Is your life aligned with what matters most to you? Could you use last week’s schedule as evidence?

Leaders’ work lives have become a whirlwind of daily demands – packed schedules, urgent meetings, pressing deadlines, and grinding out as much productivity as possible. Notifications and other interruptions fracture their attention further, undermining their ability to advance their most vital efforts.

While obligations will always have a place, leaders can be more intentional about designing schedules that advance their most important work.

Here are seven practices grounded leaders use to shape their lives:

1.    Think bigger. To-do lists and urgent demands anchor your attention in less significant work. Establish a weekly ritual to reconnect with your larger aspirations. Leverage this broader perspective to not only separate your most meaningful efforts from the noise but to strengthen your ambition and resolve against forces undermining your most significant efforts.

2.    Unproductive patterns. Escaping unproductive patterns is no easy task. Review how you invested the prior week of your life. Where did you fulfill your intentions? Where were you blown off course (external forces)? Where did you wander (internal resistance)? Use this time to identify patterns that imprison you so they can inform your weekly design choices.

3.    Think smaller. Escaping ingrained patterns requires better choices. Don’t fall into the trap of making significant changes or too many changes at once. Commit to one behavioral change that will meaningfully impact your life. It’s easy to forget that little by little, these small changes create the momentum that leads to big, enduring changes.

4.    Leverage boundaries. You can expect to face 50-60 unplanned interruptions per day. Achieving anything of significance requires continuity of attention. Design your week to include protections that fence you off from people and devices. With protections from external forces in place, you can more readily preserve your attention on advancing your most meaningful priorities.

5.    Blank canvas. Each week offers an unlimited number of ways to invest your time. Taking back control involves consciously designing days that enliven you versus unconsciously reacting to the whirlwind of your life (an ongoing design challenge). Design time for health, fun, family, friends, not just work. As importantly, ensure you design space for recovery and doing nothing at all.

6.    Concentrated effort. Your most significant work is a function of uninterrupted time and the focus you bring. Arrive prepared to bring focused effort, or you will sabotage your protected time with less demanding, superficial work that you perceive as more pressing. Become skilled in escaping these urges.

7.    Daily escapes. The design you envisioned for your day will come under attack. Rather than succumbing to forces that could undermine your intentions, enact escape paths. It takes just one second to switch from a less effective choice to a better one. 

The power to manifest a life filled with greater meaning and impact comes down to the quality of your choices. Little by little, your weekly adjustments, stacked one atop the other, will create dramatic breakthroughs in the quality of your life.