I heard a great analogy the other day comparing a suitcase to a person’s life and urging us to pack well for life’s journey. The point was to organize everything in your suitcase, take the right things, don’t try to stuff in too much, and take advantage of the space you have so you can accomplish as much as possible during your lifetime.

It’s a great analogy because two of the principles of time management are to be both efficient and effective. Efficiency is doing things in the best possible way (the way you pack) and effectiveness is doing the best possible things (what you pack.)

The problem is we don’t know how large a suitcase we will need. (How long we will live.) If you’re well into your 80s already, as I am at the time of writing this, it would be presumptuous to take along a steamer trunk. In fact, it would be presumptuous of anyone, regardless of age, to pack a suitcase large enough to last a typical lifetime. We could be hit by a car the minute we walk out with our suitcase and have wasted two hours packing! You could have spent that time having a decent breakfast, telling your family and friends how much you love them, and scribbling out your will – the one you never got around to writing. They are all priorities. Getting hit by a car is probably not on anyone’s bucket list.

But it is not presumptuous to pack for a week at a time; because regardless of your age and state of health and considering the odds of getting hit by a car, chances are you’ll get to use all those things that you packed.

What’s the point of all this? The point is that most people don’t even pack for a week. They simply start doing things as they think of them or work on those listed on a “To do” list. There is little planning, if any, and they spend most of the week reacting to the interruptions, questions and demands of others. Their suitcases become filled with other people’s priorities instead of their own.

You don’t need a suitcase. Planning your week only requires a week at a glance planner and space to jot down what you would like to get done that week. Do it in an orderly manner, scheduling actual appointments with yourself to get the important things done, and listing those “nice to do but not a priority” things on the “To do list” section of your planner.

You don’t have to schedule that healthy breakfast if that’s a routine you have already established. Nor do you have to schedule kissing your spouse or feeding the birds. You simply allow time for those things and start scheduling your other priority activities – both business and personal – at your “official” morning start time.

Why plan your week in advance? You are ensuring that the important things in your life get accomplished. “To do” lists are great reminders; but they do little to help get things done. They are intentions. Scheduled blocks of time, ranging from 30 minutes to 90 minutes in length, at specific times in your planner, are commitments. They are akin to appointments with your doctor, bank manager or major client. You’re simply having as much respect for your own time as you have for others.

If someone calls and asked to see you at 9:15 a.m. and you already have an appointment at that time, you will have to decline. What a shame! But then again, if what they want to see you about is also important, you could schedule it later during the day or week.

Yes, there will be time for it as well. I will explain that in next week’s blog. I can promise that because I have it scheduled to be written at that time. Don’t call me in the morning next Friday between 9 AM and 10:30 AM. I won’t be available.

In the meantime, buy a week at a glance planner if you don’t already have one. No, your iPhone or other digital device is no substitute for a planning calendar. Make sure it has all 7 days at a glance and is broken down into at least half-hour increments with enough space to jot down what you will be working on at specific times. And make sure it has space for those “things to do” that are not important enough to be scheduled.

If you have space to write your goals, personal policies and other relevant information, so much the better.