The Da Vinci Schedule – How to Organize Your Day and Week for Peak Performance
This is an ad hoc post that aims to provide insight on how to structure your week and day for peak performance.
At the moment, I am working on multiple projects and I identified that structure and proper evaluation of psychological and physiological parameters is the key to ensuring a productive schedule.
Without structure, your chances of enjoying a full and balanced lifestyle decrease dramatically and your motivation and mood suffer in respect.
Regardless of how busy you are in your life, the schedule I will suggest today will prove invaluable. I decided to name it “The Da Vinci Schedule” because it is inspired by the legend himself. Leonardo Da Vinci has famously said that “Just as a well-filled day brings blessed sleep, so a well-employed life brings a blessed death.”
This quote has had a major impact on my life along with another one from Irvin Yalom that reads: “Death anxiety is greater in those who feel that they have lived an unfulfilled life.”
In my pursuit of a fulfilled life, they both inspired me to keep recreating my schedule in order to make it more creative, purposeful and fun. “The Da Vinci Schedule” is the result of this process.
Enter “The Da Vinci Schedule”
The main conundrums “The Da Vinci Schedule” tries to tackle are:
How to be creative and enter flow on a daily basis
How to not allow interruptions to ruin your flow
How to stop procrastinating and get things done
How to make sure you don’t experience burnout
How to make sure you socialize enough and balance work with play
You can think of “The Da Vinci Schedule” as a softer version of the “30 Challenges – 30 Days – Zero Excuses” project.
It clearly assimilates some of its aspects, but it is not something that requires excess focus and discipline.
The main idea behind it is to allow yourself enough fluidity in your schedule without getting overwhelmed by a profuse amount of tasks.
Here is how it works:
Breaking Down “The Da Vinci Schedule” – How to Organize Your Day
A lot of people suggest that the planning should start on the first day of the week so you can allow yourself some time to recover from the weekend. That is wrong. The planning should start on Sunday evening.
That is because Monday should be your “deep-dive” day. Think of Monday as the equivalent of your early hours in the morning, but for the week. In the morning, your mind is rested and it can amaze you with the productivity it can deliver. Your “early hours” for the week are Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday.
In order to take advantage of that parallel, you need to plan your tasks on Sunday.
Every Sunday evening, around 8 pm, sit at your desk, reflect on your weekend, focus, and start planning your week.
The tricky element, when it comes to planning, is prioritizing.
You need to be very honest with yourself and carefully categorize your tasks according to how significant they are and how much deep work they entail.
From my point of view, this is what your weekly and daily plan should look like in rough terms:
Let me elaborate.
Firstly, we need to use the following categorization for the daily plan:
Deep work includes hardcore deep work and soft deep work
I decided to divide deep work into those two categories because deep work is a spectrum. That spectrum is susceptible to each individual’s preferences. For instance, I have two activities that require deep work: Writing and programming.
I started programming lately and, although it is a challenging task, because of my analytical and mathematical-oriented nature, I find it easier than writing. Thus, for me, programming is treated as soft deep work and writing as hardcore deep work.
In essence, what this means is that depending on how you evaluate your deep work tasks, the hardcore ones need to be carried out Monday to Wednesday and the soft ones Thursday to Friday.
Admin work includes things like email, document organization, ordering supplies, scheduling meetings, etc. In short, everything that can be done by a personal assistant, but when you can’t afford one, you need to complete yourself.
These tasks are very important and oftentimes can take more time than expected. Therefore, it is crucial to evaluate, via trial and error, the time required to complete them and plan accordingly.
Trello and Basecamp are two tools that help me dramatically with organizing admin work.
When you work in a company, meetings are a crucial element of your schedule. Yes, they are important, and in my experience, they can definitely improve team building and project flow, but more often than not they can be a waste of time.
My rule for meetings is called the “early-late rule.” What this rule proposes is that in order to ensure that a meeting won’t interrupt your deep-work flow, meetings need to be scheduled either early in the morning or late in the afternoon. That is before 10 am and after 2 pm.
If you are an early stage employee, it is difficult to have control over that process. What you can try is to discuss the importance of uninterrupted deep work with your manager and help them embrace your suggestion. If you are managing a team, you can definitely enjoy more flexibility in that area since you are usually the organizer.
Fitness for me includes running and gym. I run for 2-3 miles almost every morning and I go to the gym 3-4 times per week. Running is incorporated in my morning routine, which I will discuss in a bit. As far as gym is concerned, I like to work out right after work in order to avoid late evening fatigue. I make sure to eat something around 4 pm and I hit the gym around 6 pm.
In terms of organization, workouts occur usually Monday-Wednesday-Friday and one time during the weekend. I like to keep it like that because it helps me plan meetups and other events throughout the week.
Networking & Meetups
At least one or two times per week I like to attend meetups and other networking events. I consider this important because it allows me to challenge myself, refine my pitching, and help me explore different mindsets and life philosophies.
The meetups don’t necessarily need to be business-related. They can be philosophy meetups, literature meetups or even fitness meetups. The idea behind this approach is that you allow yourself to stay connected, increase your social reach and also satisfy your need for tribal feeling.
Meetup and Internations are two of my favorite websites for that cause.
This is the time where you can fool around and indulge in pleasures. These pleasures can vary from reading and watching YouTube videos, to playing video games and going for drinks with friends.
It depends solely on you and your personal preferences, but my experience has shown that planning can help you enjoy that process even more.
For instance, I like to text some friends and arrange with them during the week in advance. Or I like to plan a movie on Wednesday evening. Or I like to schedule a specific time where I practice some of my hobbies like music and learning new languages.
To make this process easier for you, I made sure to create a sample template, which you can download here. You can print it out and fill it out every Sunday evening.
Extras of “The Da Vinci schedule”
The task list
The task list is the most powerful productivity tool. It really encapsulates the essence of productivity and helps you de-clutter your brain. Every day, in the morning, write down your 5 most important tasks and categorize them effectively. One should include deep work, and the rest should belong to the admin work domain.
Flow occurs when you immerse yourself in uninterrupted deep work. A trick to get there is to listen to music you enjoy (preferably with a beat that can help brain waves coordinate and stimulate focus) and shut down all external stimuli like email, phone, and irrelevant browser tabs.
You need a good 15 mins to enter flow and you can work up to four hours in that state. Therefore, I suggest working in that plane from 10 am to 14 pm.
The morning routine
I propose a very thorough routine in the “30 Challenges – 30 Days – Zero excuses” workbook. That routine is so detailed and intensive that it lasts almost 3 hours. For the purpose of “The Da Vinci Schedule,” I will propose something simpler, but equally effective:
Wake up at 6.30am.
Run for 2-3 miles.
Take a cold shower.
Take good care of your skin.
If you fast, don’t eat anything. If you don’t fast, cook yourself a big and healthy breakfast.
Read a book for 30 minutes.
Read the news or things that interest you for 20 minutes.
Meditate for 10-15 minutes.
Go to work.
At the moment, I have to take care of three different projects, which means that I also work during the weekends.
That, however, doesn’t mean that I allow myself to burn out. I consider going out a very healthy habit and at least once a week I like to go to a club or a bar.
If I go out till late, I sleep for at least 8 hours and wake up repeating my usual morning routine. Then, I spend time immersing into activities that I like. That might include working on projects, surfing on YouTube, meeting with friends etc.
In any case, your weekend is the time where everything is allowed and anything you do should be stress-free.
Bringing structure to your week and day schedule is similar to de-cluttering your personal space.
When you eliminate clutter, your mind perceives your environment as an organized area and that allows it to analyze patterns in a more effective way. That way, you can enjoy an effectual daily schedule and go to bed fulfilled. Just like Da Vinci.
So, here’s to structure.
And here’s to that wonderful man, Leonardo Da Vinci. May he always be an inspiration to all of us.
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The Da Vinci Schedule – How to Organize Your Day and Week for Peak Performance