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Creating Structure, Staying Focused & Allocating Mental Bandwidth

Do you ever look at the end of your days sometimes and go, what the hell did I actually do? Or do you ever have so much to do that you start to feel overwhelmed and think, I’ll never get any of that done? In this article, I’ll be looking to share my 3 step plan I do to stay on track with work, study, life, everything. Something I do when I feel like I have to reset, re-balance or refocus where my energy is going.

Sometimes we can have so many things going on in our lives, lots of work-related tasks, personal projects, future goals, and not structuring this efficiently can create a substantial amount of anxiety and tension. This can also cause us to fall behind on things we want to do because we haven’t planned it in a way to ensure things receive enough energy to create momentum. We can also be putting momentum into something that isn’t really that important, and let something that’s probably more important, lag behind.

Across the start of this year, I really noticed the importance of having structured AND unstructured workdays and learning the value of allocating metal bandwidth across tasks to ensure things just get friggin done.

The Structured Day

A structured day is something where particular tasks are allocated to it, you wake up, look at your calendar or diary, and know what type of tasks you’re doing. There is nothing worse than waking up, or getting to work and going “hmmm, what am I going to do?” and then next thing you know it, 5 pm rolls past and it feels like you’ve done nothing.

Some examples of structured day tasks can include

A day where you solely dedicate to marketing, social media, reviewing analytical data or brainstorming new campaigns. 
Doing accounting, bills, ensuring that the cash flow side of things is never neglected.
A day that’s dedicated to writing or study.
A side business day, or allocating a day to your new start-up business.
Maybe your structured day is actually to not work, go out, and have fun.

Structured days can also be split into sections, such as allocating certain tasks to particular time slots through-out the day. 

The important take away to understand with structured days is that if you glance at your diary at any point throughout the day, you generally should know what you’re doing. I know for example if I glance at my diary on a Monday, I’m generally allocating a large portion of my mental bandwidth to Clarity Natural Health. 

You may be asking, what if I don’t get all or any of those tasks done on my structured day because perhaps you have a newborn child or, something unexpected comes up? Well, That’s okay and normal. Unexpected things happen, and not every structured day will be perfect, but it’s the act of having it there, so when all the stars align on most days, it’ll be smooth sailing. 

The Unstructured Day

An unstructured day is just as important as your structured day, and although tasks should still be allocated to it, it’s a day to be more flexible. I generally allocate jobs to these days that either don’t fit on a structured day, require less mental bandwidth, are less important, or on some occasions, get bumped from the structured day.

Some examples of unstructured day tasks can include

Small tasks that could be considered less important.
Tasks that weren’t completed on a structured day, but require more mental focus that week.
Tasks that don’t really require a lot of energy or brainpower, a good example could be tidying or filing.
This day can also be good for meetings and appointments (they can also be structured too).
Tasks you may have forgotten when doing the 3 step plan (see below)

Some unstructured days can also be completely open, allowing you to be completely flexible. Don’t get into the habit of leaving too many open, otherwise, you’re back to where you started.

3 Step Plan

Let’s now delve into my 3 step plan I use often to either stay on track or refocus when I feel things are drifting a little. This tool can be used as little or often as you like, although generally it’s designed to do weekly. It’s a great tool to have when you’re feeling a little unmotivated, not sure where to put your energy next, or are looking to re-evaluate.

1. Create A List

This first step involves getting everything down on paper that you want to tackle or achieve next week, month, bi, or trimonthly. This is the most important step as it sort of gets everything in your mind, down on paper, which I find lowers stress levels instantly. Remember, I use this tool for weekly task management, anything longer, I tend to write down on a separate piece of paper that I re-evaluate every 2-3 months. That being said, you can modify the use of this however way you like it.

The key thing to remember when making your list is to not over think it, or go too detailed (such as brushing your teeth or having a shower). Allow about 10 – 15 minutes anything else can either be jotted down elsewhere on another note pad, and either put into your unstructured day, or set aside for the next planning session.

Also, make sure you look back on your previous planning weeks, is there anything that has to be followed over into this week? maybe a deadline got pushed, or it’s a project you’re still putting energy into.

Some examples include

Academic commitments – Studying, assessment work, online video tutorials you have to attend, and such.
Fitness goals – Do you do a work out routine? what do you want to do on specific training days?
Work-related tasks – Doing bills, writing, brainstorming, social media work, training, this list can be very extensive so i’ll leave it there.
Major chores – Cleaning the car, house cleaning, working on the garden, this list can also be pretty big. Limit focusing on minor chores that should generally be automatic anyway.

Try best to put your tasks into categories too, which makes it easier to allocate later.

2. Analyse Your List

Okay so now you should have this big glorious list full of tasks and chores, all nice and neatly categorised (hopefully).

Your next step is to go through the list and check if anything actually needs to be on that list. Have you not something silly down? irrelevant task? does another task complete that task anyway? can it be bumped to the next planning day? If anything is irrelevant, feel free to cross it out.

If it is something you think you won’t do that week but want to do it eventually, just write it down elsewhere. It’s always good to have another notepad sitting at your desk for these things, ideas or forgotten tasks pop up all the time.

2. Implement Your List

The list should now be complete, now we have to apply it across a 7 day week, assuming you’re using it for weekly planning. I tend to do this on a Sunday afternoon, but any day is fine as long as it fits into a schedule you’re happy with. The best way to apply this generally involves using a diary, which I feel works best, but if you want to use a wall calendar, go ahead. The main key point is that you can refer to it daily.

To give you an example of my Sunday afternoon, I would sit down at 5 pm and allocate myself 30 minutes of “planning time”. This involves completing step 1 and 2, looking back at my previous week and adding things that flow into this week, which usually just project that I’m either still working on, or had to be pushed.

Once this is complete, I would then start spreading my tasks across the week, what tasks need to fall into which days to get things done? are there any weekend jobs? some tasks may even just get thrown straight into Sunday for further planning, as I know it’s not critical, but I still want to keep this job on my radar (alternatively, it ends up living on my desk notepad).

Let’s have a look at an example week.

Monday
(Structured)
Tuesday
(Structured)
Wedsnesday
(Structured)
Thursday
(Unstructured)
Friday
(Unstructured)
Saturday
(Unstructured)
Sunday
(Rest Day)
6 - 8amSpiritual Reading & Journaling
HIIT Bodyweight
Spiritual Reading & Journaling
Slow-lifting session
Spiritual Reading & Journaling
TABATA Workout 1
Heavy Weight SessionTABATA Workout 2Hike or Bike rideRest or light session
8am - 12:00pm
Car Service
Clarity Natural Health Blog Finalisation
Reconciling
Bills
Accounting
Marketing Day
Email Scheduling
Social Media
Low energy tasks
Flow over tasks
Low energy tasks
Flow over tasks
When this day is a work day, I leave it quite open. Otherwise most of it is family.Most of this day is left open to resting, recovering, meditation, stretching, and generally also doing family stuff.
12pm - 5pmHerbal Medicine Therapeutic Case Work
5pm - 8pm
PlayStudyStudyStudyPlayPlayRe-Evalulate

This process will give you a better insight of your week to come, keeps you on track and most importantly, less stressed.

One take away though is to not get super rigid about this, although it helps you stay on tasks if unexpected things arise, don’t panic, that is what your re-evaluation day is for. The main thing that this will do is help focus your energy better, so you’re not sort of drifting through-out your day, getting to sunday and going “oh crap, I didn’t do x y z” You’ll instead be looking back and going “ahh, I did x and y, z I didn’t quite get to, let’s work on it next week”.

If you have any feedback regarding this article, reach out. Help Clarity reach more people and quit addiction by following us on Instagram, it’s also the perfect place to message us and ask questions!

All the best in health,
Former Drinker & Clinical Nutritionist
Stephen Brumwell.


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