Sample Schedule – Click Image to Enlarge:
Designing Your Days
Just like any entrepreneur worth his salt, I’m obsessed with finding ways to optimize my use of time. The need for this is exasperated by the fact that I’m currently in the middle of a skate across the country, which is meant to ignite a national movement towards independent thought, entrepreneurship, and freedom (seriously!). I’m finding a need for a little bit more structure on this tour. As entrepreneurs and opportunists, sometimes, we think that refusing to follow any form of schedule is the best way to stay focused on the most important opportunities and tasks as they arrive. There’s some truth to that: Opportunities don’t always fit into our perfectly defined little schedules, but I think a lot of us take that mindset too far.
One of the reasons for developing some form of flexible schedule for yourself is actually to ensure that you stay focused on the most important tasks and don’t get constantly side-tracked by dribble. Looking back on the support-building phase of this crazy tour (did it ever end?), I realize now that the “random” opportunities typically came as a result of my consistent focused work day-to-day. Had I been a little more regimented, I think I would have actually stressed a lot less and focused more on the things I needed to do to build support. Often, we find that the most important tasks of the day don’t take that much time or work, but they take boldness and awareness of what’s important. Making contact with the president of my main sponsor for the tour, American Pioneer Ventures, involved very little work, but it was my most important choice prior to the tour.
So, it seems that what we need as entrepreneurs is a way to organize our time so as to maximize the high-impact activity and minimize the dribble that leads to nothing. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to tell the difference between the two. Here is my suggestion as to how to manage your days:
The Freedom Skater’s Prescription for a Flexible Life Regimen
1. Identify your main broad 90 day objectives (2-5 objectives, both personal and professional).
2. Name specific high-impact daily or weekly activities that will help you reach those objectives.
3. Create a week schedule in Excel (or whatever you like) that allows you to see your whole week in one screen.
4. Divide up your days into blocks which will be assigned to the tasks that will make your goals into realities.
5. Focus on high-impact tasks and make sure to include a short period of time for planning each day. This is when you will decide what matters and what is worthless dribble, relative to your long-term objectives.
6. Stick to the schedule, but be willing to roll with it. The schedule was designed to serve you â€“ not the other way around! You should adapt as needed everyday. The schedule simply provides a framework that will help you to stay focused on what you claim to want to achieve.
Objections to Scheduling
1. “I don’t want to be a robot!”
Surprising Truth: If you don’t plan your life, someone else will.
When you refuse to plan out your days and the direction you’re moving (your goals), you allow random day-to-day events to alter the direction you move in and weaken your overall force. Without a schedule or plan, your are at the complete mercy of random events and the plans that others make. If you don’t plan for you, someone else will! How is that not being a robot?
2. “I don’t want to be a workaholic!”
Surprising Truth: A schedule should restrain work to the hours you choose.
Leaving your whole day unplanned ensures that at every moment, you will feel as though you should probably be working. If you actually have the discipline to develop and follow a workable schedule, you can take back control of your life. If you plan to go horseback riding for two hours every Wednesday at 3 PM, you should be just as serious about that as you are about work-tasks. Life is too short to only take work seriously!
3. “It’s too much work!”
Surprising Truth: It’s more work not too.
I think it’s a given that refusing to plan will cause you to miss opportunities, because without a plan, you don’t have anything to consistently pull you back to the tasks you have identified as high-impact. More importantly: If you have no plan, every task will seem like it is important and urgent. Your life will be consumed by an unrestrained flow of often menial tasks. You’ll work more and achieve less.
NOTE: Having adapted the new schedule (top of page), I’m finally continuing my studies in German, which is one of my passions. I’ve been so busy with the skate, that I’ve let it slip. That’s a perfect example of how planning can free you up to do something you actually wanted to do in the first place.
The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss, Just Enough Project Management by Curtis Cook, Business Masterminding Session at Insights Group in Brighton, MI (Jan. 25th, 2010), and years of doing it the wrong way!
About the Author:
Austin Szelkowski is currently skating across America as The Freedom Skater, caring a message of entrepreneurship, ambition, and freedom to American youth. The Freedom Skater Tour is a joint venture between Austin Tells LLC and American Pioneer Ventures, Ltd. (APV). APV is a venture capital firm that focuses on providing early-stage startups with the resources and tools needed to launch great businesses. Austin currently serves as the Director of Business Development for APV.
Austin is also an inspirational speaker, who connects his speaking to the real world of business as he lives it. He is focused on movement and specializes in bringing ideas from concept to market. He views business as a vehicle for social change and envisions economic and social reform driven by the passion people find for the work of their own hands.
Austin obtained his B.S. in mechanical engineering at Kettering University in Flint, MI (formerly GMI). He spent one semester of his undergrad studying in Esslingen, Germany and has a passion for foreign cultures and languages. He is conversationally fluent in German. He is 24 years old. You can subscribe to his blog here.