Building a Schedule to Achieve Your Big Goal
“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” —Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
For today’s lesson, we’re going to talk about how to schedule our Big Goals effectively.
To schedule our Big Goal, we’ll need to take the granular steps we just listed out and thoughtfully place them, one by one, into a calendar, day planner, or agenda (we’ll use these terms interchangeably). A calendar will provide us with a clear structure for our Big Goal plan and allow us to easily visualize and track our timeline and progress. More importantly, it will show the trade-offs you must make in order to achieve your Big Goal.
We recommend that you use a tangible paper calendar to do this because studies show that physically writing things out can improve one’s memory and comprehension of the material they write. Furthermore, physical day planners can’t interrupt you with notifications or tempt you with games or social media. Of course, if you feel confident that you can benefit more from using another type of scheduler, then go ahead and use whatever will best help you succeed.
The “4 Quadrants” Method
One helpful tool for scheduling the time to work on our Big Goals is businessman Stephen Covey’s “4 Quadrants.” Using his 4 Quadrants can help us determine how we should prioritize our goals. Here’s how it works:
Step 1. Start by drawing a large 2×2 grid on either a clean piece of paper or a page of your Goal Journal. Across the top of the grid, label the two columns, “Urgent” and “Not Urgent.” Then on the left-hand side of the grid, label the two rows, “Important” and “Not Important.”
Step 2. Then write each task that needs to be scheduled into this grid according to its urgency and importance.
• Items that are Urgent and Important will be placed in the upper left-hand quadrant. These are time-sensitive things that you must prioritize over everything else. Examples include meeting a deadline at work, picking your child up from school, cooking your family dinner, or refilling your gas tank.
• Items that are Urgent and Not Important will be placed in the lower left-hand quadrant. These are time-sensitive things that will not make a huge difference in your life but that you will have to attend to, anyway. Examples include responding to emails, completing administrative work, or replying to a courtesy email.
• Items that are Not Urgent and Important will be placed in the upper right-hand quadrant. These are things that you absolutely need to do, but can wait a little while before being completed if need be. Your Critical Actions will go here.
• Items that are Not Urgent and Not Important will be placed in the lower right-hand quadrant. These are items that are neither time sensitive nor incredibly impactful to your life. Examples could include scrolling through social media, completing menial busywork, watching a movie, or playing a video game.
Step 3. Once you’ve placed every task you have to complete into this grid, you can refer back to it while laying out your schedule in a planner, agenda, or calendar. Important tasks should take priority over Unimportant tasks, and Urgent tasks should take priority over Not Urgent tasks.
Remember that the 4 Quadrants method is just a guide to help you create your schedule. It’s meant to provide you with a framework for how you ought to prioritize your time; it can’t help you determine how stressful a prospective schedule might be or how much time will be required to complete any given task.
Here are other considerations to keep in mind while you sketch out your Big Goal schedule:
• Try to predict what distractions seem likely to come up while you’re working on your Big Goal, and write them into your schedule ahead of time.
• Don’t cram your schedule overly full with work. We all need time to rest, refresh, and sleep! Don’t set yourself up for failure by planning activities too late into the night or too close together.
• Realize that your progress will likely slow down a bit as time goes on because unpredictable and unavoidable distractions are sure to come up.
• Be honest with yourself about your internal pressures and how motivated you really feel as you plan your schedule out.
• Think about the different increments of time you could use to measure your progress. Why might you choose one over another?
• Decide how much progress you can make per day, week, workweek, weekend, two weeks, month, etc.
• Not every day needs to see enormous strides, but every day should advance you toward your Big Goal in some way, and no days should move you further away from it.
Finally, keep in mind that there are no “cheat days” when you’re trying to accomplish your Big Goal. Allowing yourself to have “cheat days” only ever succeeds at cheating yourself.
1. Place your granular Big Goal steps into Stephen Covey’s 4 Quadrants.
2. Use this 4 Quadrants grid to help you determine where every one of your granular tasks should go on a physical planner, calendar, or agenda, according to your best estimation of how long each one will take.
In our next lesson, we will take a look at how we can track our progress while staying true to our Big Goals.
Jordan Thibodeau and Samara Veler
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