Mastering Your Schedule With Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
We are what we do habitually. Our habits are largely the result of our schedule. If our schedule is chaotic or unplanned then we will live a life of chaos, lacking in direction. Therefore, to have an orderly life that takes us where we want to go we need to pay special attention to our schedule.
The good news is that building a schedule has never been easier. Most of us have a smartphone with built in calendar functions. If you still live in the stone age you can buy a paper appointment book for very little money. The key is to choose a simple solution that will travel with you.
In addition, your schedule needs to support your goals and help you to orientate your life. It needs to put important things first. It should encourage the development of good habits and patterns of living. This post will offer a path to developing such a schedule.
Become the master of your life
Whoever sets your schedule is your master.
Don’t let random chance or other people create your schedule. Stop spending time on things that bring you no benefit. Be proactive about deciding how you will spend your life. You need to make sure that how you are spending your time is working out in your best interests. How can you do that?
The first key to planning a successful schedule is to allocate specific times each day, week and month to the planning process. Personally, I like to review and plan my schedule while in a quiet and meditative state.
Your time is the most precious resource that you have. Budget it carefully. Take time to think deeply about how you are using your time and what you allow into your schedule.
People often feel lost about exactly what to add to their schedule. These initial questions and answers will set the stage for the rest of the post:
How detailed should it be? As detailed as needed to help you reach your goals and no more so.
What should be included? Everything that must be done at certain times but that you don’t already do instinctively with great regularity.
How do I handle conflicts? This will depend on your priorities however I tend to favour habit over flexibility.
Put First Things First, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Most people start to make a schedule by adding tasks that other people have asked them to do. That approach will never allow you to reach your full potential. You need to take care of yourself and your needs first.
Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow in 1943. It’s often depicted as a pyramid. The higher, more philosophical levels are built upon the lower, more physical levels. To achieve the end goal of self-actualization, being the most virtious person we can become, we must first establish a firm foundation.
The objective of planning your schedule is to program yourself to create the life you want, to become the best that you can be. To do that we first need to program in the basics.
First, block out time for schedule maintenance.
30 minutes at the start of each week to preview the weeks activities and compare them to your goals.
15 minutes each day to think about what you will be doing that day.
30 minutes at the end of each week to review the weeks activities and compare them to your ideal.
Following Maslow's hierarchy of needs when building a schedule helps us to have a framework when deciding what things should take priority, what needs should be addressed first.
Are you eating and drinking in a way that supports your need for energy each day?
Do you get sufficient high quality sleep?
If the answer is no, then you need to start by scheduling time each day to address these fundamental needs. Start by blocking out time for these 4 areas:
Food preparation (including shopping).
Eating (same time each day is best).
Sleep preparation (screen free time for ritually preparing to sleep).
Sleep time (same time every day, 7 to 9 hours depending on your needs).
Next add in your work schedule including travel to and from work (this order may not be compatible with people who work alternating shifts).
Add in time to exercise each day (a mix of weight lifting, cardio and mobility training, perhaps alternating days and type of activity). Don't forget to exercise your mind. Plan time for meditating, reading and relaxing your brain.
Set aside specific time to clean your living area, manage your money, etc.
Don’t forget to set aside some free time that you can do ANYTHING you want. This way if you waste that time you will not feel guilty about it.
Move up the pyramid and plan specific times to be social on a regular basis. Plan time with your loved ones each day if possible. If you are married and/or have children, plan time with your family every day. Plan at least one fun and social event per week.
As you approach the top of the pyramid the plan requires more detailed thought and a more sophisticated approach. In many cases we will need to return to the bottom levels and make refinements to our routines in order to achieve higher goals.
Implementing a Phased and Iterative Approach
Rapid change is not realistic for most people. Knowing how to organize yourself isn't enough. What we need is a realistic method to achieve incremental change that will compound over time. A way to build up to being fully in control of our schedule and our life.
Programming your schedule is very similar to writing a computer program. You have limited resources, limited bandwidth and processing ability, specific program parameters imposed by your environment and limited syntax (there are only so many things you can do with your time).
Just like programming software you will get the best results from following an iterative approach to creating a schedule. Start by creating
Phase 1: The Daily Cycle
Start tomorrow and set aside time each day in the morning to review your plans for that day. I do this while drinking a morning coffee or electrolyte drink. Take at least 15 minutes and think deeply about what you have planned for the day. Ask yourself some important questions:
What am I doing today, is it a reasonable amount of activities? (Mentally note the little logistical things you need to do. For example, do you have sufficient travel time planned to arrive at a destination on time? What do you need to bring with you? Do you need to change your frame of mind to be successful in that activity?)
What do I need to accomplish today? (What do you want to get out of your planned activities? What is the result you want?)
How does what I will achieve help me to reach my goals? (We will talk more about this later in the post.)
How do I expect to feel about what I'm going to do today? (Acknowledge any possible negative feelings. Sometimes we need to do uncomfortable things. Practice mentally accepting that discomfort.)
Phase 2: The Weekly Cycle
Our lives are largely lived one week at a time. Planning our schedule out in weeks is a very reasonable block of time for us to manage. For me I like to do a review of the coming week on Sunday night or early Monday morning. As much as possible I avoid adding new tasks during the review and instead focus on ensuring that my week will move me forward towards my bigger goals from the monthly cycle. If not, I will then add or remove tasks and activities as needed.
Another issue is attempting to balance the load out over the week. Not just the quantity of events, but the energy required. Having a balanced load makes it easier to be productive.
Once my week starts I will not let people add to it unless they are very important to me, however I do block out a few hours for things such as new clients. I expect the unexpected.
Phase 3: The Monthly Cycle
As we zoom out to the month we need to take some time, maybe a half day to review our goals for the last month and the next month. Did our tasks move us closer to accomplishing what we wanted? Did it make our life better? What was a good investment of time? What was a bad investment of time?
Personally, I like to pick three goals for the month that are life changing. Three goals that will influence every decision that I make in the coming month. These goals are usually related to what I perceive as my three biggest needs.
I will write these down in a prominent place and refer to them every day. They should be short, simple, assertively positive (I will, not I'll try) and if possible objectively measurable. Examples are below:
I will sleep and wake at the times I have planned.
I will lose 2% of body fat.
I will talk much less and listen much more while coaching.
I will create 4 new clients.
I will spend 2 hours per day with my son, outside.
I will get my wife pregnant.
These goals require a sustained effort over the course of the month. They are directly related to one or more of needs that Maslow identified.
Be the master of your life by mastering your schedule.
Make sure that you are putting the first things first by creating a schedule that focuses on fulfilling your needs.
Use Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs to help you order your schedule by importance.
Take time regularly to evaluate your schedule and your results, comparing them to your ideals.