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In the Habit Management Triangle, Reducing Scope is More Important than Modifying Schedule

In this series of posts, we’ve already talked about:

  1. The Difference between Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation
  2. My Personal Habit Creation Experimentation
  3. How to Create Habits by Understanding Triggers and Rewards
  4. How to Understand Will Power and Make it Stronger
  5. The Difference between Perfection and Progress

Continuing along the same vein, today’s post will discuss the difference between Scope and Schedule in your Habit Creation and why sticking to a Schedule is much more important than worrying about the Scope you have planned.


Let’s start off with a definition of Scope.

Scope is a term that is most commonly used in relation to Project Management. There is a well-known Project Management triangle that includes three parts: Cost, Time, and Scope.


Scope is: the overall range, reach, extent, depth, or breadth of a Project.

In other words, it’s the WHAT and HOW. What are you trying to accomplish? What is this Project supposed to include or be? And HOW will you get there?

Scope must be specific or it is worthless. For example, a design team can’t say simply, “Design a new logo.” It needs to be more specific like, “Design a new logo that includes element A, B, and C, while emphasizing the company’s D, E, and F, for the purpose of refreshing our image, driving new sales, attracting new customers, etc.” Scope is, in a sense, a condensed version of a Project Brief.

In our case, for Habit Formation, Scope would be the specifics of the Habit you’re trying to create. You can’t just say, “Lose 5 pounds” because that’s merely an end goal. Scope includes the entire range of actions that you intend to take to get there. A better statement for the Scope of your goal would be, “Wake up before 6am, go for a run and do bodyweight exercises before breakfast.” That’s a much better Scope because it lets you know specifically WHAT to do to achieve your goal.

For our purposes, the other pieces of the Project Management triangle (above) will be referred to as:

  1. Cost = Budget
  2. Time = Schedule

The Habit Management Triangle

We need to be realistic about our goals especially when it comes to forming Habits to help us reach those goals. We are all limited in various ways, and the Project Management Triangle above gives us a good illustration about how Budget (Cost), Schedule (Time), and Scope struggle against each other in our pursuit of Quality (the result found in the center of the triangle).

Realistically, when we talk about this war between parts in regards to Habit formation, this is what we mean:

  1. Scope: You’ve specifically defined WHAT you want to achieve and HOW, but your Schedule and Budget (of Energy) may not always allow you to do exactly what you’ve planned. Scope pulls one way, but Schedule and Budget pull in opposite directions.
  2. Schedule: In the modern age, Schedules are often quite crowded so it’s hard to find time to do what you’ve planned. Unless you specifically set aside time to do something, you literally won’t be able to do it. Schedules are one of the most demanding things in the modern day, and they often take priority – except when it comes to our own personal development Habits.
  3. Budget: This is the amount of Energy you have available to you in any given day. One of the best ideas I’ve ever heard about Time Management is found in one of the best books I’ve ever read about Energy: The Power of Full Engagement. Its subheading reads:

Managing Energy, not Time, is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal


  • Scope pulls against your Energy Budget and Schedule says, “Do this, do more, FULLY fulfill your mission today!”
  • And Schedule pulls against you saying, “You’re too busy! You have no time for that! Get on to your priorities like work, and family, and food!”
  • And your Energy Budget gets spent gradually as you go through the day, literally pulling against the other two by simply draining you of Energy. So when you get home at night, it’s much easier to sit down in front of the TV to unwind rather than expending more of your now quite limited supply of Energy to work on the things that matter most to you.

So what to do about this triangular War?

Well, which part of this Triangle do you have power over? Which part can you change if you need to?

  1. Your Energy Budget is a finite resource. No matter how much Energy you have; no matter how much you strengthen or increase it through exercise, there is always a limit to it.
  2. Your Schedule is also limited by a pre-determined number of hours in the day. There’s not a lot you can do about your Schedule to increase Time for one thing unless you decrease Time from another thing.
  3. The Scope of your goals is about the only thing you really have much control over. Be realistic about how much you can actually do given your current Schedule and Energy Budget. And even if you think you’ve found a good fit, be aware that day-to-day demands may change your Schedule or drain your Energy Budget more quickly. Be ready to modify your Scope at a moment’s notice.

Some Examples:

Here are some examples from my own life with regards to this Habit Management Triangle:

#1: Scope

Before any “real” work begins, I have to start with WHAT I want:

  1. I begin by writing down any NEW Habits I want to form.
  2. Then I prioritize those Habits and determine (realistically) how much Time, Energy, or Amount it will take for me to feel like I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.
  3. Example 1 (Time): Korean: 15 minutes per day of writing in my Korean diary is enough to Progress in Korean.
  4. Example 2 (Amount): Exercise: 3 times per day of bodyweight exercise is enough to Progress physically.

#2: Schedule

Next, I prioritize my Schedule. Get the “big rocks” into my jar first before filling in the gaps with “smaller rocks.”

  1. I print out a schedule for the whole week – broken down by hours in the day.
  2. Then I box out my class Schedule and other major priorities that take up significant portions of time.
  3. Finally, I look at the gaps in my Schedule – particularly mornings when my Energy is highest – and I try to fill the gaps with my new Habits.
  4. Example 1: Korean: I’ve determined that staying after my last class every day for 15 minutes to write in my journal is the best Time for this goal to Progress.
  5. Example 2: Exercise: I eat three times a day and I want to exercise three times a day. The obvious Trigger to exercise is when it’s meal time and my Reward is eating something satisfying.

#3: Scope

Because my Energy Budget is limited, the only real plan I make for that is to do what matters most earliest in the morning when my Budget is full and my mind is focused. But, because Energy and Schedule may sometimes be adjusted in opposition to my plans (due to illness or unforeseen circumstances that pop up), I have to remember to return to Scope and adjust it as needed.

Remember, the most important KEY for creating Habits is to stick to your Schedule – be consistent. You can always modify your Scope if you just stick to your Schedule.

  1. Example 1: This blog post: I like to post Motivational topics on Mondays. Yesterday, my daughter was sick so I was unable to do so. However, I was able to stick with my Schedule of: wake up, exercise, get a coffee, read a little something, start writing. Just because I was unable to finish doesn’t mean I was unaccomplished. My Habit remains intact – the chain unbroken. That’s the goal.
  2. Example 2: Exercise: Sometimes I feel exhausted after a long day. But breaking up my exercise into 3 parts per day helps me to stick to a daily Schedule more easily. Additionally, I usually try to do something during my Scheduled times – regardless of my Energy. That means sometimes I do only 2 pullups instead of 20, or only 20 situps instead of 50. The goal is consistency. Stick with it and let it change you gradually.
  3. Example 3: Korean: Although I want to study, write, learn, and practice speaking everyday, that’s not always possible. So, I prioritize doing something in Korean everyday – even if it isn’t completing a chapter in my textbook or speaking for 15 minutes straight. So long as I’m doing something in Korean, I’m moving step-by-step closer to Mastery. That’s the goal.

Call to Action

Now it’s up to you. Follow my example for better Habit creation and management.

  1. Determine your Scope: WHAT you want and HOW you will do it. Make a Plan. Write it down.
  2. Put it into your Schedule: Print a weeklong plan broken down by time blocks (I’ve included mine here). Fill it in with your “big” and “small” rocks. Then, find a place to literally WRITE IN your new Habits.
  3. Manage your Energy: If you plan something for later in the day, be sure to not expend all your Energy too early. Reserve at least a little for that specific goal.
  4. Modify your Scope: And in the case of unforeseen circumstances, simply reduce your Scope. STICK TO YOUR SCHEDULE – but do less. Consistency is King.

Want more advice for how to better STICK to your Schedule? Next week I’ll give expand upon a Tony Robbins quote I heard recently: “Change your Should into a Must” and explain why “Should” is for daydreamers and “Must” is for visionaries and world-changers.

How will you apply today’s lesson to your personal life? To your Korean study? Let us know in the Comments below.

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