, the language you are learning, or any other skill you are bettering your life with. Work does not end when you punch out on Friday.
This, of course, is the fun category. Put everything in this category that you enjoy doing. Throwing the baseball with the kids, exercise, playing a video game, going out with friends, spending time with your spouse, etc. Since everything in the play category are usually the ‘fun’ things to do it’s easy to get a bit carried away. In contrast, some people don’t allow themselves some sort of positive outlet, make sure this is a significant part of your life.
Let’s be totally honest, sleep is usually the part we cut out. It’s the one part of our life that gives so we can accommodate work and play. There are a ton of resources out there, but it all comes down to getting the sleep you need each night. The amount of sleep we each require is variable. Typically you should sleep between 6-9 hours a night. And according to experts that sleep should be in 90-minute blocks. Meaning sleeping for 6 hours is better than 6 ½ hours due to your sleep cycles. If you’d like to take a sleep quiz, check one out here. The insights are good, but in no way perfect. It’s a nice starting place.
Finding Your Balance
The most important point here is finding your balance. All of us, from the most powerful CEO to the high school student only have 24 hours in every day. If I choose to work for 16 hours it means I must cut back in the play or sleep categories. If you spend all day playing video games, that means you have less time to devote to work and sleep. We all need to find our balance. The point that you must understand is that no matter if you choose to plan or not plan, the hours will tick by. This is why I schedule every minute. If you don’t give yourself something to do, to challenge yourself, then the normal human default is taking the easiest path. That path ends up with neglecting whatever is the easiest for you to neglect.
If you are a hard-driving career oriented person, it may be easiest to exclude the play category, i.e. your family. If you are a naturally lazy person it may be easiest to exclude work, and chronically underperform at any job you have. So what can you do to ensure you are keeping that balance?
I’m glad you asked…
The idea of backstops was introduced to me by reading Can’t Hurt Me. Jay Introduced me to this book and has an awesome article here about his determination and losing weight. David Goggins talked about this while navigating using a map.
“Let’s say you’re navigating through the woods and you have to go one click toward a ridgeline, then make a turn. In the military, we would do a map study ahead of time and mark that turn on our maps, and another point about 200 meters past that turn, and a third an additional 150 meters past the second mark. Those last two marks are your backstops. Typically, knew we’d gone off course. That’s what backstops are for, to tell you to turn around, reassess, and take an alternative route to accomplish the same mission. I never left our base in Iraq without having three exit strategies. A primary route and two others, pinned to backstops, we could fall back to if our main route became compromised.”David Goggins
This is a very powerful tool for your toolbelt. Create a backstop to put in place to let you know when you have missed your mark. You can create these backstops in all areas of your life. If you are maintaining your weight, then you have a pair of pants that you must always be able to fit into. If they start getting tight, it’s time to start putting less in your head hole.
With relating to schedules you need to put backstops in place so that you don’t blow by your objectives. You need a tool, a reminder, to keep that goal in your grasp. Think of the backstop as a safety net to catch you before you go too far off course.
I prefer structure to an absence of structure. I enjoy a good challenge as well as putting things into automation as much as possible. Enter, Schedule Every Minute.
Yes, I really Schedule every Minute
Scheduling every minute. Just the thought of it might make some of you go crazy, but hear me out. The whole idea is not to plan every small aspect of your life, but to give yourself categories, small containers to work in. This is a way to plan and schedule every minute of your day, ahead of time. Being specific enough to create time blocks for activities, but general enough to allow for flexibility. I am a big fan of Google Calendar, and here is an example of what an average workday looks like for me.
This is the schedule of my weekday while I’m not on the road for work. Every minute of the day is accounted for and planned ahead of time. I also have a more general plan for the weekends, and days when I am not working. This includes more general categories like spending time with the wife, fixing/maintaining items in the house, playing with the kids, etc. I still have every minute accounted for. They are broad categories that allow flexibility but still give me the structure and the backstop necessary to stay on track. The biggest backstop is that I receive alerts on my phone when each block is about to begin.
Why do this?
The point of all of this not to overwhelm you with having to stick to a rigid schedule, its to keep you on point. Keep moving forward and keep on track. It’s far too easy to slip into what’s easy and put shit off until tomorrow. What’s difficult is getting shit done and not expecting time for it unless you make time for it. Those of you who work out know it won’t happen unless you make time for it. You make you a priority.