Plan your week with these 6 tips
Sunday is drawing to a close, and the promise of a jam-packed week is rapidly approaching. Yet, you’re going in blind, as you couldn’t find the time to plan out what you wanted to do in the coming week.
It’s easy to think plans and weekly schedules are reserved only for the hyper-organized amongst us, but the truth is, we could all benefit from looking ahead. A plan, even if only for one week in advance, can help you work smarter, not harder.
You’ll be able to structure your time for optimal efficiency, so you’re not left with dozens of tasks still on your to-do list come Friday night.
Why is planning important?
Time tends to escape us when we don’t pay attention to it.
It isn’t a coincidence that there are so many metaphors for the passing or slipping away of time — we often have a hard time controlling it. That is, of course, unless we make an effort to be aware of the passage of time and how we can use it to our advantage.
How you spend your time is likely the most important — and challenging — struggle you’ll face in your journey to becoming a true productivity powerhouse. When you focus on what really matters and dedicate enough time to your priorities, you’ll make breakthroughs much faster than if you just stumbled into each day without a plan.
Think of time as your greatest productivity weapon — like a laser beam that can burn you if you don’t pay attention to it, but when focused on one or two things, it can help you blaze through them quickly and effectively.
6 ways to plan your weeks effectively
We all need help from time to time, especially when it comes to something like planning, which isn’t a skill many of us are born with or even taught. The following six time management techniques can give you the edge whenever you need more structure to your days and weeks:
1. Preview the week
One of the best exercises you can do to plan ahead is to sit down and preview the upcoming week. Ideally, you’d take some time out of your Sunday to deliberate your main priorities for the coming week.
You would also factor in which events threaten to disrupt your entire week if you don’t clearly map them out.
You can imagine meetings, events, and even social obligations like mines in the classic Minesweeper game — you could be moving along making progress, and then, all of a sudden, you hit one of these mines and it blows up your day.
To avoid the impact of these events, your best bet is to give yourself plenty of warning. That way, you can schedule the tasks you need to get done around these potential disruptions, so they don’t hinder your productivity.
When you preview the upcoming week, you should also factor in the mundane. This is even more important if you work from home since you’ll know how Monday’s lunch break can easily bleed into your afternoon work session.
Plan each day as if you were in the military; that way, your brain will have a harder time convincing you to spend ‘just five more minutes’ being idle when you have work to do.
2. Review your goals
As helpful as it is to preview what’s to come, it’s also extremely useful to review what came before and also what your main weekly goals are.
When you clearly lay out your goals and put them in writing, they can act like your North Star guiding all your actions in the right direction. If nothing else, having your goals clearly defined will prevent you from succumbing to procrastination quite so often.
For example, when faced with the dilemma of spending another 20 minutes watching YouTube videos or working on an important project, remembering the goals you wrote down can help you make the best decision for your long-term goals.
It’s so easy to fall prey to instant gratification these days, especially since many gadgets demand our attention, but having a long-term vision with meaningful goals helps you combat temptations that could lead you astray over and over again.
3. Find a time management system
As productivity guru James Clear (quite rightly) says:
‘Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.’
With that in mind, once you’ve jotted down your most important goals and internalized them, it’s time to implement a time management system. A time management system is what will help you continue to make the right decisions about how you spend your time a day, a week, and a month from now.
So what are your options?
Quite frankly, there are dozens of effective time management systems out there. Here are some of our favorites:
The Pomodoro method
The Pomodoro method is a simple technique for working in bite-size chunks of time, so you can improve work performance on tasks and projects. Often, it’ll involve a tomato-shaped clock and 25-minute increments during which you’ll work hard on a specific task, before resting your body and mind for 5 minutes.
The key to this method is the short breaks you take between work sessions, which help you avoid burnout and approach each session with renewed enthusiasm.
Getting things done
Getting things done (GTD) is a comprehensive time management system pioneered by David Allen. It’d be a tall order to lay out all the nuts and bolts right here, but we’ll give you the abbreviated version.
GTD is a five-step system for taking back control of your time and organizing all the activities and events in your life. It looks like this:
Time blocking is a technique whereby you map out each day with colored time blocks to indicate exactly how you’ll spend each hour and minute. We’ll go into this system more in the next section.
4. Use a planner
Behind every great system is a carefully curated selection of productivity tools — be it physical objects or digital products. One such tool for time management is the humble planner.
Planners come in all shapes and sizes, so the most important thing is finding one that works for you. Some people prefer a pocket-sized planner that they can use to jot down thoughts at a coffee shop if they’re out and about, while others like a large planner for getting everything onto the page.
The planner is one of the best ways to implement your time management system, preview the week, and write out your goals. That’s where time blocking can come in handy.
With time blocking, you can get creative and draw up exactly what you want the upcoming week to look like. In this system, it’s important to consider every minute of the day, which extends to free time and meal times.
Without priorities, you can successfully implement all the previous tips and still not get any more done than you currently do.
Because you’ll end up spending a large portion of your time on trivial activities or tasks that you deem important, which can be completed later.
The goal of prioritization is to locate the biggest tasks or projects on your plate. You can find these by thinking of every task or project on your plate and figuring out which are the most time-sensitive, urgent, and most likely to cause you stress the more you push them back.
6. Schedule downtime
Finally, just as it’s important to identify your biggest priorities, you also need to work out what you want to do with your downtime.
This might seem like an odd thing to do, but trust us, it’ll be worth it.
When you take the time to schedule and plan out your downtime, you can actually use it how you want. What we mean by that is it’s infinitely easier to commit to reading that book you’ve been meaning to get around to if you have time set aside for it.
This is one of the biggest reasons you think you need ‘more time’ in the week. It’s likely because when pockets of free time magically appear, you use them to catch up on your social media feeds, watch TV, or generally lounge around.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with any of these activities, and we recommend you schedule these too if they bring you joy. But if you’re wondering why you ‘never have time’ to finish that DIY project, read that book, or play sports with your friends, it’s because you aren’t being deliberate about how you spend your free time.
Plan your way to progress
By finding a way of planning that works for you, you’ll find it much easier to stay on top of your commitments and make progress toward your most pressing goals.
Experiment with different tools and systems, and see what yields the best results. Use this information to create a comprehensive plan that you can rely on week after productive week, so you’ll never again have to worry if you’re just squandering your time.
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