Over the years I’ve tried lots of different planning routines and none of them worked as well for me as the one I’m showing you today. In essence it’s defining a goal for the week and figuring out the actual steps needed to achieve it in advance, while reflecting and readjusting regularly during the week.
I know we’re all different and what works for me might not work for you, but if you haven’t found an efficient approach for yourself yet, you might give this one a try.
Analyze Prior Commitments
You can’t expect to have every waking hour to work on something important. We all got a life, right? Write down every appointment that’s going to occupy your time during the week. This can be doctor’s appointments or your day job or a meeting with your parents.
Our goal with this weekly planning is to create a realistic frame to work with. If you don’t take these kinds of commitments into account, you’re playing a losing game. Therefore it’s incredibly important to be aware of those appointments.
Another important aspect to consider are deadlines. A deadline is anything that needs to be done by a certain time like doing your taxes or handing in an essay. If you know you have to finish a project at work you may want to schedule extra time for this. Projects typically are a little unpredictable and usually take some extra time at the end to actually be finished. Keeping things like this in mind makes your planning more realisitic and therefore more achievable.
Similar to prior commitments there may be some tasks that you need or want to get done. We’re not necessarily talking about tasks that tie in with your goals for the week. This is about all those little things like paying the bills, doing laundry and getting your meals prepped. Some certainly are important and need to be attended to. Others may not be that essential on a grander scale and may be postponed or scratched altogether.
The important thing is that you actually get those tasks out of your head and schedule time for the ones that you want to get done. As with prior commitments it’s so easy to overlook the time needed to get those things done and end up wondering by the end of the week about where the time went.
There is nothing more frustrating than feeling like you didn’t accomplish anything when in reality you were simply preoccupied with tasks that you didn’t schedule for.
Estimate Available Time
Once you know what appointments and general tasks you need to attend to you’re able to estimate how much time you realistically have to spend on your actual priorities (which we get to in a minute).
I do this by looking at each day separately and analyzing where I have some blocks of time that I can use. There may not always be big chunks of time, but you can do with smaller amounts just as well.
This is another opportunity to reevaluate your commitments. Do you really have to deep-clean the house this week or would that time be better spent playing with your kids or working on your novel? Not cleaning at all might be kind of gross, but being able to spontaneously holding a dinner party might be a little over the top. And what about outsourcing some of it? You should be rather fierce with your own time.
Set a Goal for the Week
In my own experience setting a goal for the week boosts my motivation greatly. Setting a goal is acting with intention and your goal should ideally include some form of outcome. The clearer you are the better you’ll perform.
I can tell you it makes a huge difference between ‘I want to work on my blog this week’ and ‘I’m writing five articles this week’. The latter provides way more clarity and takes the guessing out of the process.
You have to decide what your actual goal for the week is. Maybe you want to make progress on your novel like writing 5k words or creating your main characters. Or you may want to focus on some other important aspect of your life like doing a week of self care.
Whatever it is, try to be as specific about the outcome as possible. You’ll thank yourself later!
Define your Action Plan
To make accomplishing your goals even easier you have to be clear about every little step along the way. To have a plan of action is to have a road map to your destination.
Lets take those five articles I’ve mentioned earlier as an example. Instead of leaving things at ‘write five articles this week’, I’d go ahead and make a list of topics that I’ll write about. This ensures that I won’t be paralyzed the next morning when I’m supposed to write. And sometimes my subconscious already worked the problem and makes writing the article even easier.
Make sure that each action step is a digestible bite. You don’t want to wake the procrastination monster if possible. Besides it feels simply satisfying to tick off one of your tasks, even if it was a rather small one. Done is done 🙂
I recommend you take some time each night to reflect on that days progress and to readjust your sails. Check where you are on your map and what you’re going to tackle the next day.
I’ve found that planning out each day of the week in advance actually hinders my productivity. Because life. No seriously, life is chaotic and sometimes unpredictable and usually people aren’t the best when it comes to estimating how much time a tasks needs. Whenever I’ve planned out the whole week in advance I got discouraged as soon as one task wasn’t finished in the given time frame. You may try this approach if you want to, maybe it works for better you.
Otherwise I’d suggest you do this every evening after work (or first thing in the morning). This gets you out of action mode and into strategic thinking and you’re clear about the upcoming tasks of the following day.
I hope you find this way of planning useful. It took me quite some time to tweak it to my own liking and you’re of course free to adjust it to our own needs. The biggest challenge for me is actually to be consistent with my planning. As long as I’m doing it diligently I’m quite fine, but if I fall off the wagon I usually find myself rather unproductive. Consistency is key here.
If something is still unclear or if you face some challenges, you’re always welcome to ask! Let me know what you think.
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