How to Structure Your Time
Everyday you’re granted twenty-four hours of time with which to live. That’s actually a lot of time! But in your time-starved state, it rarely seems like enough. Instead, it feels like you’re trapped in a hamster wheel—running, running, running, and going absolutely nowhere.
An alternative to the daily “hamster race” is the RGP (roles, goals, plans) approach for structuring your time. Unlike traditional time management, which encourages you to schedule your time daily, RGP offers a fresh approach—schedule your priorities weekly. In other words, shift your focus from the clock to people. The clock is an inanimate tool that cannot offer you much by way of tangible, meaningful results. On the other hand, when you’ve taken time to nurture key relationships, you not only have more meaningful experiences, but those experiences often produce the results you seek.
Another distinction in the RGP approach is its focus on weekly planning, rather than daily planning. With daily planning, there is a tendency to focus on “busy work” or tasks that have no real purpose or intent. When you shift to weekly planning there are two core benefits, 1) you’re able to fit in your priorities when your calendar is typically the most open, and 2) you have better context from which to make decisions about how to use your time. This enables you to organize your time according to the bigger picture goals you have in mind, rather than pressing busy work that currently consumes your day.
Roles: What are your primary roles this week?
Consider your life and identify the key roles this week. Keep in mind that your key roles may change from week to week as different priorities move in and out of your life. Of course, the first role on your list every week should be “self,” or your role as an individual. Here is an example of roles for one working mom:
- Professional (HR Manager)
Goals: What results do you expect this week?
For each role you identified in the step above, think of the outcome you’re looking to achieve this week. These weekly goals should be linked to your longer-term goals and personal mission statement. Here’s an example of how that might look:
- Self/Individual: deepen my spiritual knowledge by completing my daily bible study homework.
- Wife/Mother: bring snacks to Girls Scouts meeting; prepare husband’s favorite meal for dinner
- Runner: stick to 1/2 marathon schedule = run 16 miles total this week
- Volunteer: put together marketing plan for MOPS launch
- Professional: meet with staff about quarterly goals
Plans: What is your plan for accomplishing your goals?
As you look at the week ahead, consider the specific date you’ll fulfill a goal, then ink it in! In this final step you’re making your priorities a priority by giving them space on your schedule. Although it may be necessary to adjust your schedule during the week due to unexpected crises that arise, your intent should be to fulfill those priorities before handling other tasks or projects. Also, consider what tasks or activities you might be able to delegate; those delegated tasks should also be entered in your calendar for monitoring purposes.
Typically, the best time to go through the RGP process is at the end or beginning of your week (Friday or Sunday). Once you have the hang of it, it takes about 15 to 20 minutes. When you stick to this weekly habit, your workweek will be infinitely more productive and balanced. Are you willing to commit 15 to 20 minutes per week to potentially multiply your time and improve your results? Initially, you may find the process to be cumbersome, awkward and labor intensive. One way to make it more fun is to use your RGP time as an opportunity to relax, reflect and restore yourself. Grab your preferred planning tool and take it to your favorite spot, a cafe, a park or your own backyard; enjoy the time alone for reflection and planning. Stick with the process for at least thirty days … it will be well worth the time you invest!
RGP Principles to remember:
- Focus on people (roles), not just schedules
- Plan weekly, prioritize daily
- Schedule your priorities, delegate the rest