If you don’t have a plan of attack for each week, you will be more prone to waste time on idle leisure and entertainment activities. This does not mean that you shouldn’t have downtime. This does not mean that you shouldn’t rest or sleep. What it means is that you need a target to hit, and if you don’t define that target, you won’t know where to aim or shoot. Every activity will feel like a shot in the dark.
I’m going to share with you how I plan my activities for each week. It is not a perfect process, nor do I do it exactly the same way every time. When it comes to productivity, we have to allow for some variance in personality, preference and temperament. If you prefer to plan one day at a time, or if you prefer to plan one month at a time, that is fine. If you want to use an electronic planner or an app to flesh out your schedule, that is fine. The point is to get into a habit that helps you to focus on worthwhile tasks and accomplish more.
“Hold the phone. What do you mean by accomplishing more? Doesn’t it take time to plan your week?”
As the old saying goes, your work will fill the time you allot for it. Does this mean that if you only give yourself five minutes to write a blog post that you will actually complete it in that time? Well, no. You still have to be realistic. However, let’s say that your to-do list for Wednesday consists of “write one blog post”.
Unless you’re particularly disciplined, you probably won’t do it first thing in the morning (though I am not speaking that into existence). You might even end up playing games, answering emails or surfing the internet. In the afternoon you realize you have to be at your next appointment in 90 minutes, so you hurriedly cobble something together and post it before rushing out the door.
Did you get the task done? Sure. Did you make the most effective use of your time? That depends.
It’s a little harder to feel like a healthy, productive, confident individual when you’ve wasted half of your day on empty nothingness. It may have been wise to review your day before beginning it. It may have been a good idea to add a few more items to your docket before your meeting, and actually plan for downtime as well. It’s important to learn to make conscious decisions around everything you do because it’s empowering.
In short, planning will enable you to track your activities, and tracking your activities will give you a better picture of your weekly production as well. You will waste less creative thought and energy trying to figure out what to do next if you have a list in front of you.
Personally, I believe in writing everything down. If you want to use a computer or a smartphone to plan out your week, go right ahead. However, I believe there is something powerful about writing things down, so that’s what I do.
For each week, I write out a to-do list on an index card. Even if I did not check everything off from the week before, I will still make up a new one. I will add unfinished items from the old card to the new index card if I determine that they are still important.
I used to put odds and ends (errands and low-return activities) on my to-do list as well. I’ve started writing these items down on a separate sheet in a notebook, because they are not as important as the items on my main to-do list. Because these items are low on the priority scale, I probably won’t complete many or any of them on any given week. It’s much simpler to keep a separate, longer list of low priority activities.
I also make it a point to find an environment that I can focus in. Additionally, I make it a point to get myself in the right frame of mind or mood. I will usually go to a coffee shop, away from distractions at home, and order a tea or a coffee. I find that reading for 15 to 20 minutes before making my weekly list helps me to focus. I also pull quotes out of the book I’m reading and write them down in my notebook. I think this helps me to organize my thoughts as well.
I usually plan for my week for maximum efficiency on a Sunday night. Even if I’m feeling tired, I find that this process usually energizes me, so even if I don’t feel like it, I know that it’s worth the trouble.
Here are some final tips based on my experience:
- Stay flexible: what is the most important thing in your life? Most people would answer “people”, be it friends or family. Though I think the time you take to plan out your week is well worth the effort, I would not advise doing it at the expense of strained relationships or lost opportunity. Figure out a time and a place that works for you.
- Do it anyway: at times, you may not feel like planning. However, when Monday morning rolls around, you know you’re going to have to do it anyway. Whether you prefer to do it on Friday before work ends or Saturday morning, simply take some time to organize your schedule whether it energizes you or motivates you or not. It will prove valuable in your work.