Wouldn’t you like more time? I’m not sure there are many people who would turn down the offer of more time. Do you have a list of things – even if it’s just in your head – for the things you want to do in your spare time? “Spare” time usually only appears when some other obligation falls through unless we designate the time and priority for it. Are your bigger life goals floundering where you can’t seem to move them forward?
This is where a time map comes in – it is a visual depiction of how and where you want to spend your time, and hence your energy. We all have various roles we fill in our life – work, relationship, self, family, and so on. Hopefully these reflect our priorities and goals – although maybe not in the time they each get.
In my post More Scheduling Options, I shared:
This is what Julie Morgenstern’s refers to as a “budget of your day, week or month that balances your time between the various departments of your life.” I think about it as a chunking of what we need to do and how it relates to our schedule – a combination of the roles we fill and the ways we can shape our schedules to fit our life and style. It’s a visual guideline for how we want to use our time; usually done in broad strokes (though you design it as you want or need) and from here you can see where to add any additional appointments or tasks. Here are some sample time maps to see various ways you can design your own: Time Map Sample Booklet.
A time map is a tool that some people recommend to bring order to your days – where it relates to your calendar yet isn’t really about those specific appointments. It is all about you – this isn’t a cookie-cutter solution or tool – you consider and then design it according to your life and needs.
It’s often designed as a week view where the columns are the days of the week and rows are time slots. Considering your priorities and goals, you put those into blocks of time in your time map. This isn’t about scheduling every minute or every hour; it is about grouping things together in way that helps simplify and streamline things in order for you to focus on all those things that matter to you. Here’s part of a blank time map template I made:
You begin with all the concrete pieces – those various things you do consistently from day to day or week to week, i.e. your work schedule, bedtime and wake-up time, meals if they’re regularly at x time, date night, and so on. What are the things you need as well as want to spend your time on? Pick a day, a time slot, and put it in.
By creating your own time map, you are providing a structure to your time and schedule. This structure is to support you – not constrict or hamper – where you set aside time for all those things that take time and energy, and making sure that your priorities have time allocated for them as well. It can offer you clear boundaries – “nope, I can’t meet with you that day, but I do have time here and here” – so you protect your valuable time. It is there to remind you of the priorities and values you identified and the time you blocked out to focus on those.
If something comes up unexpectedly, you can see what you might be sacrificing and then, if you want to switch things rather than give up your time on something you value. Some people say that having their personal time map makes shifting things much easier; it requires less processing since it’s all laid out in broad strokes.
Since your time map is unique to you, it will likely take time figure out all the details. Do you already know clearly how you’re using your time? Or how you want to be using your time? Are you maximizing your priorities with your energy level? Did you leave in enough time for transitions, bathroom breaks, and other parts of life we don’t always think about? Do you want to run errands all together (theoretically most efficient) or after certain appointments? How are your time estimates for accuracy – do you tend to under- or over- estimate how long things take you?
We all have the same amount of time – 168 hours a week before factoring in sleep. And Julie Morgenstern says that on average the time map should work about 80% of the time (and 100% is unrealistic). The point of a time map is that it can put you in control of your own schedule – you still have all those things you need to get done for work, home, and family – and you decide how and where to fit those pieces into your schedule. And you can adjust it as needed – this is about providing you with the outline of how you want to spend your time and in a way that makes sense for you – whether that’s more or less detailed. It boils down to setting aside your time for the things that you’ve identified as important – and hence feeling successful and in control of your time.