Your timetable

timetable-template-drdnnouzBy the time you read this we’ll be into September and the start of a new school term. For my daughter, Josie that means stepping up into year 9 and selecting which GCSE’s she’ll be studying over the next couple of years.

What I find fascinating and the subject of this article is that she has already been sent her timetable or curriculum for the coming year.

Josie knows (I am assuming she’s looked at it) what lessons she will be doing and with which teacher and at what times. I also know, as does her mum so we’re able to between us, keep her accountable and make sure we can help her have the right books and materials for her various and mixed days.

Don’t get me wrong. Josie is pretty organised but she’s also a 13-year-old girl and that brings its own challenges, mostly forgetfulness and a habit of leaving things to the last minute possible.

This is mostly countered by the fact that this timetable exists and has a structure imposed on her almost to the minute.

Let’s rewind a few years. As new parents when Josie was born lots and lots of people gave us all sorts of sage advice. The piece that resonated with me at the time was “you’ve got to get her into a routine”.

So we did. Wake her up at seven, wash, breakfast and get dressed. Feeds every four hours (I think), a short sleep at midday for two hours and then dinner, bath, story time and bed at seven. We kept to this routine and for us, and her it worked. In fact, it worked so well that even now at 13 Josie starts to get tired at around seven in the evening. Even being afflicted with ‘teenageritis’ and wanting to stay up later and later hasn’t changed that. I can see her getting grumpy and tired at that time. It’s like it’s now part of her programming.

Even as a baby, Josie had a routine. She then started to go to the nursery and we discovered that they also had a routine that the children were encouraged to follow. Meet in the playground, play a little, line up in crocodile lines (pairs) and walk into the building together. They would play and have breaks at the same times every day. This also applied to the ending with story time and a nap. It was always the same. It became familiar and comforting and created a sense of structure and order to her life.

Off she goes into a Primary school where she gets more routine and a new, more comprehensive structure given to her to follow. This is compounded by adding extracurricular activities such as tennis, ballet, swimming and various other things she tried. It gets really complicated and there is s huge amount of logistics involved but it all gets done. We’d get to the gym on time, having picked up next door’s child and trusting that their parents would bring Josie home. Food would be made, bags packed, equipment arranged. Lifts to matches given and shows watched.

Then Josie moves into year seven and starts secondary school. There’s a new structure for her to learn and get used to. She’s now no longer in the same classroom all day but has to find her way around a new building to different rooms with different teachers for each subject. It’s not long before perceived chaos becomes order and she’s no longer carrying around her battered copy of the timetable.

She’s remembered the structure. It’s become routine, it’s become a habit.

It’s fair to say that if you’re reading this you’ve been through a very similar experience. It wouldn’t have stopped in year 9 though. Perhaps you went on to college or a university. More routine, more structure, more habits. This might have included playing sport on a Wednesday afternoon followed by a few drinks.

Then perhaps you got a job. Many of us entrepreneurs started with jobs. We then decided we didn’t like them or were made redundant or just thought “I can do a better job than my boss”.

Think about the job you had? Any routine? Any structure available? Perhaps you commuted. My other half, Kay gets the 7.18 from Gerrards Cross to Marylebone every morning. She’s done it for 18 years and is at her desk in Canary Wharf by 8.15. She sees the same people on the trains, often gets the same seat and knows where to stand on the platform so the doors open right in front of her. Habit.

Here’s the thing, though. I often get people asking me how I get as much done as I do. I’m actually often accused of being lazy. I’ll be honest, I am and I work really hard at it.

Let me explain.

Most of the business owners I meet don’t have a curriculum they follow. They will do things out of habit, getting to the office at the same time, start the day with checking emails, maybe a Monday morning meeting, lunch at the same time and then working and working until “stuff” gets finished.   They pack their days with meetings and phone calls and are really good at being busy.

But – it’s all unconscious. There’s often very little thought that has gone into the routine of their day. It’s just evolved with “stuff” fitting in around other stuff so it becomes routine.

Josie has a new timetable for this term and school year because she has to learn certain things in a certain order for her to be able to pass her exams. Now, whatever my opinion of the education system is, the fact remains that she has a goal (her GCSE’s) and a pre-worked plan. This will enable her to learn what is required to achieve that goal.

The “stuff” she has to do (whether she likes it or not) is pre-set and factored into her diary for her. There will be times where she will say to me “what’s the point of this?” but it will be an element pre-decided for her that will be required to achieve the goal of passing her exams.

My question for you is this… what is the curriculum that you’re following and have you created a timetable that will ensure you’re doing the right work to reach your goals.

Are you just turning up unconsciously and going through the motions of doing “stuff”; or are you following a plan that will give you what you need to achieve your definition of success?

I do all the things that I want to do simply because I plan it that way. I will write out my own timetable with subjects, timeslots and even various ‘classrooms’. I make sure that all the extracurricular activity gets timetabled as well and I know that when I turn up for a ‘lesson’ the content will be something designed to move me towards a goal. If I appear lazy, it’s because I’ve designed my life that way. My pre-tirement hasn’t just happened on its own, it’s been structured and planned to work that way.

The trouble is that when we make the transition to being the business owner we stop having someone to tell us what to do. We don’t get timetables anymore, we don’t have to be accountable to anyone and it’s easy to stop practising integrity when no one is there to hold you accountable.

If you want to just work harder and harder, that’s fine but if you want to work smarter, take a lesson from your time at school and create a timetable that will help you move towards your goals rather than just turning up unconsciously.

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