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Lesson 3 Transcript | 5 Min. Read
Welcome back, friends, to your next lesson. This is lesson 3, and in this lesson, we’re going to be talking about planning a purposeful and productive week. This is also a particularly interactive lesson, so go ahead and pull out your workbook and Season by Season planner and pause this video as I explain each step so we can do it together!
So you can see what we’re doing here, right? We started with the VERY big picture, talking about what matters in the big picture of your life, what matters over the long term. That conversation started to give us answers about why being productive, and being purposeful, even matters.
And then we moved to talking about breaking your year into 90-day chunks and into months, and how we could think about and plan for those intervals to use them well.
That brings us to today, where we’re going to spend some time thinking about the unit of a week. The week is a really ancient unit of time, dating back over two thousand years with very little variation across cultures. It seems there’s just something about the span of seven days, and the rhythm of good work - productivity - and rest that we can accomplish within it that just seems to satisfy the human brain and soul.
Because weeks have often, throughout history, had a regular rhythm to them - most notably, for the Judeo-Christian tradition, the rhythm of six days of work and one day of rest - we’re going to spend some time talking about rhythms and routines here in today’s lesson.
I’m sure you have both in your life - you can probably think of many routines, like your bedtime routine, the routine when you sit down to work, maybe your routine for a Saturday morning. You might also have rhythms that define the flow of your week, mapping how your focus, activities, and intentions shift from Monday to Sunday. For example, Wednesday might always be a head-down day at the office, where you dive deep into a project with little distraction, and Saturday might always be a day of rest.
At their best, routines and rhythms ground your life in consistency, give you the structure you crave, and ensure that your everyday life is filled with the things that actually matter most to you instead of the clutter of distractions. They make it easier for your productivity to be purposeful. They also loosen the need for perfect “balance” in any one day or week. They help you set realistic expectations for what’s ahead, plan appropriately, and then stay present—right where you are.
THAT is what we are all craving, right? It definitely is for me. By the end of today’s lesson, you’re going to be well on your way to defining what some of these rhythms might look like for you.
Here is some other good news about rhythms and routines. Remember back to our first lesson, when we were talking about the finitude of time and our desire to make the most of our days? We also talked about how as humans, it can be really hard to make the “right” decision minute after minute, day after day, right?
Putting rhythms and routines in place is a really powerful way to make fewer decisions each day but still get those good outcomes you want. Routines and rhythms help you cut down on the number of decisions you need to make, and avoid decision fatigue by deciding once what you’re going to do and when and how you’re going to do it.
The reason this is good news is because when your brain is tired, you’re more likely to make the decision that’s easiest and requires the least amount of effort, not the one you know leads to your big picture. If you’ve gotten to the end of a long day of dealing with needy children or a demanding boss, your brain is tired. It wants to sit on the couch and scroll or watch TV. It doesn’t want to think about whether it’s an arms, legs, or cardio day, or whether you should workout at all. But if you already decided that Wednesdays are always a cardio day after the kids are in bed, and you put on your workout clothes earlier in the day and already chose your running route, you’re so much more likely to follow through.
Okay - rhythms are helpful. We’re on board! Now let’s look at what that might mean for our weeks.
From the earliest days of Cultivate, we’ve walked women through the exercise of envisioning their "ideal day." Year after year, it’s been really powerful. Why? Because it asks you—maybe for the first time in a long time—to think proactively about your time.
Many of us feel at the mercy of other people as we move through our days, but this is an opportunity to consider our own priorities first before automatically attending to the priorities of others. And this is not as selfish as it might seem: they say you can't draw water from an empty well, and the same is true for your schedule: it's hard to show up well for the people you love if you're constantly racing from one commitment to the next. It’s hard to be either productive or purposeful if you’re allowing other people to determine your days.
In designing your Season by Season planner, we knew we wanted to give you this same opportunity, and so at the beginning of each season, you’ll see we included a two-page Weekly Rhythm Ideas spread for you to plan your ideal weeks. It's one of our very favorite parts of the planner - maybe you’ve already filled one out, and hopefully you found it helpful! Whether you have or not, today, we’re going to dive in deep to this spread and help you get the most out of it. This is an interactive exercise, so grab your planner, grab your class workbook, or just grab a few sheets of paper and let’s get to it.
Remember, this is a practice that should be grounded in reality. In that original "ideal day" exercise, we always emphasized that the point is not to picture yourself in Hawaii (unless, of course, you are lucky enough to live on a tropical island!). The more powerful challenge is to brainstorm the habits and rhythms that will help you live out what matters each week within the constraints of your actual life. It's an ideal week, yes, but it should also be a week you can actually live on a regular basis.
The other thing to remember is that you are creating an ideal week for the season you’re in - not for all of time. We give you four spreads in your planner for a reason! No matter what your stage of life, your priorities and schedule and the way you live out what matters is going to look different throughout the year. So as you make this schedule, ground it in your life now - not what you think should be important or what used to be important or what you think might be important in the future.
Alright, your first step is to brainstorm what matters most. What do you want to cultivate? What are your priorities? What are your goals in this season? Make a short list (maybe 3-5 things) of what matters most right now—this is what will help guide your time blocking. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
What could matter most:
- Having dinner with my family
- Exercising daily
- Seeing my friends
- Going to church
- Working on my business idea
- Taking a morning walk
- Going to the park with my kids
If you’re having trouble figuring out what matters most, try this - write down what does matter, it might be a long list, and then work through and cross things out until you get to that top 3-5. You can take some time to do that now.
Got it? Good. This is the stuff that’s easy to get pushed to the side, so we’re starting here. But we’re not actually adding these items to the calendar first, so let’s move on to the next step.
Number two, we’re going to add in boundaries. What hard boundaries do you know need to be included in your week? Do you start and end work at a certain time? Do you have a regular commute? Standing weekly appointments? Times you need to shuttle your kids to and fro? Go ahead and add these in. You can pencil them right into your weekly rhythms spread. Don’t be afraid to get messy! It’s meant to be used!
Next, go back to your “what matters most” list and schedule time for your short list. What we plan for, happens.
We can think about our time a lot like a budget. When you budget your money, you decide in advance how you’re going to spend it. You probably won’t follow it perfectly, but you’re far more likely to spend your money in line with your big-picture goals and your values if you’ve thought about it in advance and made a plan.
It’s the same with your time. You’re making your plan now for how you’re going to spend your time so that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel each week and so that you can feel confident in how you’re spending your time - in a way that’s in line with your values and your goals.
Alright, so now you have the bones of your schedule - really important bones! You’ve accounted for the must-dos and the most important want-to-dos. That’s great! Now let’s consider themes. Depending on your schedule and life circumstances, it might be helpful to theme different days of the week or times of the day. For example, you might choose a theme for each weekday evening—cleaning on Monday, socializing on Tuesday, errands on Wednesday. Or maybe you use your morning time differently each day: exercising on Tuesdays and Thursdays, reading on Mondays and Wednesdays, that kind of thing. Many people use themes in their work days, too - meetings all day Monday, deep work on Tuesdays, marketing tasks on Wednesdays, that kind of thing.
Using themes is a great way to find places to streamline your schedule and batch tasks. Instead of squeezing in random to dos whenever they get urgent, they'll get taken care of on time—and you'll have more time for what matters most. We’ll talk a bit more specifically about some things you might want to batch at the beginning of your week at the end of today’s lesson, so hold tight for that.
Next, we’re going to sprinkle in delight. Don't forget delight! One of the best parts of planning your ideal week is intentionally sprinkling in fun. Mark time for favorite rituals and traditions, like big Saturday family breakfasts, a standing brunch with friends, Taco Tuesday, Friday movie night, playing pickleball with your parents... whatever adds joy and meaning to your days.
This is the good stuff of cultivating what matters, and it’s what’s missed by so many when they think about productivity. Like, your typical productivity course is not going to tell you to block off time for a leisurely Saturday family breakfast, right? But a breakfast like that, with the people you love, is exactly why you’re giving this planning of your week so much thought and intention.
Next up is an important reminder: keep it loose and build in margin. Given the opportunity to make an ideal week, it can be tempting to want to schedule every single hour with great detail. I know - you’re a planner, that’s why you bought this course, but resist! You want this document you’re working on to be a template you can follow week in and week out, so once the non-negotiables and the big blocks are in, keep some margin for flexibility. Actually, just keep margin in general! Assume things will take longer than you think! We’re going to talk about this much more in the next lesson, about planning our days, but margin is what makes us human, and it’s a really good thing.
One final fun tip: try color blocking. Consider grabbing your markers or highlighters and color-coding your week. This will help you see how much time you're allocating to different priorities or areas of your life. You might color code work, family, and personal, or rest, exercise, and fun—whatever fits with your life!
Okay - you should have in front of you a completed weekly rhythm for this season, that accounts for your responsibilities and your priorities, that brings delight and plans for relationship, and that allows you to feel like a human as you move through your days. This is amazing. You are ready to be purposeful and productive.
You can now use your weekly rhythm for the season as a template to plan each week. By knowing where your focus should be throughout your days and weeks, you'll be less likely to get distracted or waste time, and more likely to actually do the things you want to do.
Before we wrap up for today, I want to touch on the beginning of the week, and some really helpful, life-giving ways that you can set yourself up for success. If you can establish some of these rhythms, I think you’ll find that you’ll feel the effects throughout the week, and that they’ll make it much easier for you to follow through on your weekly rhythm.
Flip to a blank page in your Season by Season or to your workbook for this class and draw a quadrant. I want you to think through what you and perhaps your family need at the beginning of each week to help you feel ready to cultivate what matters. In the quadrants, you’re going to write Schedule, Home, Food, and Heart. In each of these categories, you’re going to choose just a few practices that will help set you up for success. You get to decide what those are based on your unique season! We’ll give you some ideas to get you started.
Alright, Schedule first. What would make your schedule run more smoothly in the week ahead? How can you proactively make time for your priorities before the priorities of others eat up your time? Some examples:
- Look ahead in my calendar
- Schedule habits and action steps for the week ahead
- Transfer my digital calendar details to my paper calendar
- Transfer calendar details to a family calendar
- Confirm appointments or carpool arrangements
- Hold a family meeting
- Compare schedules with my significant other
The next quadrant is Home. What cleaning or organization tasks would create a fresh foundation for the week ahead? What would help your home feel ready for a new week? Some examples here:
- Deep clean the kitchen
- Vacuum and mop
- Tidy living spaces or surfaces
- Do laundry
- Restock supplies
- Take out the trash
- Change sheets
The third category is Food. How could you prepare well for what matters most to you when it comes to food and fuel? How could a little effort on the front end pay dividends throughout the week? Some examples:
- Meal plan
- Grocery shop
- Prep fruits and veggies for the week ahead
- Prep snacks for the week ahead
- Make a freezer meal
- Meal prep for the week ahead
- Make lunches for the week ahead
Finally, the last quadrant is Heart. Logistics aside, what weekly routines or rhythms would tend to your heart and the hearts of the people in your home, filling them up before a new week begins? Some examples:
- Invite someone over for dinner
- Take a neighborhood walk
- Share gratitude from the week
- Attend worship
- Go for a hike
- Write lunchbox notes for the week ahead
Planning a purposeful and productive week involves both physical and mental preparation. Depending on your current rhythms, it might feel like there’s a LOT you want to change, a LOT of new practices you want to incorporate. That’s wonderful. But we’re going to encourage you to start the way we always do: with one small step, and then another, believing that little by little will add up over time. It’s okay to grow slow as long as you’re growing in the right direction, and you, my friend, most definitely are.
We’ll see you back here soon to dive into living a purposeful and productive day.