How to create your ideal week with the mosaic exercise

Written by Ellen Scott

Planning out your week as a beautiful, happy mosaic can totally change how you view your time – and spend it. 

The idea of actively working up a schedule for your week, with every hour accounted for, might give you school timetable flashbacks. And for that, we are sorry. But here’s the thing: mapping out your week could help you to spend your time better – and feel happier in each moment. 

However, don’t think of it as a boring agenda made up only of meetings and appointments. Instead, suggests Cassie Holmes, a professor of marketing and behavioural decision-making at UCLA and the author of Happier Hour, we should view our week as a beautiful mosaic. That’s how we stop feeling like we’re rushing through life, flitting from one task to another. It’s also how we wrestle back some control over how we spend our time. 

“Take a step back and look at your week as a whole,” Holmes tells Stylist. “Think of each hour as a tile, which, when pieced all together, forms the beautiful and colourful mosaic of your life.”

We know what you’re thinking. Won’t some of those ‘tiles’ be… ugly? Boring? The kind of thing we have to do, but don’t in any way look forward to? And won’t that ruin our nice mosaic design? 

It’s true – not all your time can be spent joyously. But the idea of the mosaic exercise is to be more strategic in the placement of these more ‘meh’ tiles alongside the lovely ones. Just like in a real mosaic, you wouldn’t just stick all the same colours together… you wouldn’t get a very interesting design if you did. 

Choosing the placement of your tiles is a strategy called ‘time crafting’, which also includes techniques such as ’time bundling’ and dividing your work into ‘happy work’ and ‘work-y work’.

The draw of all this? Feeling more in control of how you spend your hours, tackling the classic Sunday scaries overwhelm and, Holmes says, happiness. 

“You can be thoughtful in placing the tiles to maximise the impact of your positive activities and minimise the emotional impact of your chore-like activities,” Holmes explains. “By crafting your time in this way, you can increase your overall satisfaction, fulfilment and happiness from your weeks. ”

So, how do we start to create our mosaic? Let’s break it down. 

How to do the mosaic exercise to create your ideal week

Get your canvas

Ooh, here’s an excuse to buy yourself a new planner, one with a week-to-view layout. Or you can use an online calendar. Or you can create your own. Or print out Cassie Holmes’s excellent version from here.

Set your required tiles

Get started by adding the tiles that won’t budge. “You should only count those activities for which you have no choice about whether you do them, nor about when you do them,” writes Holmes. 

So your work hours, for example. Your commute. Any regular appointments that can’t be moved around willy-nilly. 

“Don’t block out these times completely, because there may be opportunities later in the crafting process to make more of them,” notes Holmes. Maybe you should make these tiles empty frames with your pencil, rather than colouring in the entire thing. 

Place your joyful tiles

Once you’ve locked in the tiles that have to be where they are, you get to move on to the more creative, fun bit: beginning to plot out the rest of your time. Holmes advises placing joyous, happy-making tiles first, so these are a priority rather than just being wedged in wherever they fit. 

What are your joyful tiles? Only you know that. Maybe they’re when you’re doing pilates or catching up with a friend. Maybe you really, really love watching Happy Valley. Whatever it is, note it down and place it on your mosaic. 

Get specific with your tiles

OK, so you’ve got a big tile each day with ‘work’. But let’s get more granular. Can you plot out sections of time that are dedicated to deep, focused work, versus meetings and admin? The ‘happy work’ and ‘work-y work’ segmentation can help you here.

Add tiles for the goals that matter to you

Next up, mark out time to work on the stuff that aligns with your goals and values. If you want to write a book, dedicate some tiles to writing. If you know that exercise is important to you, make sure you have some movement tiles in your mosaic with specific times. 

Plot time to think 

Having a ‘Shultz hour’ each week can be a game changer. Get it on your mosaic. 

And protect time to do nothing

“When crafting your time, you should consider leaving portions of your week unfilled,” recommends Holmes. “However, to protect these spaces from getting covered by colour, you might need to actually schedule this time for yourself – to rest, to reflect and to be spontaneous.

“We are prone to overschedule ourselves. To save time for being present, you may need to schedule time to keep unscheduled.”

Happier Hour by Cassie Holmes is available now (Penguin Life, £14.99). 

Main image: Getty

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