How to Tame Your Daily Schedule by Creating a Model Calendar

Written by Laura Roeder

On October 3, 2017

See if this feels familiar:

Every Sunday night, you sit down with a drink in one hand and your phone in the other. You open up your calendar.

And you scroll through the week ahead of you with dread.

“How did I get so busy,” you ask your dog/roommate/houseplant.

If you’re like many hard-working business owners, you fill your calendar to the brim. You eagerly agree to fill the one remaining open spot on your calendar every week, because you know that every opening represents an opportunity.

And you’re exhausted.

Filling every single minute of your calendar and saying “yes” to each opportunity that comes along is not only not sustainable, it’s toxic – to your mental health and your creativity.

So what’s a Type A People Pleaser to do?

How do you do the most without, well, actually doing the most?

Assess your habits – and recognize your needs

Are you saying “yes” to projects/meetings/ideas that you really want to say “no” or even “maybe later” to?

Get curious with yourself, and start noting every time you move in one direction despite feeling pulled in the opposite. By noticing your own tendencies and patterns – both good and bad – you can start to identify and work around them before they manifest.

Michael Hyatt put it well when he said that balancing your time is like balancing your budget. Either way, you’re working with a limited resource – and the closer your balance runs to zero, the more anxious you may feel.

The idea of the model calendar isn’t brand new – it actually goes back to Stephan Covey and his First Things First concept. Racheal Cook outlines it and shares how it’s all about the approach:

This strategy is all about consciously designing the way you approach your work week. You can be constantly reacting {which always leads to overwhelm and burnout} or you can be proactive and organize your schedule to ensure that you’re both moving your business forward and making time for your LIFE.

A model calendar is not where you’re mapping out every single minute of your day for an entire week. Personally I need a balance between structure and flexibility. I also need a lot of white space – unscheduled time for me to just rest, recharge, or handle things as they come up.

Take a moment to find those times when you fill your calendar with an imbalance of activities.

(You can even do it now, if you want. We’ll just wait here.)

Maybe your own personal limit on client calls is three in one day. Maybe you need an entire day each week devoted to writing, and nothing else. Maybe you constantly accept Monday morning meetings when you actually really need that time to ease into the work week and catch up on emails.

Find your trouble spots, write them down, and then…

Map out your model calendar

We’re going to say something that might make us frenemies, but it needs to be said anyway.

You cannot do or be everything to everyone.


It’s tempting to want to be, but you have to give yourself permission to forget about it – and a model calendar can make that a lot easier.

Here’s what Curtis McHale has to say about putting yourself first:

The first thing that goes on your calendar is time for yourself and your family. For me that means my daily workouts at 5:45 a.m. and weekly events with my kids. These things stay no matter how busy I am.

Without time in the morning to get a bit of sweat going my day ends up in shambles. Without that time to connect with my kids I’d look back in 20 years and miss that relationship.

Many of the people I’ve coached drop their personal and family time first when things don’t go as expected and then stress increases. When they stick to their guns on personal care they find that in the midst of a busy crazy week they still feel centered.

Ready to add the rest? (As in, the work-related stuff?)

Here’s how it works:

1) Map out the ideal week that would make you feel the most productive and happy in your flow. From the moment you rise until you hit the hay, fill in what you’re doing each hour of each day, or simply go with your typical work week. Think about when you’re the most productive, when your brain just can’t focus, when you need to be around people (digitally or In Real Life), and when you need time to yourself.

2) Grab your calendar and mark off those chunks of time. You can even get crafty and color code it. Make it beautiful, and make it something you love to see.

Marie Poulin detailed her process with her model calendar and it looks something like this:

Pro tip: Toggle your model calendar on and off to reference it as needed. If you’re asked to schedule a podcast interview, for example, you can quickly turn to that model calendar and see when the time is set aside for community building.

Your model calendar will look quite different from Marie’s – and it should! Your model calendar is yours, and it should be what works best for you – no one else.

Retain your flexibility

Your model calendar should serve as a guide to harnessing your flow – not a rigid routine you have to follow at all times.

Sometimes a podcast interview will happen during Client Project time. Sometimes you’ll have an inspired writing session during your scheduled Self Care time. A model is defined as “a standard or example for imitation or comparison” so let it be just that.

And Kate Northrup has one final word of warning:

Identifying your priorities does not guarantee that they’ll get your attention. You’ve got to remain ever vigilant to ensure that the essential gets the presence it’s due.

Now that you have a handle on your week, you can sit back and watch the magic happen. It’s not always easy, but building whitespace into your week is the secret weapon against Overwhelm, and the fast track to an easier, more productive schedule!

Do you ever have a moment of “I wish I hadn’t agreed to that!” or “How do I squeeze in #allthethings?”

Tell us in the comments below – bonus points if you share where you’re adding whitespace to your own model calendar!

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