Apply Zero-Based Scheduling

Feeling overscheduled? Try this:

  1. Start with a blank weekly calendar. Yes, blank. Assume for a moment that your calendar has been wiped clean, and you have no obligations.
  2. Add the most important activity to your calendar, based on your personal values? (Consider activities across all life domains – e.g., family, spirituality, health, career, social life.)
  3. Block the additional time needed for the duration, frequency, travel, and prep time for the activity. (We often tend to underestimate how long a task, project, or activity will take – by up to 50%!)
  4. Block an additional 30 minutes before and after the activity (to allow time to address additional tasks/interruptions that pop up between activities – ‘cause we know those happen!).
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 for your next 3-5 most important activities. Stop adding activities before you start scheduling things back-to-back. Take a step back. What do you notice? Is there anything missing that is more important than other items you already placed on your schedule?

This same idea can be applied with budgeting, where you justify every expense from scratch (vs. making minor tweaks based on the previous year’s budget – see Greg McKeown’s book “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” for details). Differentiate between your needs and wants. If you live with a partner, consider doing this exercise separately, then come together to discuss.

Even if you can’t get to a 100% solution right now, what are 1-2 steps you can start taking today to get you closer to aligning spending your time and money in ways that align with your values?