Every great work of art started as a blank canvas.

Your week is a canvas, too. You have 168 hours to color in. We tend to color outside the lines a bit, but the people who get the most done are the ones who have a plan. They come up with a vision for their week and then get to work.

Planning your week doesn’t have to take long. You can create a very good plan in just fifteen minutes before you begin your week. Then spend five minutes reviewing your plan for the week and planning your day.

Each day will be different, but there are patterns. There are four basic brushes you have when laying out your week.

  • External commitments. First, you have your external commitments. This is time you’ve committed to someone else. Honor those commitments because people are depending on you to come through. Everything you need to do fits around these.
  • Deep work. Next, schedule three-hours blocks where you can go deep on a project. This is probably going to be where you schedule your big rocks for the week. Are you most productive first thing in the morning or in the evening? You know how you work best. Reserve some of your prime time, attention, and energy for your best work.
  • Breakout blocks. Plan time on your calendar for rest and re-creation. In The 12 Week Year, Brian Moran recommends setting aside a three-hour block during the regular work week where you’ll get away from your business and do things that have nothing to do with work. If you have that level of control over your schedule, that’s perfect. Even if you don’t, block out time away from work where you can renew and reinvigorate your mind.
  • Gravel beds. Our big rocks produce the big results, but we can’t ignore the gravel. We still have to take care of the little things. That doesn’t mean we need to scatter the gravel all over our schedule! Create designated times where you can go on a productivity spree. Make a game of it and see how many little things you can knock out in one or two pomodoros. I try to spend a pomodoro on gravel when I get to the office, after lunch, and right before I go home.

Leave yourself some white space on the canvas. Even if you’re perfectly punctual, you’re going to deal with people who aren’t. Things always take longer than we think. Don’t let the first imperfection throw off the rest of your day.

Give yourself time to travel between meetings, take care of the necessities, and smell the roses.

Once your week is planned, don’t worry about ruining your masterpiece. Like Bob Ross would say, “There are no mistakes, only happy accidents.”

Question: How do you lay out your week? Share your thoughts in the comments, on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.