How Most People Manage Their Time

Most people manage their time in either two ways. Using to-do lists or using calendars. By themselves these are great ways of managing time and I congratulate those who use these strategies and apply them to their routine. It is a great first step, but I think we can go even further.

These strategies are rather basic, and they don’t address the complexities of life that business owners face regularly. I am going to show you a framework that takes into account real life complexities and still works to keep you on task.


The Themed Time Management Process

A theme can be any central idea that other ideas revolve around. For example if you are a copywriter then your themes for work might be, drafting, editing, researching, and administration. These themes are sub-themes of copywriting which could be one of your main themes.

We can use themes for different amounts of time, like a daily theme, or a weekly, monthly or yearly as well. As a entrepreneur it makes sense to be planning at a yearly level and then to start working your way down the timeline to daily themes.

This creates an overall planning frame for you to use and helps to focus your efforts when you have many different pursuits.

As you plan your year make sure you take into account events in your personal life and business life equally.

For example, December may be an unproductive month due to the holiday season so you may want to balance your business obligations with respect to that.

Choosing Your Themes

Think of what you’d like to accomplish over the next year, pick three things you absolutely want to get done. Then choose three words to describe those goals. Make them specific to your business and your lifestyle needs.

For example maybe you are a graphic designer and want to improve your health, improve your prototyping process, and you want to get better at talking to clients. Then your three words for your themes might be Health, Prototyping, and Meetings.

Themes are a replacement to having goals for your tasks. You still have goals but you focus more on process than the outcome, which ultimately allows you to accomplish more.

Monthly Themes

After you choose the three words you will be working towards this year you can then start planning on a monthly level.

You are going to start picking new themes that are related to at least two of your three yearly themes. These themes don’t have to be just single words, they can be ideas or phrases.

If the theme does not hit two of those three words then you have to rethink it. Let’s say two of your three words are Health and Family, maybe your monthly theme would be “Doing more exercise with family.”

Daily Themes And Distractions

You can set themes to guide each day just like if you were planning for a month. If you get delayed from working on your theme don’t fret, your themed day is meant to be a point of focus.

There are two types of things that can get you off track when working throughout the day: disruptions (things you can’t control) and distractions (things you can control).

Both lead to diversions from staying on your theme. If you stray from your work just remember your theme for the day and use it as a reminder to get back on task. You can write it down on your notebook or on your computer screen as a reminder.

By using themes you can stay on track for entire months, and years if you want. To get started on using this system try buying a theme based calendar or create a separate calendar on Google that is focused on your themes.

Action Steps

  1. Choose 3 words to define your year. Make sure they are symbolic of things you want to work on or accomplish for the year.
  2. Choose a theme for each month that is related to at least 2 of the 3 yearly themes.
  3. Get a calendar so you can start theming.
  4. Theme your days just like your month.
  5. If you get off task during your day, look at your theme for the day, as a reminder of where you should be focusing.


Result You Will Achieve

A framework to manage your time that uses themes to guide your year, month, week, and day.

Mentor: Mike Vardy

Founder at Productivityist, amassed a 15K email subscriber list, over 10K twitter followers, and Productivityist reaches over 45K people per month with 8K downloads per podcast episode.

This article is based on an EHQ interview with the mentor.