5 Steps To Plan The Week Ahead
posted on June 11, 2018 | by Sam Brown
Ever get to the end of the week and have NO IDEA where the time went? Don’t worry – you’re not the only one! But the good news is that doing a little planning on a Sunday night will make a huge difference. Not only because you’ll be sooo much more productive (though you will), but because you won’t have that ominous feeling that you’ve forgotten something important. Not to mention the fact that you won’t waste nearly as much time scrolling through Instagram in an attempt to distract yourself from your overwhelming life. Yay!
I’ll admit I don’t get around to this every week (because #life), but even just 15-20 minutes of planning can help you feel do much more organized. So in this post, I’m sharing the steps I go through to plan my week as well as a few planning tips. And just so you know, these tips will work whether you’re using a digital or paper planner. I hope you find it helpful!
Step 1: Plan your non-negotiables
This might seem obvious, but it’s always a good idea to start by putting your non-negotiables in your calendar. It means you don’t have to worry about forgetting anything critical (which is always nice). Plus, you’ll be able to clearly see what you’ve got left to work with.
And when I say your non-negotiables, I don’t just mean work btw. I’m talking about working out or meal prep or your morning routine or getting a mani pedi or your beauty routine or whatever it is that helps you stay sane (because the things that keep you sane should be non-negotiable, right?). If you only do one thing from this blog post, make it this!
Step 2: Plan your most important
At this point most people would start scheduling in each item on their to-do list, but I’m gonna ask you not to do that yet. Instead, carve out time in your week to complete your most important task.
How do you decide what your most important task is? Well, it’s not necessarily the one that will take the longest or be the hardest or even the most urgent. Instead, it’s the one that would make you breathe a sigh of relief if you had it done by next Sunday night. It’s the one that will move your life forward. And if you’re struggling to figure out what that would be, have a look at my post on how to do more work in less time.
Step 3: Plan downtime and sleep
Nope, we’re still not calendaring in your to-do list yet! Once you’ve scheduled your non-negotiables as well as time to complete your most important task for the week, plan out when you’re going to relax and when you’re going to sleep. I’m getting you to do this before you add your to-do list to your calendar because sleep and relaxation are sooo important. They’re also usually the first thing we cut back on when life is busy!
You don’t need to be too precise here, but I’d make sure you at least know what time you’re going to go to bed and have one block of free time at some point during the week. And if you feel resistant to putting these ‘limits’ on your productivity, you’re the kind of person that needs this the most.
Step 4: Plan everything else
Ok, now is the time to add your to-do list to your calendar. If you’re anything like me, there’s not going to be nearly enough time to get everything done. But instead of feeling overwhelmed and planning nothing (or trying to plan EVERYTHING and setting yourself up to fail) make sure your to-do list is prioritised before you add it to your calendar. And then add as much as you can without going overboard.
Don’t forget that it’s sooo much better to create a simple plan that you can stick to than a big plan that’ll overwhelm you. And if you do find yourself with extra time, you can always come back to your list later in the week.
Step 5: Make sure your plan is achievable
I spoke about this in the last step but it’s really important that your plan for the week is achievable, because overwhelming yourself from the get-go is NOT going to help. So once you’ve done your planning, have a look over everything and ask yourself whether you feel calm or overwhelmed. If you feel overwhelmed, it’s likely you’ve added too much to your calendar. Which means I recommend that you remove some of the things on your calendar, starting with the least important.
And I know it feels so unproductive to remove things from your calendar but trust me you will get SO MUCH MORE done if you set yourself up to succeed. And as I mentioned before – you can always do more things if you have extra time.
Work from your calendar, not your to-do list
I always recommend working from a calendar (especially a digital calendar like iCal or Google Calendar) instead of a to-do list. The main reason is that it’s nowhere near as overwhelming since you don’t have to keep making decisions about what to do next. A calendar also allows you to be much more detailed with your plans. Plus if it’s digital, you can just drop and drag your tasks when life gets in the way (and let’s be real – something’s bound to come up at some point).
Follow your plan whether you feel like it or not
The biggest mistake that you can make with planning is asking yourself whether you ‘feel like’ following through. Reality check – you’re NOT going to feel like following through with 90% of your plans. But following through builds trust and self-confidence and helps you get more shit done (which is why it’s so important you don’t skip step 5). So expect yourself to feel unmotivated so it doesn’t throw you off when you do!
Schedule your most dreaded tasks for Monday
My final tip is to schedule your most annoying and dreaded tasks for Monday. It’s already the worst day of the week, so at least you’re not ruining a good one! Plus getting them done early will give you a sense of satisfaction that you can NEVER get if you procrastinate on them.
So instead of leaving your worst tasks until Friday (which will just get pushed over to the next week, and then the next week – let’s be honest) get them done on Monday. I’m talking about booking that overdue dentist appointment, taking your car to the mechanic, making that difficult phone call or whatever it is you don’t want to do. Do it on Monday and you’ll thank yourself for it and create momentum for the whole week!
Do you plan out your week? Let me know how you do it in the comments!
You can read more advice like this on my blog Smart Twenties.