Designing Your Time Maps – Taking Control of Your Days

Time Maps create a structure in your week by carving out routine times for the broad categories of your work. They enable SkedPal to schedule the right tasks at the right times. For example, a basic Time Map is your working hours during the week. Once you assign ‘Working Hours’ time map to a task, that task won’t be scheduled at 9 PM. In other words, Time Maps define the boundaries on your weekly calendar for scheduling tasks. They help you to create a compelling, satisfying, and meaningful schedule. See Introduction to Time Maps for more details.

The use of Time Maps goes beyond defining working hours, and can narrow down your week to different categories of work you do. For example, if you are more energetic in the mornings, you can define a Time Map for ‘High Energy’ tasks in the mornings.

In general, Time Maps help in three major areas:

  1. Define your preferences for scheduling tasks at the right days and hours– This is the primary use of Time Maps. Once you assign a Time Map to a task, you’re asking SkedPal to schedule this task during any available hours specified in the Time Map.
  1. Define your flexibility when things don’t go the way you expect – Although you’d like to follow a weekly routine for your work, urgencies come up, interruptions happen, and priorities shift. So, you need to have some slack in your weekly template. The yellow and red hours on your Time Map provide that flexibility.
  1. Budget your time for the right buckets of work – This is an advanced usage of Time Maps where you can design your weeks by allocating the right percentage of time to the right categories. This is a great tool to help you shape your time by ensuring that you spend more time on areas that move the needle for you, the kinds of work that have significant impact on results, and help you move your projects forward. see Budgeting Time Like Money for more details on this.

Designing the right Time Maps – So how do you decide what Time Maps you need? It takes some time to fine tune your Time Maps to get the perfect schedule. But, you can start using the following guideline:

  • Ask yourself how much time you think you’re spending on each of the main categories of your work and life? To begin with, are you happy with the overall balance? For example, if you’re spending 70% of your time on work, 30% on friends and family, and 0% on you, is this something you’d like to change? Figure out your overall balance, and then find what your ideal balance would be. Decide on what you want to spend less time on and what you want to spend more time on. This will help you to have a tangible goal to start with.
  • Take the categories that you’d like to spend more time on. They’re the best candidates for Time Maps. Time Maps are the best tactic to let these categories bubble up in your daily or weekly agenda, and get more of your attention. You will need to create a Time Map for each category.
  • Now, think of the tasks that have to be done in these categories. Can you think of some to-do items for each of these categories? Remember, if you’re not planning to add tasks to these Time Maps, there is no need to create a Time Map! You can have a single repeating task for the Time Map though. For example, if you want to schedule time to go to the gym, you can have a Time Map for ‘The Gym’, and create a recurring weekly task ‘Exercise’. See these examples for more details.
  • The next step is to decide on what days or hours of the week you’d like to allocate time to these categories. For example, if your goal is to spend 6 hours a week on writing for your blog, and you prefer to do it on Tuesdays and Thursdays, you can create something like below.

  • Finally, consider some slack in your Time Maps. What if you can’t manage to spend 10 hours on your blog at the specified times in the time map? But, you would still want to complete your 10 hours for the week. You can use the yellow and red hours to help you schedule the tasks related to your blog writing even if they can’t be scheduled at the desired times. In other words, the yellow and red are less desired hours that are specified as alternatives to the desired green hours. In below example, we’re adding more some slack in yellow and red to the blogging Time Map.

How Tasks and Time Maps work in Tandem – When Time Maps are the budgets, tasks are the actual spends. In other words, think of Time Maps as a tactic to hold the right times for tasks to fill them in. In SkedPal terms, you’ll be assigning Time Maps to tasks. So each task must have a Time Map before it can be scheduled. Just like financial budgeting systems, each expense must have a budget.

Normally, you’ll be creating several tasks with the same Time Map. For example, if you have a time map for ‘Blogging’, tasks such as ‘Add a new post’, or ‘Answer comments’ should be given the ‘Blogging’ Time Map. There are times, though, that you might have a single repeating task for a Time Map. ‘The Gym’ Time Map example above is this type.

Avoiding Time Maps Obsession – Be careful not to create too many Time Maps! At least in the beginning, you should not create more than 3 to 5 Time Maps. Some people get overly obsessed with Time Maps. Too many Time Maps create confusion and inefficiencies. Start small, and fine-tune your Time Maps over time.

Overlapping Time Maps – The timing of Time Maps can overlap. For example, you can have a Time Map for General Working Hours from M-F 9-5, and add a Time Map for blogging on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 1 PM to 3 PM. Your tasks will be competing over the overlapping hours of the Time Maps. This is where SkedPal’s intelligent scheduling engine will make the right choices based on your priorities and preferences. So, don’t try to avoid overlapping hours in your Time Maps.

Using Multiple Time Maps for a single task– Once you feel you’re well versed with Time Maps and how they work, you can start making more advanced usage of Time Maps. The following explains how you can assign multiple Time Maps to a single task.

  • Using Intersection of Time Maps: You can design your Time Maps based on generic definitions. For example, you can have a Time Map for ‘Mornings’, or ‘Evening’s, or ‘Weekends’. And, then use them to filter out other general Time Maps such as your ‘General Working Hours’. In below example, you can see that the task will be only scheduled during the mornings of the general working hours:

In the right pane, click on the ‘Intersection/Union’ icon to toggle the mode

  • Using combination (union) of Time Maps: This method allows you extend a Time Map with additional hours. For example, you can have an additional Time Map called ‘Late Working Hours’, and add this to your task to ensure it gets scheduled even during late hours.

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