The Three-Bucket System for Organizing Your Week

It’s Monday morning. You’ve had a fun weekend and are ready to tackle the workweek ahead.

But as you look at your list of projects and upcoming deadlines, you struggle to figure out what you should do when.

Fast-forward to Friday afternoon. You’re wrapping things up and getting ready for the weekend.

But then you look at your to-do list. And you realize that you still have many unfinished tasks.

Ugh! Not the best feeling as you head out of the office for what’s supposed to be some time away from work.

If this sounds terribly familiar, you’re probably asking yourself why this pattern continues week after week.

I know I have.

You probably left your day job to become a freelancer because you wanted more freedom and flexibility. But now you find yourself busier than ever. And always behind.

There are many great solutions to this challenge. But today I want to talk about one simple idea that’s had a profound impact on my business (and sanity!).

It’s something I learned from the legendary business coach Dan Sullivan, founder of Strategic Coach. And it’s all about organizing your week into three buckets.

Here are the three buckets Sullivan recommends:

1. Focus Days. These days are all about production. For writers and copywriters, this is when you focus on client work. It’s when you do your writing, research, outlining, mind mapping, brainstorming and editing for client projects. It’s also when you have client project calls and do your interviews.

2. Buffer Days. These days are all about preparation, learning and catching up on miscellaneous items. On these days, you shift gears from production to:

  • Learning
  • Reading
  • Planning
  • Preparing
  • Practicing
  • Delegating
  • Tying up loose ends (catching up on email, doctor appointments, etc.)

3. Free Days. These are exactly what they sound like. It’s when you take time off to rest, re-energize, clear your mind and reflect.

Sounds good on paper. But does it actually work?

Yes, it does! I implemented this three-bucket system about 18 months ago, and it’s been a lifesaver! Here’s how I organize my week:

Mondays are my buffer days. I use them to catch up on open items, prepare for the week, plan, read and delegate. This is when my team and I also have our weekly team call.

Tuesdays through Thursdays are my focus days. I use them to prepare course material, write articles and other content, write promotions, hold coaching calls with students in my coaching programs, interview podcast guests and so on.

Fridays are my free days. I take time to do things I normally don’t allow myself to do during the week. For instance, I’ll play golf with a friend, go on a hike or long walk, get a massage, catch a movie, read, relax in my patio, daydream and come up with new ideas.

I’ve found that giving my week this kind of structure helps me maintain discipline. It enables me to be more focused and productive during my focus days. And it reduces overwhelm.

That’s because having just three days of pure production per week forces me to stay extremely focused. Having a buffer day helps me plan better and gives me the breathing room I need to make smarter decisions. It also allows me to focus on learning and getting better at what I do.

And forcing myself to have a free day adds balance to my week. Because even though I’m pretty disciplined about taking weekends off, I rarely do something just for me on those days.

Typically, I’m with my family on the weekends, which is great. But I also need some time to myself outside of work and family.

Why I Do This

Is this system perfect? No.

Does my work spill over into Fridays or Mondays sometimes? Yes.

But here’s what I’ve found:

If you don’t create boundaries, every day becomes a work day. And you end up with zero margin.

There’s no time to make sure you’re on the right path. There’s no time for planning. No time for self-education. No time for tying up loose ends.

No time for personal appointments, reading, relaxing and just enjoying life a little more.

So if you struggle every Monday trying to decide how to allocate your client work … or you always have a long list of uncompleted items going into the weekend … give this approach a shot.

You don’t have to follow the schedule I outlined above. You can assign these “themes” to whatever workdays you’d like. (Maybe Monday works best for your day off. And Tuesday is a better buffer day for you.)

Whatever you choose, let me warn you: it will feel odd at first. And you may not see immediate results. So give it two or three weeks before you decide if (or how) you’ll keep this structure.

What Do You Do?

I’m curious. Do you do something similar today? How does it work for you?

And if you don’t structure your week this way, are you willing to give it a try?