Digital Strategy Insights Marie Poulin

How designing your ideal week can increase your productivity (and sanity).

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“You have a choice in life. You can either live on-purpose, according to a plan you’ve set. Or you can live by accident, reacting to the demands of others. The first approach is proactive; the second reactive.” — Michael Hyatt

I love that quote by Michael Hyatt. I had googled “design ideal week” and stumbled upon his post: How to better control your time by designing your ideal week. I’ve been planning a week ahead  of my schedule for the last year or so… but what I hadn’t really realized is that I wasn’t really sticking to the schedule I had set out for myself, and still always felt busy. My weekly ideal schedule had become more of a pipe dream, and I was still operating in reaction mode.

Finally after stumbling upon Michael’s post, I had a much clearer idea of how to create a framework for my week that would empower me to feel more focused by theming days of the week, and even parts of the day. SO simple, I know. Some of you have been doing this for ages and you’re already a pro, and some of your who saw my schedule said “woah, that’s so rigid, I need more flexibility!”

Here’s the thing: this structure GIVES me way more flexibility. This allows me to be in proactive mode.

Structure enables flexibility

I do not naturally conform to structure; structure is not something that comes easily to me (I know some of my students might tell you otherwise). It’s something I study over and over again, so that I can find the environment that enables me to thrive naturally.

What I realized since launching Digital Strategy School is that my schedule had become way too unpredictable. Students were able to book their sessions with me almost any time and any day of the week, provided my calendar was empty. This would sometimes result in weeks with 2 meetings, followed by weeks with 8 meetings, sometimes with only a 15 min buffer in between (it was a big transition from client work to mentoring almost overnight!). I also didn’t have a consistent day or time in which I would conduct my DSS Interviews. I realized I needed some structure so that I could plan my time better, and make sure I was giving the best to my students, and also be realistic about how many hours I actually had available week to week.

In planning my ideal week  I mapped out all of my weekly, monthly and even yearly commitments, and began to plot out what a typical week could look like. I set up 2 days per week that I would set aside for mentorship (at the same time each day, one in the morning, one in the afternoon).

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I also participate in a number of masterminds, some of which are every other week. In this case, I’ve blocked it out on my calendar, so on the off weeks, that time can be used for content creation, or admin.

Track your time

If you’re not sure how much time you are actually spending on various tasks, use a tool like Rescue Time (their free version is excellent!) which runs in the background and tracks where your time is being spent. It can even send you weekly reports so you know exactly how much time you wasted on Facebook, or spent in your email inbox! You can assign different websites or programs/applications on a scale of very distracting to very productive, so you can see at a glance things like: which days of the week you’re most productive, which times of the day you’re most productive, and the sites on which you’re spending the most distracting time. Turns out I’m consistently “in the zone” around 3pm in the afternoon; so instead of trying to tackle highly creative work first thing in the morning (when my brain is barely functioning), I handle it in the afternoon, when I know I’m at my peak!

I manually track my time spent on general client work, meetings, and personal projects using Timely app, while leaving Rescue Time running in the background so I have a general sense of how much time I spent between apps and within different websites. With these 2 tools, I have a pretty good sense of where my time is going week to week.

Theme your days

Using Michael Hyatt’s week as inspiration, I themed my days in a way that made sense for me:

Sunday: Rest and plan for the week
Monday: Mentorship
Tuesday: Creation
Wednesday: Mentorship
Thursday: Mastermind
Friday: Oki Doki work day (new business development, design, content creation, community building, brainstorming, etc)
Saturday: Personal day, kick-started with an “In Real Life” Mastermind with friends from Screw the Nine to Five, Constance Lynn Hummel, and her partner Harrison.

Mondays and Wednesdays are now set aside for Digital Strategy School work/mentorship, Tuesdays and Thursdays are now my major work and content creation days, while Friday is entirely set aside for Oki Doki work and planning. This is just a loose theme for the day, that still allows me some flexibility with how I spent my time each day.


I mapped out all my non-negotiable personal time as well.


This means no skipping lunches to keep working, and making physical activity a must. It’s easy to put that stuff on the backburner when things get busy, but physical activity is so essential to my sanity, that only by mapping it out into my schedule do I actually really feel committed to it (reminders and all).

If you have a system that already works for you, that’s great. But if you find yourself feeling a bit frayed, it might be worth taking some time to re-evaluate your calendar, and plan out your week.

I can now say goodbye to weeks that look like this: (YIKES.)
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And into weeks that look a little closer to this: (I used Michael Hyatt’s excel template in Numbers for Mac and adjusted everything to work for me… since there is no way on earth I’m even remotely going to be alert before 8am!)

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My schedule will always be a work in progress, but simply by limiting the times I’m available in my scheduler system, I’ve managed to create more space for content creation, brainstorming, planning, designing, and just life in general. I’m looking forward to testing out this weekly theming.

Do you theme your days, or do time-blocking like this? I’d love to know what works for you!

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  1. This is brilliant, Marie! My google calendar looks a lot like yours also (yikes is right).

    Love the new schedule and themes you have up top. What did you use to create that one? Excel?

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    • Saturday has become one of my favourite days of the week again, thanks to FUCK BRUNCH!

      Great post and so many wicked suggestions.

      And love the colour coding!!

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  2. I’m realizing that maybe my Saturday morning mastermind needs a better name and found that being really particular with what days I book coaching and client calls opened up a world of space to work as well! (Plus I don’t have to blow dry my hair everyday, double bonus.)

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  3. This is a fantastic idea and a great way to focus and get a bit of control back. I have a terrible habit of letting my triathlon training slip when I have a lot of work on, and winding up frazzled because I have spent too much time in front of the computer screen. Productivity goes down and I loose perspective. Thank you Marie!! You have a new fan!

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  4. great ideas Marie, exactly what I needed to read this morning! i have a yearly timeline for main deadlines, but my weekly/monthly was ‘yikes’!!! i was also letting meal times drift by… then eating foods that lets just say don’t really support health & brain function!!!
    all this inspiration and its just 8am 🙂 today is going to be a good day 🙂

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  5. WOW! This is quite impressive. I’m pretty Type-A, so I need schedule like this too. Mapping it out like this is amazing. Keep at it.

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  6. I’ve just done this myself as I was finding I wasn’t spending as much time as I needed on business tasks like marketing, new services etc. I like spontaneity but have come to realise I’m no where near as productive. What I did was use blocks of time not specific times of the day so I’ve got 8 x 50 minute blocks and have set non-negotiable ones for business tasks I know I need to do. Client work gets the free spots. This way I get the best of both worlds as I can do the blocks at any time during the day so long as I do them 🙂 This works for me as I’m single with no kids and I love to run off on a whim and do stuff (e.g. surfing when the weathers good). Probably wouldn’t work for people with more committed schedules than mine or things that must be done at certain times. Great post!

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  7. I go back and forth on this because rebellious (toddler?) me says “no!” every time I try. Also I cracked up at your “barely functioning” before 8:30, because my “barely functioning” time is any time before 11 a.m. :p

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  8. Love this, Marie! I use something similar with small time blocks in the morning and big blocks in the afternoon when I can get on a deep roll with something. I also build in a TON of flexibility because, for me, spontaneity is a hugely important component of the creative life I’m building.

    As you mentioned, the “system” is continually getting tweaked and improved upon. The need to actually schedule in lunch is something I’m resisting because it’s still a fairly new development — the whole forgetting to eat thing — I didn’t expect to ever have that become a behavior trait!

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  9. love love LOVE this! I’m working on systems and structure in my biz for 2015…this is so inspiring.

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  10. Love this, thanks for sharing. I definitely have to add my non-negotiable to my schedule (and actually honor that)

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  11. I love the idea of having themes for your days! I get a lot out of blocking my tasks together which I know can be a big productivity saver, so creating a theme for each day seems to make a lot of sense.

    I know I can sometimes struggle with creating an exact time dictated schedule for myself for each day, since it often doesn’t go exactly according to plan. Kind of like with budgeting – I love for everything to fit just right, but often my actually monthly spending doesn’t always fit with exactly what I budgeted. But I know there is a ton of benefits to get out of that advance planning too! Just got to get over my hang-ups sometimes! 🙂

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  12. I love the idea of theming your days. I have a rough weekly schedule that I stick to, but I’m realizing that it’s a little messy. This week I’ve particularly realized that I could really do with having an entire day off to get chores and things done, so looks like I need to re-evaluate my week schedule! Love this post. Yours posts are always so informative & on-point!

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  13. Love this Marie! It’s a constant struggle for me (and most entrepreneurs, I’m sure!) to create a schedule that’s productive AND sustainable. I’m always leaning on the “non-stop-working” end of the spectrum. Blocking off time for non-negotiables is so helpful to start defining how the rest of the day and week should look. Thanks for sharing this!

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  14. Thank you soooo much for this! Sometimes I feel that having a schedule makes me boring or too rigid…but it’s what keeps me productive! Glad to know I’m not alone! 🙂

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  15. This is wonderful! I have an appointment book where I write everything I need to do and use my gmail calendar as well – what a mess! These are great tips to keeping it all organized and more productive. Thank you so much!

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  16. I NEED THIS. I have been kind of freaking out for…oh…months because I am just flying by the seat of my pants. This is really helpful information for creating a great week instead of hoping for one. Thanks!

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  17. Great post. Having a plan is key.. it turns your into a proactive player instead of a reactive mess. I love using Toggl to track my time. It’s free and simple and is not only great for tracking time, but helps me to assess the level of effort that tasks take which helps with putting together new quotes….

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  18. I have been doing this since the start of the year and the difference it has made to my stress levels is huge. Nice to see I’m not the only organisation geek out there 😉

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  19. I do this now, I had no idea MichaelHyatt did it too! Thanks for providing the tools that you’re using, I will have to let a few clients know about them.

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  20. Love this! As my coaching business grows, I’m so going to need something like this. I’ll gladly steal it from ya 🙂

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  21. Great advise. Funny how all comments were from females. I guess men have their act together!?

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  22. Love this, thanks Marie! I’m going to be using something similar from now on:) You’re right, you DO have to schedule in exercise as I find myself putting it on the back burner but it’s so essential.

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  23. Hey Marie,

    I read your post on Medium about the big mistake nearly all designers make:
    and I just wanted to say I’ve been implementing this simple tip of leaving myself more room to get something done and it has helped tremendously.

    My days start by looking only half full and I get tempted to cram more in, but just by persevering and allowing myself that extra room I’m finding I’m not only providing a better service to my clients, I can work on side projects and I’m actually finishing work at 5pm every day!

    It’s amazing and so simple. Thanks very much for all your tips and tricks, you really know your stuff!

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    • hey Laura! So great to hear that it has been helping you — i know it has shifted things for me dramatically! It’s the best feeling when your posts don’t just resonate with people but are actually really useful, so WOO HOO! Whatever will you do with all your new found time?? hehe

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  24. Thanks Marie for writing such a useful post and sharing with us. Currently I am using a Google spreadsheet to manage my week. I agree Saturday is a “Personal day” but the story of my Saturday is horrible 🙂 I need to work a little bit on it. I have just downloaded the Michael Hyatt’s excel template, I hope it will help me.

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  25. Hi Marie!

    Great read – I am in exactly the same pickle and Michael’s post about this popped into my email inbox at just the right time! I adjusted his template too but still struggling to really settle into it. That said, even just writing out the schedule the way I want it to be has really helped me adjust how I book appointments and when I chunk certain work. This blog post was a nice reminder it doesnt have to be exactly like what’s on the page ! Thanks

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  26. This was awesome! This is what I’ve been picturing in my head for the last few days….so freakin cool to find your post. Thank you 🙂

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