There are 168 hours in a week, though in terms of available time it’s actually 112 hours a week, assuming you get a solid eight hours sleep each night. It’s clear that working harder, longer, isn’t the key to success.

When I was a surgery intern, there was a mandate to reduce our average work-week – to ‘only’ 110 hours. Insane, right? Extreme for sure. Even more extreme was the year I spent deployed to Iraq, where I definitely didn’t get eight hours – let alone eight restful hours – of sleep on any night.

Believe it or not, those were easier than launching and running a business, or building, training and leading a team. Seriously. How? Because they are highly focused environments.

Whether scrubs and a white coat or camouflage and body armor, I never had to think about what to wear. Or what to eat, when there was a cafeteria or chow hall (or MRE) nearby. Or what to do next. My days were highly regimented, and my tasks extremely structured – the steps to performing an appendectomy or triaging a casualty just don’t change very often.

It’s a matter of expectations, too. No one goes into these thinking they are going to have time for any of the things that motivate entrepreneurs like financial freedom, control over your life and schedule, or work-life balance. They expect an all-consuming grind, and for the most part they get it.

The truth is, it’s easy to focus when you’re in a high-intensity environment like a hospital, or a war zone. Everyone around you is as passionate and committed to the same goal that you are so what seems extreme to outsiders is what we called normal – because for us, it was.

Running a business? Not so much. Your goals are not the same as those around you whether we are talking about customers, employees, vendors, or even family and friends. Your business environment hasn’t been shaped by hundreds of years of (literal) trial by fire and blood for what works best. It’s completely on you to create your own conditions for success.

And you can. You have the same 168 hours a week as everyone else. If you feel like you’re not achieving your goals, if you feel like you’re overwhelmed or stuck, if you feel like you’re too busy to do the important things, it’s time to take a moment and reassess.

One exercise I have people do is map out their week, accounting for every single of the 168 hours in a week. Don’t just read this – stop, download & print out this template and fill it out.

Blank template of a seven day week broken down to 24 hour blocks per day

Weekly schedule template.

It’s a lot more time than you might think, but you have to be reasonable. We say eight hours of sleep, but do you instantly fall asleep the second your head hits the pillow? Are you leaping out of bed in the morning instantly fully awake at 100% mental processing capacity? Probably not.

You have to account for waking up and getting ready for the day. You have to account for getting ready for bed. For personal care. Block out the time you work, meal times, break times, family time, personal time… however you designate your ‘times’.

When I did this for myself, I struggled to describe my blocks of work time because in reality it was a hot mess – the interruptions (both team and family) that had me jumping in and out of my projects not to mention the fatigue from an irregular and insufficient sleep schedule.

Clearly my normal routine no longer existed – and I was feeling the pain from it. For all the time I was flogging myself to work, I was so ineffective it was ridiculous. I know better. Heck, this is exactly what I help my clients with. Somehow, I let entropy creep in and take over. No, not somehow – I simply stopped paying attention to it.

It happens. The important thing is to make the right corrections and get back on course as quickly as possible.

Now compare your designations with your goals – are they in alignment? If you want to get into better shape, is there designated workout time? Time for healthy meals? Are you making time for your loved ones? Do you have time set aside for your personal interests?

If you aren’t committing any time to your business, the problem is self-evident.

For everyone else, the more common problem is that work time has taken over everything else. I’m not even talking about the many ways work can bleed into everything else through emails, calls, messaging, etc. – I address these problems and how to solve them in other posts.

The important thing to realize about work compared to all these other activities is that the things you do during this time are not things that only you can do. No one else can spend time with your loved ones for you. No one else can work out for you, eat for you, pursue your hobbies for you.

No one else has the vision for your business that you do, but that doesn’t mean that the activities to achieve that vision have to be performed by you. In fact, designing your business to be absolutely dependent on you is a recipe for burnout at best, complete failure at worst.

Now fill out a fresh weekly schedule, this time with what you want your week to look like. Again, don’t just read about it – stop right now, print out another copy of the template and fill it out.

Congratulations – you have created your ideal schedule! Do the two seem ridiculously, laughably far apart? Most of the time they do, but this is where you start – knowing where you are, and knowing where you want to be. Mine were too:

original vs ideal schedule

Original schedule on the left, ideal schedule on the right. Work blocks are outlined in red.

Don’t get discouraged – you can get from one to the other if you commit to it, which means committing to changing the ways you are accustomed to doing things. Can you commit to making life easier on yourself and more enjoyable? I thought so. 🙂

Shifting from your current schedule to your ideal one won’t happen in a day, but it will happen. By designing your Ideal Schedule, you’ve already taken the first step – congratulations!

In the next post, we’ll dive into determining what your next best step will be. See you there!