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Introduction to Zones and Budgets

You cannot save your time for later! You must spend your time. The clock is ticking, and you can’t stop it. But you CAN decide what to spend it on. We have 168 hours each week that must be spent. The real game is to allocate these 168 hours to the right things. We must realize saying yes to one thing means saying no to something else. Time is a zero-sum game. And, our productivity is not about doing more things; it’s about doing the right things.

SkedPal is going to help you become much more conscious of this zero-sum game. You’ll be able to define your custom Zones of Productivity. For example, the ‘creative work’ zone, or the ‘necessary evil’ zone. Once you categorize your tasks into these zones, you’ll be able to set up your desired budgeted time for each zone. For example, if you feel you’re overspending time on chores and admin work during the week and would like to allocate more time to your deep work, you can set up your goal in SkedPal and your schedule will be produced based on your desired allocation. This feature works particularly well with the prioritization feature. They work in tandem to balance your schedule.

Measuring Your Productivity

The best way to measure your productivity is to see what you’re spending your time on. The traditional definition of productivity in the industrial age – which was getting more done – is no longer valid in the knowledge worker age. What matters most now is whether you’re doing the right things. Do you spend most hours of your day firefighting, jumping from one distraction to another, or do you have quality, focused time on deep work? Do you feel accomplished at the end of the day having completed tasks that move the needle for you? Or, after a long, busy, and exhausting day, you ask yourself: where did my day go?

SkedPal zones help you measure your productivity. You can’t manage it if you don’t measure it. So, the first step is to set up the right environment for measuring your productivity. Then, using Budgeting and Prioritization, you can take action to balance your schedule and work towards a much more productive you.

Here are the steps to ensure your workflow supports measuring your productivity:

  1. Design your zones properly as explained in the next section.
  2. Ensure that every task you complete belongs to a zone. The inheritance feature makes this very easy especially if you have designed your Outline structure properly.
  3. When completing tasks, ensure they remain on your calendar.

If you follow the three rules above, you’ll be able to clearly see – on the prioritization board – how much you have spent in each zone. You will also be able to see the hours scheduled in the future for each zone. And, if you think something has to change, you can design your budgets and re-prioritize your work on the board to improve the balance in your schedule.

You may also want to view your schedule with a zone lens. To do so, in the calendar view, change the color set to zones. This will help you see your scheduled zones at a glance. You can change the view to week, or month for better viewing. You may also use the calendar filters on the left pane to view tasks pertaining to specific zones.

Designing Zones

Think about your work zones. What are you juggling your work between? What are the broad categories of your work that reflect your core responsibilities? Think of three to five zones that you’re trying to balance your time between.

The following zones are recommended but you can design your own zones. Make sure you keep your zones between 3 to 5; otherwise, it’ll be overwhelming to maintain them.

  • Focus Zone – These are high-value tasks that move the needle for you. They are, nevertheless, difficult and demand a lot of cognitive energy. Usually, you want to make sure you have the minimum hours of focus zone tasks each week.
  • High Leverage Zone (Blast Through) – These are high-impact tasks that add good value to the end result, and they are not as difficult as the focus zone.
  • Chore Zone (Necessary Evil) – These are administrative/drudgery tasks that must be done. They do not, however, add a direct impact on your work result.
  • Low Energy Zone – These are easy tasks that you want to get done at some point but they’re not a priority. Nevertheless, they still demand your time.

Zones and Budgets

After you define what zones you are going to have, the next step is deciding on the time budgets. Setting budgets is not necessary to use zones, however. You can still add your zones with no budget.

A zone budget is basically the maximum amount of time that can be scheduled per day and/or per week. For example, if you do not want to spend more than 5 hours weekly on tasks in the chore zone, you want to set a budget of 5 hours weekly for this zone.

It’s worth noting that in addition to the zone budgets, you can enforce a budget at the line level; i.e. you can set a budget for a specific project or task as well.

While budgets have to do with the maximum hours allowed to schedule, you can set the minimum hours per day or per week for a project or task. Please see how to use prioritization combined with budgets to ensure a minimum hours of some zone, project, or task are scheduled per day or per week..

How to add zones and Define Budgets

If you think you’re overspending time in some zones and you would like SkedPal to limit the hours scheduled in this zone, add a budget to the zone. To add a budget to the zone, go to settings->Zones/Budgets.

Once you limit your low-value zones, the rest of your time is available to the more important zones.

Note that it’s very much possible that you have some tasks that are not assigned to a zone yet. You can use the ‘The rest of tasks’ option to set a maximum budget for these tasks too.

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