“For the happiest life, days should be rigorously planned, nights left open to chance.” Mignon McLaughin

I’ve been very robust in my musings about the inadvertent smothering of time management methods under the deluge of deeper-thought personal development literature. While the latter is an exceptionally important field of research for everyone, I’ve discovered a surprising dearth of TM input in self-help courses. And those who have recognised my distain for the excessive (although not wholly inappropriate) breadth of writing on Mindfulness won’t be surprised to find that I reckon it’s not a field that lends itself to planning for the future.

The dearth I mention is surprising because in many such courses, some exceptional input on how to identify your values, set goals, and deal with obstacles and other people (occasionally the same thing) is being undermined by the lack of input on how to manage your time in such a way as to do those very things. One observation made (by the uninformed) is that planning prevents spontaneity ‘and I don’t want to be restricted’.

At the moment, I am in the process of setting up a formal coaching practice, (see here) in the South Wales and Bristol/Gloucestershire areas in the UK and I am extremely aware of the amount of planning I need to do in order to make sure that it succeeds. I am also aware of just how much mental space it takes up, and how that focus can affect everything else I do. I am passionate about the material, but not so much that I want to destroy my life in an effort to teach it.

That, for many, is a dichotomy – two challenging and mutually exclusive alternative choices. Society and much literature (mainly the former) seems to say that in order to make a business work you must put everything into it, which in turn means by default that you should stop doing anything else. Which is an evidently stupid suggestion if you have responsibilities and accountabilities elsewhere, including wife/husband/partner and family. Like most of us. (What’s the point of success if you have no intimate partner with whom to share it? Discuss.)

That’s where time management and the McLaughlin quotes come in. if you manage your time you maximise it, and if you do that you can create time for the business and for the other things that make the business worthwhile.

My routine, therefore, is that I spend the ‘working week, 9-5 hours with the business in mind, and evenings and weekends free for ‘other important’ stuff. That’s not to say I don’t give any time or thought at all to the business outside of those hours – as we are, like life, one indivisible whole, it is inevitable and indeed helpful that thoughts on the business hit me at all sorts of times, as do opportunities. But when the thought it hits me I deal with it, probably by planning any necessary action into an appropriate (weekday) moment. If it must be acted upon immediately, so be it, but that’s rare. What I can do with an idea that strikes when no pen or paper is handy (for example) is send myself an email, with sufficient information about this sudden inspiration, from one of two accounts accessible from my smartphone, and plan action when I am later sat at my desk. In the same vein I can do something spontaneously without it affecting my business.

Planning your week in advance permits freedom, it doesn’t stifle it. If you have no plan at all, what on earth can you be spontaneous about?

Plan your week, but don’t plan to fill it. Make time for you and yours. After work, not in competition with it.