Ever wish you had more time? You’re not alone! With an endless to-do list and the pressure of juggling multiple responsibilities, it’s not unusual for high-achievers (like you) to feel bogged down with it all.
The challenge is you can’t get more time! Time is in a finite supply. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you live, each day, you’ll wake up with 1,440 minutes deposited in your time bank account. That’s 86,400 seconds a day to transform into a meaningful and successful life.
That’s why top performers know it’s not the amount of time that’s most important. It’s how they use and schedule their time that counts. And one of the simplest techniques you can use to 10x your productivity is a zero-based calendar.
Use this technique to finish tasks efficiently, get more done, boost your confidence, and plan an action-packed day that’s achievable.
Most people manage their tasks, not their time (it’s the wrong way around)
When it comes to planning your day, most people make a crucial mistake.
Instead of allocating time for individual tasks (in the same way you do meetings), they simply work through a to-do list.
A to-do list is great for getting all the things you have to get done written down in one place. Empty your head onto paper and instead of trying to remember all your tasks, you free up bandwidth to focus on the doing.
To-do lists clear headspace, but they don’t maximize productivity in the same way that scheduling does. Instead, they leave you wide open to Parkinson’s Law.
Parkinson’s Law states that tasks will expand to fill the minutes you give them.
It’s a productivity drain because your to-do list is going to take a lot longer to complete than it should. Parkinson’s Law explains why an essay plan can take an entire day (instead of a couple of hours) – or a coding task can take over your morning (rather than be finished in a 30-minute sprint).
If you want to get more done you’ve got to transform your relationship with time. This means allocating tasks to specific time slots rather than working down through a list.
This practice is called time blocking and it’s going to help you 10x your productivity. Here’s how to do it:
- Estimate how long you think a task will take to do
- Schedule that time slot (like you would an appointment) into your planner
- During that time slot, work on nothing but the task at hand (despite what you’ve been told, multitasking does not make you more productive!)
With a clear deadline to work towards, you’ll be motivated to work more efficiently and you’ll finish up quicker.
But don’t stop there…
No white space – time block your entire day
If you time block an individual task, you’ll get it done much quicker. So imagine what’s possible when you time blocked your entire day?
This is the practice of zero-based scheduling and it can 10x your daily results.
Zero-based scheduling involves time blocking your entire day leaving zero time accounted for.
It sounds overwhelming, but this practice isn’t just for work tasks. You should schedule all your personal time too. Leisure time, personal commitments, meetings and appointments (including travelling time), visits to the gym, classes and other forms of activity, school runs and bedtime routines – even time slots when you don’t have to do a thing.
Use zero-based planning to schedule an optimum time slot for each task, and you’ll use every minute wisely.
Instead of working through tasks in a random, ad hoc way, allocate a specific time slot based on:
- How long you predict a task will take to complete
- Your deadlines and daily priorities
- Your ‘frogs’ – those big, bad tasks you procrastinate over, but leave you feeling a whole lot better once they’re done!
- The events and activities you have scheduled that are non-moveable
- Your energy levels – whether a task is energizing, draining, or neutralizing and when you’re most likely to complete the task efficiently
Schedule tasks in this way and you can tackle your day (and your week) more strategically.
For example, instead of filling a two-hour slot before a meeting with a series of small jobs, you can schedule a meatier 2-hour task and leave the quick jobs for those spare 30-minute gaps that crop up during the week.
This practice boosts productivity for three reasons:
- You beat Parkinson’s Law by preventing tasks absorbing more time than they need
- Tasks get done quicker so you can crank through more in a day
- When you estimate how long a task will take in advance, you can schedule yourself enough time to do it properly. Not only does this cut stress and overwhelm, but feeling on top of it all boosts your motivation and self-confidence too.
But that’s not all. Zero-based planning will also help you:
- Boost your productivity and performance through strategic planning that boosts your output, avoids the last-minute rush, and gets tasks done in an efficient amount of time
- Sharpen your time awareness so you can manage a busy workload by planning days that are achievable
- Stop getting behind because you always overrun on tasks. Now you’re conscious how your day needs to work, you can stay focused and make it happen
- Achieve work-life harmony by scheduling time for EVERYTHING that matters to you.
How to use a SELF Journal to plan your zero-based day
The SELF Journal is a planning and productivity tool designed to boost your productivity, performance, and positivity.
As well as monthly and weekly planning pages, there’s a daily template designed to help you zero plan your day.
- Pull out your weekly to-do list (we recommend the Weekly Action Pad).
- Prioritize your tasks and record an estimate of how much time you need to complete each item
- Open your SELF Journal and write down your top 3 priorities for the day. These are the tasks that will make the day a win for you – even if you get nothing else done.
- The daily timeline is broken down into 30-minute time blocks. Use this to get granular with your daily scheduling
- First, schedule the fixed appointments and commitments that you must to work around. Remember to include travel time so you don’t overestimate the time left.
- Next, schedule your top three priorities into the most appropriate time slot.
- Remember to include lunch breaks, downtime, and a slot where you’ll deal with distracting tasks such as social media and emails
- Finally, backfill any free time slots with other items from your to-do list
Then take action! Use the time windows to inspire focus and motivate you to finish each task in a productive timespan.
Zero hours scheduling can take some practice.
Most of us aren’t all that time aware, it’s why this practice can be such a big win. As your awareness grows, you get savvier with your planning and organization and soon you’ll be getting more done in a day than you used to get done in a week!
That’s why zero hours scheduling is a strategy used by top-performers and high-achievers (and why it’s a tool baked into the SELF Journal).
So if you’re ready to skyrocket your productivity, achieve bigger goals, and enjoy work-life harmony, invest in the tools that will help you put this practice into your life.