Episode: Why You Need to Spend Your Days on Paper

Megan Hyatt Miller: Before we dive in today, I want to take a minute and be a coach to you and say this. Guys, don’t just listen to this podcast and think to yourself, “Hey, what a cool tool. That would be really neat to do sometime.” I want to encourage you to actually make time on your calendar, to block an hour on your calendar after you’ve listened to this podcast to click the link, download the tool, and fill it in.

I promise you there are going to be breakthroughs and “aha” moments and better decision-making and clarity on the other side of this. Totally unselfish on my part. I just want that for you. So, go ahead and make time and make that commitment, most importantly, right now that you’re going to make time to actually fill out the “Spend Your Days on Paper” tool when we’re finished.

Michael Hyatt: Hi, I’m Michael Hyatt.

Megan: And I’m Megan Hyatt Miller.

Michael: And this is Lead to Win, our weekly podcast to help you win at work and succeed at life.

Megan: Today we’re talking about how to think about your time like a budget and allocate it according to your most important professional priorities using a tool we call Spend Your Days on Paper. We’ve been talking a lot about our new book Win At Work and Succeed At Life. As I’ve been interviewed on various podcasts, one of the things people ask a lot is what we think about this idea of work-life balance and whether or not it’s possible to do it all. What I always say is, “No. It’s not possible to do it all.”

We only have 168 hours in a week. There’s not enough time to do it all. We’ve all tried and failed at that. But our contention in that book and as a part of the work we do with our clients and customers at Michael Hyatt & Company is there’s not enough time to do it all, but there is enough time to do the most important things, but only if you are intentional about those things and you’re very clear on what they are at the beginning.

What I love about the Spend Your Days on Paper tool is that it provides a very simple template where you can do this on an annual basis and have those hard conversations about what should or shouldn’t make the list based on how much time there is left, just like we would do with our money. We make way better decisions when we do that.

Michael: This is an Excel worksheet. Essentially, when you’re using it, it takes all of the hours you’ve allocated for the year, and then you start spending, and it starts deducting from the total. You quickly realize… I’ve had people tell me after they’ve used this tool… They’ve said, “Oh my gosh! I had no idea how far I was overcommitted.” For the first time, they saw “There are not enough hours in the week for me to accomplish all of the things I’ve committed to.”

As you said, Megan, that leads to some very useful conversations, some very useful decisions. Once you get this dialed in, it’s amazing, because suddenly you realize the most important things are getting attended to. When I first developed this tool, I said, “The most important thing for me is to make sure I’m taking time off so I can rest and rejuvenate and show up as the best version of myself at work.”

But what doesn’t happen in the real world is when you decide you’re only going to rest and take time to rejuvenate or time for self-care after you complete your work, because that would be never. That never happens. Part of the argument in the book Win At Work and Succeed At Life that we make is that rest and rejuvenation are not rewards for hard work; they’re the conditions for or the foundation of hard work. That has to come first.

If that’s going to happen, you’re going to have to schedule it, because everything in life that’s important gets done if you schedule it. I don’t care if that’s date nights, if that’s time at the gym, or that’s time off work. It has to be scheduled, because you’re not going to be able to come to the end of your work and say, “Oh, gosh, I have several hours to kill here. What can I do?”

Megan: One of the things I like about using this tool myself is that I kind of have that “Come to Jesus” moment about what I’m going to have to say no to at the beginning of the year. Instead of having that feeling (not that this never happens, but it certainly doesn’t happen like it would without it) where I feel overwhelmed…

I kind of feel overwhelmed on paper, sort of like exactly the same thing that happens when you’re doing your budget and you realize you’re spending more than you’re bringing in. You have to go, “Okay. Well, then what’s going to move? What am I going to not do in order to make room for the things that really matter?” That just saves so much drama and stress in your life if you can do that in a mock session, so to speak, rather than in your real life when push comes to shove and all of a sudden there’s just not enough time.

Michael: So true. Okay. Let’s walk through it. By the way, you guys can download this tool (again, it’s free) at, as in Spend Your Days on Paper. Don’t do this if you’re driving, don’t do this if you’re on the treadmill, but when you get to a spot, download it. If you want to follow along, you can, though it’s not entirely necessary for this podcast. You can listen to us talk about it conceptually, and then you can look at it.

As a practical matter, this is a tool I use once a year. I typically do it in the fall, but because it’s going to force you to come to grips or to face up to the totality of your commitments, this is a good tool to do anytime. So, whenever you’re listening to this, go ahead and do it, and then you can build this in as a recurring thing you do, say, once a year as you plan the next year.

The best way to get more time in your calendar for the things that matter most is to get ahead of it. It may be hard to do it next week, it may be hard to do it next month, but if you’re working three to six months out, most of us can engineer our calendars in a way that makes them substantially different from what we’re experiencing now.

Okay. Let’s dive in. First of all, you can ensure you have enough time for your most important professional priorities by following these five steps to create your own Spend Your Days on Paper worksheet. So, download it. Work through it. It’ll become intuitively obvious how you do it. It’s a very simple spreadsheet, but it really works.

Step one: decide how many days off you’ll take this year, including weekends, holidays, and vacations. I want to talk for just a minute where I’ve come from on this. There was a time in my career, probably the first two decades, that I basically… If I took one week a year for my vacation, that was pretty normal. I never took more than that, but one week a year. To be honest, even some of the time in the vacation I worked.

Then on the weekends, I didn’t even take the full weekend, because I would work on Saturday mornings, I would work on Sunday late afternoon and evenings, so I basically had a one-day per weekend kind of schedule. The older I got, the more I realized that’s not enough time off. It’s not enough time off for me to really rest like I need to rest, to get my brain off the business for a sufficient amount of time, for me to do the self-care and the family care and all that kind of stuff.

So I thought, “The only way I can fix this is to get ahead of it.” That means starting with the margin, or starting with the days off, which I know, again, seems counterintuitive, but I just want to remind everybody the whole idea of Parkinson’s Law is that work expands to the time allotted for it. The opposite of that and the thing that I think is even more helpful (I jokingly have referred to this in one of my books as Hyatt’s corollary to Parkinson’s Law) is that work contracts to the time allocated for it.

In other words, what we’re trying to do is constrain our work, which is one of the principles we talk about in our new book Win At Work and Succeed At Life. Constraint is really the foundation of freedom, creativity, and focus. So, we have to get this time off in the calendar first.

Megan: I think this is so important, and it’s so backward to the way we’re used to thinking about it, but as we talk about in our book, this is really a performance strategy. This is all about how to set yourself up to do your best work. So I love this. I would never have thought to do it this way except that this is what we teach and what you have pioneered with this tool and many other things we do. For folks who are doing this for the first time, while this may feel a little uncomfortable, I think it also provides a sense of relief. It’s almost like in your budget putting your savings at the top rather than at the bottom.

Michael: That’s the exact parallel. It’s pay yourself first or save first or, if you’re a business owner, profit first. That’s exactly right. So, the very first entry… Again, think of this as a spreadsheet. My first entry, the first category of things, is going to be the time off things, but weekends first of all.

I made a commitment (this happened 20 years ago when my executive coach asked me to make this commitment) that I was going to take the weekends off. Up until 2021, for the last 10 years, I’ve taken 104 days off, which is two days per weekend times 52 weeks. I’m taking more than that now (I’m going to come back to that in a minute) because my role has changed in the company, but I want to make sure I account for those weekends.

The second thing I accounted for was all of the holidays. In our particular company, we have 10 or 12 paid holidays. I have them all listed in here. There’s one for each line in the spreadsheet. Then I’m putting in the vacations. This is where it gets really fascinating. I talk to people all the time who say, “I can’t find a time for the vacation.” Well, if you don’t plan for it, you won’t find it. I have a spring vacation…

I’m thinking to myself, “What’s the cadence I want with my vacations? What’s a rhythm I want? How often do I need a vacation to be operating (again, as a performance strategy) at my peak operating capacity?” So, I need a spring vacation, I need a fall vacation, I need a Christmas vacation, and then I also take a sabbatical. Up until 2021, that has been a 30-day sabbatical where I’ve been away from the office.

Everybody’s is going to look different. Some of you think a sabbatical is out of the question. That’s fine. Baby steps. But get those weekends clear. Get your holidays accounted for. Then start looking at vacations. Maybe the most you get is two weeks a year or the most you want to take is two weeks a year. I don’t care.

The whole point of this exercise is to be intentional and to design it so you’re not just suddenly finding yourself at the end of the calendar year going, “Oh my gosh! I have 10 days or 14 days of vacation time I haven’t used, and it looks like they’re not going to roll over and I’m not going to be able to use them.”

Megan: You know what’s funny that I have found before doing this is that when I went to schedule vacations, I really struggled to take enough vacation because I was looking for breaks in the calendar. In other words, what was already on the calendar… Like you, my schedule gets booked up months and months, if not a year in advance, in many cases, so it’s very full. If you’re looking to the calendar to say, “Hey, here’s a great week to take a vacation this quarter, and here’s a great week the next quarter,” it’s like it’s never going to happen.

What I would find is I’d maybe take two weeks a year, maybe three, but it never felt like there was… I couldn’t think about it strategically from that cadence standpoint. So when you start, where you’re not doing it in the context of the calendar… We’re doing it on a spreadsheet, and we’re asking that question of, “What do I need for my optimal performance?”

It really helps me to start with the intention and the vision and then go to the calendar with “Okay. Now what has to be true in order for me to produce the professional results I’m responsible for but also do that at the highest level possible with this kind of rejuvenation in mind and this vacation or PTO cadence in mind?” Anyway, that has really been helpful for me.

Michael: The cool thing is that when you lay claim to the calendar…in other words, when you go ahead and schedule this stuff and you’re doing it, hopefully, a year in advance… By the way, if you could do it in three months, great. Whenever you can get it on the calendar, get it on the calendar.

It kind of goes back to Stephen Covey’s concept of putting the big rocks in first so there’s room for all of the littler rocks and the pebbles. The big rocks, to me, are these days off I’ve planned, so I’m going to go ahead and go from this to my calendar, but before I get to the calendar, I want to make sure it works on this spreadsheet first.

Megan: I think that’s so important.

Michael: Okay. Anything else you want to say about time off?

Megan: Nope. You’ve just got to do it. That’s what I would say.

Michael: So, up until this year, I was taking 162 days off a year. That includes every weekend. It includes 11 weeks of vacation inclusive of that 30-day sabbatical. So, 162 days off, which is a lot. That seems like a lot to most people. I just want to stretch your thinking. If you can’t do that much, don’t worry about it. Do what you can. Do what you need, and then you can grow from there.

This year, because I’ve changed roles… Megan is now the CEO of the company. She’s running stuff. I’m working Monday through Wednesday, so this year (2021 at the time we’re recording this), I’m taking 267 days off a year, which I know sounds huge, but believe me, I have a lot of other things I’m filling that time with…a lot of hobbies, family, all kinds of good stuff.

Megan: Some people just got really excited when you said that. Some people are like, “Whoa! That feels unrealistic.” Hopefully, for some of you, you just had your thinking expanded. Like, how could you own a company or run a company and take that much time off? Obviously, this doesn’t apply to everybody, but it’s kind of neat, kind of a mind bender a little bit.

In my case, I take about six weeks of vacation off, plus my sabbatical. That’s mostly, in my case, around spring vacation, a fall vacation, which is totally tied to my kids’ school schedule, then some days at Thanksgiving when Joel’s parents usually come visit, some days at Christmas, and then just miscellaneous days off for various little things we’re doing as a family or individually. So, that’s what it looks like for me.

Probably I’ve averaged in the four- to five-week range. I’m pushing myself a little bit this year, knowing that my responsibility is greater. That probably sounds counterintuitive, but, again, I’m thinking about this like a performance strategy. Just like we talk about in our book Win At Work and Succeed At Life, it’s not acceptable, from our perspective, that your professional results would suffer as a result of how much time you’re taking off.

Instead, we would expect it to be the opposite, that you would be able to produce better results because you are not exhausted. You’re coming to work with your best thinking, your most innovative and creative thinking. This is why we have unlimited PTO at Michael Hyatt & Company.

Now, admittedly, most of our team members are not taking this much time off. I would say our average is around three and a half to four weeks, probably, in most cases. We have some people who take a little bit more, more on the five-week side of things, and we really try to not let people take less than three weeks. We’re kind of after you if you’re taking less…again, because that’s a performance strategy.

Michael: Okay. So, that’s time off. Go ahead and be thinking about how much time you want to have off, and if you work for somebody else, maybe some of this has to be negotiated. If you’re a business owner, don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re indispensable. In fact, that’s a liability. If you’re indispensable to your company operating without your full-time presence and care, that’s a weakness in the business.

By the way, if you ever intend to sell your business, that’s going to reduce the amount you’re going to get for it. You want a business that will operate independent of you. You want that for your own sanity, you want it for succession, and you want it just in case you ever decide to sell the business. So, this is a great way to build that kind of resilience right into the business from the get-go and make it less dependent upon you. That was one of my initial motivations.

Megan: I totally agree with that. I was actually planning this morning with Erin, my chief of staff, for my upcoming sabbatical, which is in just a few weeks. We were talking about all of the things that need to happen, how it’s going to work while I’m gone, kind of a list of emergency procedures around that in case anything goes wrong. That’s so healthy. Me being gone forces the business to be healthier in the same way as our team members taking sabbaticals, which they get once every three years of continuous employment. That is a risk management strategy in many ways for us, and it has certainly proven to be valuable.

Okay. Let’s talk about step two. So, you’ve allocated time for your weekends, for major holidays, for your time off. Now you need to make a list of the categories of tasks or responsibilities you have so you can begin to allocate in those categories. For example, on my list are things like meetings, planning, speaking, team development, marketing, direct reports. Those are some of the big categories of things I do. Dad, what’s on your list?

Michael: My list has BusinessAccelerator, which is our coaching program, and I lead a lot of those coaching intensives, and then podcast recording, writing a book (I’m committed to doing one new book a year), then my speaking, which, by the way, at this point is only four times a year outside of what I do with BusinessAccelerator. Then I do a limited amount of coaching, some marketing, and meetings, and then I have some outside stuff I do that’s kind of like business that I count as business.

Megan: Like nonprofit work, and things like that, that you’re involved with.

Michael: Exactly.

Megan: It’s really that simple, and you can do that on a piece of paper. Then, ultimately, you can bring that into this spreadsheet, if you want to, just so you’re not worried about the formatting. But just brainstorm those categories of tasks or responsibilities that you have that are relevant to the results you’re required to produce for your job.

My experience in doing this is that, especially when we get to… I’ll go ahead and share. Step three is to identify the discrete activities. For example, under direct reports, you have one-on-one meetings, annual reviews, those kinds of things. So, what are the discrete activities that go under each area of responsibility or category?

When I was doing this, one of the things I found was I really challenged some of the things that were on there. For example, under marketing, one of the things under my list was webinars. It kind of was the catalyst… When we looked at how much time, potentially, I was going to be spending on that this year, we went back to the marketing team and said, “Hey, from a branding and marketing standpoint, is hosting webinars the highest and best use of my time or could that same amount of time, or something similar, be invested elsewhere for a greater return?”

Ultimately, the determination we made together was “No. Actually, the ROI on that is not high enough to justify the investment. Instead, we’d rather you do podcast interviews, for example, which is more valuable from a brand representation standpoint, has a bigger reach, than doing some of the webinars we do.” So, that’s a good example of how just going through this activity causes you to question your assumptions about what’s valuable to invest your time in or not.

Michael: That’s really good. Let me give an example from my Spend Your Days on Paper worksheet. Under BusinessAccelerator, the first thing I put was what I would call non-discretionary time. In other words, time that’s already booked on the calendar. Leading coaching intensives is 20 full days a year.

Then preparing for the coaching intensives is basically another eight hours. It would be a whole lot more than that, but we’re now in year four, so most of the work has been done. I’m going back and reviewing, but most everything I’m teaching, with the exception of one group… Everything I’m teaching I’m teaching now for the second time, so it takes less preparation.

Then in addition to that with BusinessAccelerator (I have four items under this), lead our weekly coaching calls… I did that just this morning. We’re recording this on a Monday. Every Monday morning when I’m in town and not on a vacation or sabbatical, for one hour I’m on with all of our BusinessAccelerator coaching clients who want to jump on, and I just troubleshoot, answer questions, give them a chance to brag on their wins…that type of thing.

Megan: And you love that.

Michael: I love that. Then the other thing I have on here, Megan, is the annual coaches’ retreat, so I have to get outfitted for that.

Megan: So, when you did this this year, you had a lot of changes this year. The shift in your role was a big one, the amount of time you’re taking off… I imagine there were a lot of decisions you had to make about things that might have been something you considered really valuable on the version you did for last year, but now there wasn’t enough time to do all of those things. Do you have any examples of things that didn’t make the cut, so to speak, for this 2021 version?

Michael: I really wanted to speak more than I’m speaking here. I was speaking 12 to 13 times a year, which I really like. I never want to go back to the time when I was speaking 60 to 80 times a year.

Megan: Yeah, that was a lot.

Michael: But 12 to 13 times… I really enjoy being onstage. I couldn’t always say that, but for the last several years I’ve really enjoyed that. So to realize, as I measured all of these different things… By the way, one of the things we didn’t mention is that we have you input your annual income so it actually tells you what it’s costing you or how much the company is investing in those activities by you doing them.

Megan: Right. That is such an eye opener, by the way. For some of you guys, you’re going to do this, and your head is going to explode, because you’re thinking about how much time you spend in meetings where maybe you don’t need to be there all the time, and you’re realizing that’s costing your own company or the company you’re working for thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars a year. There’s just not the ROI there to justify it.

Michael: That’s right. The same thing happened with me with speaking. I just decided, “You know, the most I can really speak this next year is three times,” because when you factor in the prep work, the rehearsal…

Megan: Travel.

Michael: The travel. That has been one of the blessings, frankly, of COVID, is that I haven’t had to travel. I’ve been able to do more of it because I can do it from my home. But now that we get back on the road, that’s an investment you have to make, and you have to be realistic about that. That’s time that has to be invested.

Megan: I think that’s so important. I’ll be excited to hear from people what their “ahas” were with this. Again, just like with your budget, all of a sudden you realize all that eating out you’re doing is coming at the expense of your savings sometimes, so you have to make those decisions about what’s more valuable.

Michael: That’s the biggest thing about this whole exercise. You’re going to make a lot of decisions as you go through this, because you’re going to realize that when you total it up, you’ve way overdrawn your time account, so to speak. You have a deficit. So you have to keep whittling it back until you get to the amount of hours you have available and make sure you’re not overspending, and you probably need to allow… I didn’t do a great job of this this year, but you need to allow some time just in case the projects you’ve projected take longer than you thought, which is pretty much the case.

Megan: That doesn’t ever happen. Okay. Let’s review the steps we’ve gotten through so far, and then we’ll do the final two. The first one is to decide how many days off you want to take this year, including weekends, holidays, and vacations. Step two is to make a list of the categories of tasks or responsibilities you have. For example, we talked about meetings, planning, speaking, team development, marketing, direct reports, etcetera. Step three is to identify the discrete activities, including things like, if you had a category for direct reports, one-on-one meetings, annual reviews, etcetera.

Then step four, as we talked about… Now you’re going to allocate how much time you’re going to spend for each item on the spreadsheet. So, all of your professional items under those categories. How much time are you going to spend with various kinds of meetings? For example, on my list, I have executive team meetings, company-wide meetings, annual team meetings, all of those different categories of meetings. We’re just kind of going one layer down. How much time is it going to cost me to do those things? So that’s step four.

Michael: One of the things I do too here is… Excel has a function where you can enter a comment about an entry in a cell. I want to put the rationale here, because I’m going to give this to Jim, who’s my executive assistant, and I’m going to tell him to make it happen on the calendar. I’m not going to actually do that work. I want to give him my rationale that’s behind it so he knows exactly why I put what I put. So I just enter that as a note in the cell.

Megan: That’s so interesting. I’ll tell you how I did mine this year. For the first time, I actually had Jamie, my assistant, do a version one of this for me. I wanted, based on what she and Erin, my chief of staff, already knew, to have them come up with this originally, and then I edited it and said, “No, that’s not as important as this” or “Let’s take that off.” I was the one who had to make all of those decisions.

I actually found that to be really helpful, because they came to me and said, “Hey, you’re 14 days over right now. If you keep doing what you’re doing now, you’re 14 days over, so you have some decisions to make.” Then we talked through that, and it was helpful. But it sounds like you kind of do it the other way around.

Michael: Yeah. Let me give you a concrete example. One of the things I had under writing, which is one of my categories, is “Promote the new book.” That’s going to be true every year. I said I’m going to do 50 interviews at 45 minutes each. The truth is some of them are 30, some of them are an hour, but on average, 45. So then in the comment I just said 50 interviews times 45 minutes equals 2,500 minutes, divided by 60 minutes, equals 37-1/2 hours divided by 6 hours a day (again, that’s our workday: six hours a day). That means 6.25 days promoting the book. Does that make sense?

Megan: Yeah. That’s really helpful.

Michael: So I just left that as a comment so Jim knows I’m not just spitballing it here, that I actually have rationale behind why I did what I did.

Megan: You went through the math.

Michael: That’s right. I did the math.

Megan: Okay. The last step, step five, is to determine whether you’re over or under budget and then to adjust accordingly to get to zero. Again, back to the budget analogy. This is like a zero-based budget. You want to get all the way to zero. You don’t want to be over. You don’t want to be under.

Michael: The reason this is important is because the last thing you want to do is find out in the midst of your life that you’re overcommitted. That’s a recipe for misery and discomfort and frustration. The value of spending it on paper, just like if you were spending your money… You don’t want to come to the end of the month without a plan and realize you’ve overspent your budget and now you have a deficit.

I mean, where is that going to go? Is that going to go on a credit card or are you just going to be short, you’re not going to eat for the last week of the month, which is probably not something your family will appreciate? So, if you do it on paper first, you can see where the problems are and tackle them where they’re just conceptual before they become a reality.

Megan: Yeah. That’s so good. Well, if you’re like me and you get to the end of this and you’re over… Maybe you’re 5 days over or 10 or 15 or 20. What are some of the things you can do, Dad, to address that overage, so to speak?

Michael: First of all, I would say, be committed to only spending what you have available. Don’t live in fantasyland. Don’t create a fictional universe where you have more hours available than you really have available. You have to be honest with yourself, and you have to come to grips with it. The sooner you do it, the better off you’re going to be.

Then you have to think to look at the numbers here. When you plug in your income, you see the relative value of the different activities you’re doing, and you can say, “For me to attend that many meetings…” I’m just going to pull up one here. So, for me to attend a certain kind of meeting, this next year I’m going to be spending $5,000 of the company’s money attending that specific kind of meeting. Is that a good investment of the company’s money? The answer may be “Yes,” but ultimately, something has to go, because this is a zero-based kind of thing, and you can’t spend more time than you have. The commitment has to be to get it to zero.

Megan: The other thing would be to caution people against taking it out of your vacation. You could be really tempted to go, “Well, I don’t really need three or four weeks of vacation. Maybe just a week will be good.” That’s easy to say in the abstract until you’re six months in and you feel like you’re sucking wind. You’re exhausted, and you have nothing left to give, and you’re realizing you don’t have a vacation again for six more months. That does not make a lot of sense.

It’s kind of like not planning an emergency fund in your budget and assuming you won’t have any emergencies. You’re not accounting, in this case, for your own humanity, for the physical needs and emotional needs of your body and your mind and all the things. So, don’t take it from there either. Again, as we talk about in our new book Win At Work and Succeed At Life, this is a case where constraints really drive innovation and productivity and freedom.

So, when you start thinking about, as you were saying, leverage… What’s going to be the most high-leverage thing you can invest your time in, and where maybe could you delegate it to somebody else? Maybe you need to totally reimagine that. This can start a lot of very good conversations in your organization or on your team as you start thinking through this stuff.

Michael: Just to bring this to a close, I think the thing all of us have to come to grips with is that our time is a finite resource.

Megan: Right. The most finite.

Michael: The most finite. We’re not Superman. We’re not Superwoman. We have a finite number of hours we can allocate, and when they’re gone, they’re gone, so we need to be wise in the way we spend our hours. To spend them on paper gives us the opportunity to evaluate it from an objective standpoint before we’re in the midst of life having to make these hard decisions. We can kind of have a design.

Again, life doesn’t turn out exactly as you’ve planned it. It never does. But life sure goes a lot better with a plan than without a plan. Just like your budget. Again, it’s not going to be exactly as you budgeted, but by having a budget, you at least keep the thing on the rails so you have a chance of ending the month with more money than days left. The same thing is true with your time.

Megan: Well, I would like to quickly review these steps, and then I want to ask you a final question, which is…How do we apply this? What do we do with it once we’ve completed this worksheet? So, let me go through the steps here.

  1. Decide how many days off you’re going to take, including weekends, holidays, and vacations.
  2. Make a list of categories of responsibilities you have.
  3. Identify discrete tasks under each one of those.
  4. Allocate how much time you’re going to spend for each item on your spreadsheet.
  5. Determine whether you’re over or under budget and adjust accordingly to get to zero.

Okay. So, we’ve done this now. We have the spreadsheet. Let’s assume it’s at a zero at the bottom. We’ve figured it all out. Now what do we do so that this actually works out in real life and we get to take all of the days off we planned and we get to make these things a priority that we’ve identified in this document?

Michael: Well, the short answer is that you need to move to your calendar. There are a couple of ways to do that. First of all, if you don’t have an executive assistant, no problem. Just pull out your calendar and start scheduling these in the same way you have them listed. In other words, start with your time off. Go ahead and get those vacations. Get the weekends, get your sabbatical if you do one, your company holidays, all that stuff. Get it on the calendar, because those are the big rocks, and you’re going to plan around that kind of stuff.

The second thing I would do is I would schedule, to the extent that you can do this (and I know it’s not possible in every case), the non-discretionary time. In other words, the time that’s committed that you don’t have any discretion over. For me, that would be BusinessAccelerator coaching intensives. Those are scheduled by somebody else. They’re taking into account my vacation because I’m far enough ahead of it, but everything is going to have to be planned around that. We can’t be moving those around two weeks before we’re scheduled to have them. There are too many people involved.

So, get those items in, and then start putting in the discretionary time, the time that doesn’t depend upon somebody else’s calendar or coordination with somebody else. Get that on your calendar. But here’s the thing about the calendar that we have to remember: if we don’t claim the time first, somebody else will. I’m going to say that again, because it’s an important planning principle. If we don’t claim the time first, somebody else will.

Now, as the master of my own calendar, I can always choose to move something I’ve planned, but I don’t want to just have a vacuum. If there’s an empty space and somebody claims that time, I don’t really have an excuse. If I have claimed the time, I can say, “Gee. I have a commitment then. Could we do it at another time?” or I could say, “Yeah. I’ll move the thing I had planned somewhere else and we’ll do that thing you’re asking for.” That gives you the freedom to do that so you don’t get in a situation where you have to say yes.

Megan: Well, hopefully this has been really helpful to maybe provide you with a new way to think about how to ensure you have enough time for your most important professional priorities, including the kind of rejuvenation you need to perform at your best. Just as a reminder, you can get access to this free tool, Spend Your Days on Paper, at Until next week, lead to win.