I’m guessing a lot of you have pretty busy schedules, just like me. My schedule and to-do list are constantly changing, and it’s important for me to know exactly what’s on my plate to make sure I stay on track.
One thing you can do that has helped me is plan your week in advance. I’ve found that when I have a solid strategy heading into the week, I make better use of my time.
Regardless of whether your work as part of a team or on your own, these three steps have helped me plan more productive weeks. I hope they’ll help you, too!
Step 1: Sketch Out Your Tasks
On Sunday evening, I set aside at least an hour for planning my tasks for the week. The first thing I do is visualize everything I want to get done. Creating an overview of what you’ve got coming up is a great way to avoid overloading your days or having to work late.
You can break things done differently depending on how you work. For example, I include both flexible and non-flexible tasks. That way, I can schedule my must-do activities for each day and then, I can space out my flexible tasks throughout the week.
Here’s one helpful strategy for sketching out your tasks:
- Write down a list of all the tasks you’d like done in the next week.
- Add any out-of-work activities or personal projects.
- Decide what needs to be finished.
I like to include free-time activities because it not only keeps me from dealing with a work pile-up on days when I have something after work, but it also makes me mindful of making time for myself.
Step 2: Schedule Your Week
Once you have your list, the next step is scheduling everything.
To do this, I use two tools: an online to-do list and an online calendar.
I prefer Wunderlist for my to-do list because it allows me to see a simple overview of all my tasks (Inbox feature), a weekly list, and single days. For my calendar, I use Google Calendar. Both of these tools can be synced with a mobile device, which means that I have easy access to my schedule even when I’m away from my computer.
I’ve found the following system very effective for scheduling tasks:
- Must-dos / daily tasks from my original list are assigned with a due date in my to-do list.
- Important tasks are put in my calendar (e.g. must-do tasks, meetings, or appointments).
- Flexible tasks are only added to my to-do list.
I prefer to leave tasks that can be moved off my calendar since it leaves me more freedom to react to any unseen tasks that might come up during the week.
For the same reason, I don’t schedule blocks of time for each task with either tool (although both have the option). This allows me to move my day around quickly without having to waste time rescheduling everything if there’s a change.
There’s no right way to schedule everything, so I’d suggest experimenting with what works best for you.
For example, Cal Newport shared a great method that he uses to plan his week. He sets goals for how much time he’d like to spend each day on projects or items he needs to get done. Then, he simply focuses on meeting those goals and getting through all his tasks, which leaves him free to use any remaining time however he likes.
Step 3: Email the Important Stuff
This step might not work for everyone, but it’s one of the most important steps of my planning process. I keep notifications on my phone to a minimum to avoid unnecessary distractions. I typically check in with my to-do list and calendar manually.
To make sure I don’t miss my most important tasks, I set up email alerts for them in Google Calendar.
Before I get started with anything in the morning, I open up an email that contains 1-2 big tasks for that day. It’s been a helpful way to make sure the most important stuff is fresh in my mind before I start work without having to open my calendar or to-do list.
This also gives me an opportunity to do a quick scan of my inbox (subject lines only!) to make sure there are no pressing matters I need to handle. Anything that I don’t need to deal with immediately is filed away for later in the afternoon.
Final Thoughts: Try It Once
When you’re overworked, time gets away from us even faster. You oversleep, you procrastinate even more, and it becomes harder to manage your time. This process is meant to help you plan your week before it starts so that you can hit the ground running at the beginning of the week.
The more time you spend planning, the easier it is for you to execute your schedule. And that’s when you’ll be able to save more time and cut down on the stress that comes with trying to keep up all week!
My final advice to you is to try this once and see if you feel it’s beneficial for your week. Remember there’s no best way to do this, so try to be flexible and find a way to plan that gives you the most value out of your week.
Good luck and be sure to let me know how it works out for you!
Image Credit: Nikki Buitendijk
Do you have any useful tips for planning your week ahead of time?