I’m a writer, a productivity coach and a speaker. Since I work from home, I have work-related activities that may carry over into my home life if I’m not careful. I’m also a stay-at-home parent who has responsibilities during the week that can bleed over into my work life … if I’m not careful. So what keeps me on the right tasks at the right times more often than not?
It wasn’t something that happened overnight. It took discipline — discipline that was forged over a period of time in large part because of a framework I put in place that fostered it and allowed it to flourish. This framework can really help you avoid straying from the things you should be doing into other things that you could be doing — but shouldn’t — because your workplace is the same address as where you sleep at night.
The framework I built revolves around assigning themes to periods of time. This frees my mind to focus on the tasks that are critical to making progress in all areas of my life. Theming your months, weeks and days gives you less to think about when you’re trying to decide what to do, because that given time has already been given some sort of thematic value.
A theme is defined as “a unifying or dominant idea.” So when you build a framework with that central concept in mind, you can really hone in on what you need to do that is contained within that specific theme. I’m going to discuss how I use themes in my week so that my tasks get the focus they require and deserve on a daily basis.
Here are my themes, listed by day:
The focus on Monday is on the creative aspects of my business, Productivityist. That means I work on blog posts, newsletters, course outlines and any other creative components of my business. I leave much of the administrative aspects until later in the week.
Every Tuesday is a Daddy Duty Day. My son isn’t in daycare on Tuesdays at present, so in order for me to give him the attention he needs, I push work aside. Now that doesn’t mean I don’t answer any emails or take part in social media when there’s a gap in father-son activities, but I definitely make it the exception rather than the rule.
Like Tuesday, Wednesday is also a Daddy Duty Day. No writing, very little work and a whole lot of fathering.
I get back to work on Thursdays, and I call it the unofficial start of my workweek because I consider Tuesdays and Wednesdays to be my weekend. Thursdays carry the theme of administrative work, mainly because my wife and son are also home and I can do a lot of lower bandwidth actions as a result. If I need to do some deeper thinking, I’ll simply get out of the house to avoid any of the distractions, disruptions and diversions that can present themselves at home on this day of the week.
Friday is generally Meeting Day. Whether it’s meeting with Productivityist Coaching clients, interviewing guests for my podcast or simply having lunch with collaborators, Friday has been the best day for me to fit this into my week. That doesn’t mean I don’t work on other things. It just means that, for the most part, Friday is generally reserved for those types of tasks (or, in this case, appointments).
Saturdays are Family Days. I don’t do any work on those days and focus on working around the house and spending time with the entire family, because my wife is also off on Saturdays. After two incredibly busy days beforehand, Saturdays are a great day to unwind and simply have fun with the whole family.
The theme for this day is book writing. My sole focus on Sundays is to work on any books I have in progress. Sunday is one of those days where I won’t get interrupted through email or any other form of communication, so I can really dig deep and spend time working on longer-form writing projects.
I also add themes to my weeks and months to give me an overarching guide for what tasks I need to focus on throughout longer timeframes. I’ll assign themes to my months so that if I get stuck I can simply take a look at the month and recognize what big idea or project I most want to make progress with then. This kind of framework puts time in its place and puts tasks at the forefront, all while accepting the idea that time is a valuable measuring stick when it is a guideline and not the driving force.
The great thing about building your days by using a regular theme is that over time that theme becomes second nature. You’ll start your day having a much better idea of what you want to make progress on because the theme adds context to your tasks. Ultimately, theming removes some of the friction in work-life balance, and it’s that friction that can really have a negative impact when you’re trying to be more disciplined and get the right things done — no matter where you do your work.