Sustainable Minimum Schedule: A Work Week That Doesn't Sacrifice Personal Life Or Hobbies

I enjoy my personal life just as much as I enjoy building my business. Early on, I found that my work was cutting into spending time with my wife, friends, and the fun outdoor activities that we get to enjoy in Colorado.

I wanted to come up with a way to get the most that I could out of my work week, instead of letting a 50 or 60 hour week turn into an 80-100 hour week.

The Reactive vs. Proactive Mindset

When I jumped into this entrepreneurial journey 3 years ago, I had zero structure to my work schedule. I was used to the corporate structure of reporting to my manager at his beckoning without any rhyme or reason to my day. I would schedule meetings at any time of the day, randomly jump calls, consistently refresh my email inbox, and stress out if my Microsoft Lync status switched from green to  yellow or red.

But when I stepped into the role of a business owner, I quickly realized that this method of constant reactivity was ineffective for achieving any of the goals that were going to move the needle for my business. I found myself answering emails & phone calls all day long only to be left starting my "important" projects after everyone else left at the end of day. These were projects that I knew NEEDED to be done to move the business forward, and the cold hard truth was that nobody else was above me to complete them for me.

Ultimately, I found that my work was quickly cutting more and more into my personal time with my family, friends or or spending time outdoors. (which is what brings me the most joy) So, over the past couple of years, I've defined 3 rules to eliminate work cutting into my personal time.

3 Rules For Getting The Most Out Of My Work Week

No meetings or calls with anyone outside of my organization before 11 am

  • Allows me to keep the mornings to myself each day (these are the hours when I have the most willpower to work on my Projects)
  • Allows me to stick to my morning routine
  • Eliminates scatter brain from jumping around from meeting to meeting in the mornings
  • Gives me an exact time block to let people know when I'm available for lunches, coffee, or (mostly unproductive) zoom calls

Schedule time for Deep Work on Tuesday & Thursday mornings

  • Provides a consistent pre-planned schedule to work on my Most Important Projects week over week
  • Gives me the freedom to turn my phone & laptop on "DO NOT DISTURB" during the workweek (this is key to thinking, writing, & clearly articulating your thoughts and ideas into words and actionable plans)
  • Trains your team members, friends, and family to give you the space you need to work on projects in an undistracted setting to move your business forward
  • Eliminates stress from constantly asking yourself the question, "When am I going to have time to ever work on this project?"
  • Creates space for undistracted creativity to push your brain to its cognitive limits
  • Simple 2x per week schedule allows ample brain recovery time in between sessions

Define a Sustainable Minimum Schedule (SMS)

Over time, I've worked to define what I call a Sustainable Minimum Schedule (SMS). This is done by assigning only ONE goal for each day of the week that, if completed, would make the day a WIN. This came from consistently asking myself the question, "If I only completed one thing today to move myself forward in life, what would that be?"

Here's what my SMS looks like:

  • Monday - Plan the week
  • Tuesday - Complete productive work
  • Wednesday - Complete a workout
  • Thursday - Complete productive work
  • Friday - Reflect on the week
  • Saturday - Complete outdoor cardio session
  • Sunday - Rest

Now, of course, these aren't the only tasks I complete each day. There are hundreds of other things that come up throughout the day. BUT, at a minimum, I know that if I complete each of the defined daily goals week over week I'll be moving forward in life.

And, by creating small wins for myself each day, I'm hacking my subconscious to show myself some self love rather than consistently ending the workday with the defeating mindset that I didn't complete enough on my to-do list.

Since buying my first business 3 years ago, I've learned that the to-do list never ends. Each time I check the box, three more to-do's are created.

I've come around to the idea that business & personal growth are a long term game. There's no reason to burn myself out trying to complete all of my ideas, projects, and tasks this week. I've got the rest of my life to chip away - week over week.

It's not important for me to achieve my long term goal this week. What IS important though, is that I commit to taking the actions this week that will move me closer to achieving my long term goals.

What I've listed above is my version of a Sustainable Minimum Schedule. This is my baseline for each week. At a minimum, I know that no matter what comes up, I can make time to complete the tasks I've listed. And my hypothesis is that this SMS will move me forward in life without leading me towards burnout.

As you can see, I've built in time each week for planning, reflection, productive work, exercise, and last but not least, rest. All of these things are what I've found to be most important on the path to being the best version of myself.

By sticking to these 3 rules during the week, I'm able to shut my laptop by 6pm each night & take weekends off to do more of the following activities:

  • be more present with my family & friends
  • visit other Colorado mountain towns
  • camping
  • mountain biking
  • snowboarding
  • hiking
  • XC skiing
  • cooking

If you're a founder struggling to find a sustainable schedule that allows for hobbies & personal time, I'd challenge you to think about defining your version of a Sustainable Minimum Schedule. Here's some questions to help you start the process:

  • What day / days can I allocate to heads down, undistracted work?
  • -What time slots throughout the day can I turn my phone on DO NOT DISTURB?
  • What day / days do I want to allocate to exercising?
  • What day / days do I want to allocate to rest?
  • What time do I want to shut

If you'd rather have the Sustainable Minimum Schedule defined for you, you can apply for next month's cohort of Productive Cycles. These are small groups of founders who plan, work, & reflect together via Zoom each week.

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