I have been struggling with using my time most effectively and efficiently so that my productivity is high and simultaneously I don’t feel burn out. I tried a lot of different methods, but nothing worked perfectly for me. I accidentally discovered this method while I was scheduling my goals.

My goal was to increase my productivity without sacrificing the quality of my work and life! I wanted to peacefully work on tasks at hand without worrying about millions of other things. At the end of the day, I wanted to feel satisfied and fulfilled. You know, I am a creative and highly energetic person. I get thousands of ideas and want to learn millions of things. So no matter how hard I work, no matter how intelligently I develop something, I always felt like something is still missing. A feeling of guilt was always lingering in my heart.

Yesterday, I took a break. I slowed down and then stopped altogether. In those silent moments of contemplation, it occurred to me that I am not a superman! I have a limited stock of energy which diminishes with the Sun going down. Besides that, there’s a contact assault on my resourcefulness by various factors outside of my control. In short, though I have 24 hours a day, I have much fewer hours in which I can be highly productive.

I have already been aware of and applying the well-established time management techniques like the 80/20 rule (Pareto’s principle), urgent vs. important, prioritizing your tasks, starting with the most challenging things first, etc. But something was missing. Somehow nothing was giving me peace of mind. With my headphones on, listening to focus@will tunes, shunned from external noises, I was deeply absorbed in thoughts, trying to understand why it’s not working for me. A little voice in my head told me to get up and get to actual work; you are wasting time. And then, I realized I had set unrealistic expectations for myself. No matter how ambitious I am, no matter how talented I am, there’s a limit to how much I can “produce” in a given time. And I also realized that even if I get 24 hours to work, I am restricted by the amount of energy I have. And then there was a Eureka moment! All the pieces of the puzzle fall in place. I immediately recorded my thoughts, and here is the framework that you can use to achieve your goals peacefully!

Okay, let’s begin. Here’s the first principle: Long-term planning is guesswork!

The future can’t be predicted with certainty. At the most, you can be sure of what will happen in the next few weeks. Long-term planning is guesswork. Long-term planning is not as relevant as it used to be because of faster technological change and increased competition in the market. In today’s dynamic environment, one needs to adapt quickly for survival and success.

Long-term planning may still play a role in strategic decision-making for big firms with dominant positions in their market segment. But for us, lets’ stick to a week.

Before planning your week, first, let’s find out your budget. How much time do you really have? Here, I want to make a distinction. Whenever you think about time, always remember that time is not a single entity as far as scheduling your tasks. Whenever you think about time, think about a specific time and your energy level at that time. We want to find out time slots wherein you have high energy, medium energy, and low energy. So even though you have got 24 hours a day, you have got a limited number of time-energy slots. When I say energy, it is physical as well as emotional energy. It is your overall state of mind and body. It is an indication of your resourcefulness which can predict the extent of your productivity. Now you have a meaningful and realistic inventory of time! Understand this, even if you have time, but if you are tired or are feeling sad, upset, or irritated, you can’t really put that time to good use.

Now, make a list of the goals you want to achieve this week. Exclude Sunday from the week. If you want you can have a five-day week. Here is my suggestion for choosing your goals for a week. Choose any five important categories of your life—for example, business, fitness, family, learning, and personal. Now choose exactly one goal from each category that you want to achieve. So, you will have one business goal, one fitness goal, one family goal, one learning goal, and one personal goal. Remember, just one goal from each category. Don’t be greedy; it’s just for a week! Next week you can choose different goals if you want. And that’s the beauty of this framework – freedom of making mistakes with no strings of guilt attached to your choice.

If you strictly follow this strategy, you will choose only the most important goals for a week. You will be ultra-focused. You will cut down the unnecessary crap. You will start saying no. Here I assume that your commitment and sincerity are as high as a teenager who wants to establish his identity in his pack! This step will also reveal what your real priorities are. You just have a week; you have to choose what you want to do, you can’t postpone essential things, you may not get another week! So, choose wisely.

The next step is to make a list of tasks needed to complete each goal. Sort the list into three categories: high energy tasks, medium energy tasks, and low energy tasks.

Now you are clear about what to do and what is the best time to do it! That’s it!!

If you want to be even more productive, you can select just one micro goal for a day and apply all of your energy to it. You need to avoid multitasking and just focus on one task at a time.

The side effect of using this framework is that you will realize it’s high time you quit a few things that are so dear to you. It will also help you recognize your actual responsibilities. It will also clear all the confusion about who you are and what’s your purpose!