How I make sure my time is spent on the things I value the most

Something I’ve been focusing on for the last few months (and have written a few newsletters about) is how I’m spending my time and whether it’s in alignment with the things that I value most.

Ever since reading Better Than Before* by Gretchen Rubin, I’ve been been thinking about the habits — good and bad — that fill up my day. What I came to realize was that I wasn’t spending my time or energy on the things that mattered most to me.

I said that I wanted to feel better, eat better, and exercise more … and yet, my behavior was telling a completely different story. I would mindlessly play on my phone instead of reading or moving my body, I would make excuse after excuse for not taking care of myself, and I would binge eat my feelings while also saying that I wanted to eat healthy and nourish my body.

First thing I did after reading the book was to write out everything that I value most, AKA the things that make me feel loved, supported, energized, and filled with joy. I began to notice several themes in the things I was writing down: being in deep connection with others, self-care, writing, being outside, and spending time with family.

When I compared the things on my list to how I was really spending my time, I saw that I had a lot of work to do in order to bring those two things into alignment.

Talk about an eye-opening moment.

That evening, I sat down and got to work. I reviewed what I had scheduled for the week and began adding IN things that made me feel good (like self-care and more play dates with friends). I was amazed at how powerful the process was for me and became really excited for what was in store.

That simple act made me felt equal parts organized and anchored. I also felt like I was prioritizing myself and my happiness, something I don’t always make a point to do.

I enjoyed it so much that I did it again the following week.

And the week after that.

Both weeks were equally as good as the first.

But then I got complacent (or exhausted from dealing with 4-year-old mood swings) and took a week off thinking it wouldn’t be a big deal. After all, I had this whole spending time doing what was important to me thing on lock down.

I’m sure you can guess what happened that week.

Suffice it to say, it was kind of a disaster. I missed a much-anticipated coffee date with a friend and felt disorganized and like I was playing catch-up all week.

So back to the weekly planning session I went.

The contrast between how I felt and what I was able to accomplish in the weeks that I sat down and was intentional about how my week unfolded versus when I didn’t was shocking. And it inspired me to make it a regular part of my weekend routine.

The best part about is, it’s a really simple and fun process, one that I truly look forward to doing each week.

Are you spending your time doing what you value most?

Planning for the week ahead

The following 4 steps are part of a weekly ritual where I make sure how I’m spending my time is in alignment with what matters most to me. I’m a big fan of using pen and paper for this process, but feel free to use whatever system (or technology) works for you.

UPDATE: You can download your very own week-ahead spread template based on these questions here. ($2)


If this is your first time sitting down and planning out your week, I would encourage you to spend a few minutes thinking about what you value most. So take out a pen and paper (or your computer) and write down all of the things that light you up, bring you joy, inspire you, give you energy, make you feel anchored and strong, and otherwise make you feel good.

Once you have your list, take a look and see if there are any themes or repeats (things that are basically the same even though you described them differently). It could be anything from exercise to self-care, exploring, spending time with friends, family time, being outside, creative expression, and more.

When I wrote this out, I came up with 5 overarching themes or buckets that made me feel my best. Those are the things that I make sure to include in my schedule each week.


Take a look at your calendar for the week and note anything that’s already on the schedule. I like to take my notebook and write it out. I even use a line for each day of the week and then plug in whatever is there. It gives me a big picture look at the week ahead, which I find super helpful.

My journal often looks like this:

M: Newsletter / Blog post
W: Play date
Th: Accountability call

I also tend to check on the weather for the week so that I can get a feel for the kind of activities that my daughter and I will partake in (i.e.—pool day, museum day, library, playgrounds).

Finally, I pull out any to-do’s based on what I have going on and add them to a list. I may brainstorm topic ideas for the newsletter or blog posts, make sure we have the appropriate snacks on hand for playdates, or tie up any to-do’s for my call.


Now that you have a general idea of how you’ll be spending your time in the coming week, it’s time to make sure that it aligns with what you value most.

If we’re using the example above, I have writing time carved out, a play date with friends (connection), and an accountability call. But what I don’t have is anything scheduled in for self-care, being outside, or time with family. So this is where I will go back and plug the holes, so to speak, and add in activities that fit the bill.

The week above, I made sure to schedule time for the gym, made note of the weather so that we could go to the pool, and sent out several text messages to friends to connect. I also made sure to block off the weekend so that I could make family time my number one priority.

Finally, I made sure to update my to-do list with any new items that came from this step. Often that means choosing workouts and putting them in my calendar, putting books on hold from the library, or looking up ideas on Pinterest.


So far, you’ve got an overview of your week ahead and have made sure that you are spending your time doing what you value most. You’ve also created a to-do list with everything that you want to get done this week. Now it’s time to pull out your top 3 priorities for the week — three things that, once completed, would make you feel like you had an amazing week.

Depending on what I have going on that week, my priorities can look anything like creating a meal plan and going to the store for having friends over to recording an episode of the podcast, writing a newsletter, or carving out time for self-care. It can also include things like getting a Girls Night on the calendar, texting a friend that I haven’t spoken to in a while, or getting outside with the dog.

Your 3 Things don’t have to be glamorous or MAJOR, they just have to be what will make you feel like the week was a success.


We’re about to get metaphysical, y’all. The fourth (and final) step is one of my favorites and is the one that kickstarted this entire Sunday ritual for me. What is it? A tarot/oracle spread, of course!

Because I’m not great about doing a daily pull from my tarot and/or oracle decks, I love working this into my weekly planning. It allows me to see patterns and think about my week in a more magical (and fun) way than just doing Steps 1-3. It also gives me a way to set an intention and bring about certain feelings or ideas into my life.

I tend to do 3-card draws because I love the story they tell, but any kind of tarot/oracle spread would work.

My favorites as of late (format = card 1 / card 2 / card 3):

  • Theme for the week / where to focus my energy / any messages from guides
  • What to expect / unexpected / theme of the week
  • What I need to take in / what I need to hold onto / what I need to let go of
  • How can I be more loving toward myself — for body / in heart / of mind
  • What do I need to let go of / what do I need to pay attention to / what do I need to embrace
  • What to be aware of / what to remember / what to let go of
  • A reflection of me / a meaningful intention / message from spirit
  • What’s helping me / what’s holding me back / any unrealized potential
  • What do I need to clear / what do I need to release / what needs closure

And in case you need more inspiration (or more detailed instructions for doing a spread), feel free to check out my Pinterest board dedicated to tarot for personal and spiritual growth.


There’s technically one more thing that I do as part of my Sunday ritual even though it’s not related to my calendar, and that is planning out what we’re going to be eating for the week. I wanted to include it, though, because it is absolutely ties into what I value most (which is taking care of myself and my family).

At this point, it takes me about 30-45 minutes to pull a menu and subsequent shopping list together. I plan for 5 home-cooked meals + 1 separate lunch for myself, while building in time for leftovers and our tried and true favorites (particularly for breakfast).

I use this blank template to plan out our meals (and have also used this themed menu planning template one in the past) and rely solely on Pinterest to find inspiration and recipes each week.

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More about Emily Levenson

Emily Levenson is a therapist turned holistic health coach, podcaster, meditation encourager, and seeker of everyday magic. Emily recently kicked off her third #The100DayProject, focusing her efforts on daily meditation.

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