One of the things successful people have in common is…drum rolls…STRUCTURE. And by that we mean that they rarely let their schedules be decided by fate (or others). Instead, they plan their week to ensure maximum productivity AND work-life balance – something many of us often put in a back drawer of our minds.
Have you ever landed home after a super busy day at work, feeling exhausted and drained but at the same time feeling like you haven’t even made a dent in your to-do list? Much like Sisyphus, you might feel like you’re pushing a boulder uphill only to watch it roll back down again.
Isn’t that just life? Well, to a degree, there’s always going to be an element of uncontrollable activity that can derail even the best of plans. But luckily, there is a tried and tested method to make more of each moment in your day-to-day life. And it all comes down to planning your week. How? Well let’s get into it!
Planning your week like a pro
Before you start – Know your goals
Before you start actually planning your week, make sure you’re clear on your goals for the month, quarter and even year. Review them and have them with you so you can ensure you’re prioritising tasks that will move you towards achieving them each week. Without knowing your goals, it can be all too easy to prioritise things that seem important because perhaps other people are demanding them from you, when in reality it’s not what you should be focussing on at all.
Step 1 – Make a list
Pull out a notepad (or a spreadsheet if you prefer) and write down everything you need/want to get done this week. Don’t worry about whether you actually have the time to do them or any of the details around how you’re going to get them done just yet. Much like reorganising a room, this stage is just about pulling everything out so you can actually see what you’re working with.
Step 2 – Set your top priorities
Once you have a clear view of everything, identify your top priorities. These will generally be tasks with firm deadlines that you need to meet, tasks that you need to get done in order to stay on track for meeting your longer term goals, or the tasks that will deliver the greatest impact. Highlighting the must-dos will help keep you focussed on the things that are most important and hopefully prevent you from getting bogged down in other activities. We suggest highlighting one most important task and then no more than two secondary priorities under that. Write these down and keep these somewhere visible so they are always top of mind.
Step 3 – Define each task
To gain a bit more clarity around what each to-do involves, review your to-do list, categorise similar tasks and write down the action steps you need to tick off to complete each task. Make note of how long you think it will take to complete each task and any potential roadblocks (for example if you need to wait for someone else to get back to you). It can also be really valuable to use the E/N/D (Energising/Neutral/Draining) system at this stage to identify how each task will affect your energy levels and mood.
Step 4 – Schedule it in
To ensure you actually achieve all those tasks you’ve listed down, you need to schedule them into your week. There are plenty of ways to create your weekly schedule. Some people love weekly planner pads and actually writing everything down on a physical piece of paper. Others prefer digital scheduling apps and project management tools. Pick whichever works best for you.
There are a few things to keep in mind when scheduling.
- Add any meetings or appointments. Get these in now so you can effectively plan around them. It can also be a good idea at this stage to note down activities you need to do outside of work including workouts, grocery shopping, social commitments, family time etc.
- Schedule in your top priorities. These are most important so tackle them first or when you know you’re in the best space to get it done.
- Block similar tasks. By grouping similar tasks you can dedicate time to smash them out all in one go. This often allows you to be more productive as you can get “in the zone” and also stops you from wasting time dipping in and out of different types of tasks. For example, block time in the morning and afternoon for emailing.
- Delegate tasks that others can take on. Just because you want it done, doesn’t mean you actually have to do it all. If your week is looking busy, ask team members or staff to help out with some tasks to free up more time for your most important to-dos.
- Keep in mind how each to-do affects your energy and mood. Tasks that are energising are those you enjoy the most. Schedule these when you need a little energy boost during your week. Draining tasks are the most challenging, so schedule them when your energy levels are high.
- Eliminate distractions. Be aware of anything that may potentially pull your focus and prevent you from accomplishing your goals then look for ways to eliminate them. For example if you’re constantly being emailed/called/asked questions but know you need a decent block of focussed attention to complete an important task, consider putting your out of office on and even moving your workspace for a day or afternoon to somewhere with less distractions.
Pro Tip – Work smarter not harder
If it feels like you’re constantly reinventing the wheel, there are so many ways to make your job easier and faster. If you notice you’re doing the same thing over and over again, create templates or a documented process/checklist that just needs to be filled in or adjusted (this also makes it easier to handover to someone else if needed). And if you’re doing a lot of manual admin, a quick Google search may bring up software that could help streamline or automate the system and even remove it from your to-do list altogether. A little extra effort can lead to huge long term efficiencies so don’t ignore these opportunities!
Are you ready to take your productivity to the next level? Set aside an hour each week to plan and you’ll be amazed at the impact it can have. And once you’ve nailed your plan, stick to it (as best you can) and make sure you tick things off as you go for a mood-boosting dopamine release. Stay aware of your goals and top priorities and adjust your schedule midweek if you need to.