When the American West was settled, whoever got there first established a claim on the land. It was theirs. They got to say how it was used.
Your time follows this same law of homesteading. Whatever gets put on our calendar first becomes the defacto standard for what we’re “supposed” to be doing with that time.
This is why it’s important to put your priorities on the calendar first. We commonly think of this when we’re scheduling our day or our week, simply because that’s the kind of scheduling we most commonly do.
Scheduling your year can have an even more profound effect.
On January 1, it’s easy to look at that crisp, clean calendar you just hung on the wall and think that 2024 has all the time in the world. Just look at all that white space!
But it fills up quickly, doesn’t it? Work, church, school, the kids’ activities, family reunions… the year comes at you fast. Before you know it, all that free time is gone. The most important things start getting squeezed out by the noise of the immediate.
In Living Forward, Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy recommend using an annual time block as part of your planning. This tool helps you put your big rocks on the calendar. Then you can schedule other things around them as they come in.
Start by scheduling the big rocks first:
- Birthdays and anniversaries. Set aside time to celebrate the most important people in your life.
- Holidays. Will you be getting together with family? Don’t forget to check with their schedules.
- Industry events, conferences, and conventions. Do you need to plan for these? Plan around them? They can be disruptive and influence your plans even if you aren’t attending.
- Vacations. It’s as important to plan your time away from work as it is to plan your work. Take your vacation days! You’ve earned them.
- Personal development. Schedule quarterly personal offsites to review your progress and prepare for the next quarter. What training or seminars will you attend?
- Re-creation. Schedule time with friends, date nights, fun stuff. Reserve the third Saturday of the month to go golfing. These sorts of Quadrant 2 activities are too often neglected, getting only what scraps of time are left over after we’re done with the “important things”.
Congratulations! You’ve staked your claim on the year! You’ve taken an important step towards making this an incredible year.
When conflicting claims come in (and they will) you have a choice to make. If the new request fits with your plan for the year, work it in. If it doesn’t fit, you can say no with a clear conscience.
The best time to fill out your calendar is before the end of the year. You’ll have your plans in place before others start making requests. Plus, when it’s time to set goals for the year, you can see your year in context. July might not be the best deadline for the first draft of your book when you’re going to spend late June on vacation at a lake in southern Utah.
You have the right to claim your time before anybody else. You know what is going to influence your year and impact your life better than anyone else.
What you’re creating here is just a plan. Like any plan, it will change. Be flexible. The important thing is to claim your time before someone else does.