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How to effectively plan and manage your week

Do you remember when you were in school? If you were anything like me you’d come home at the end of the day and relax, school would be the last thing on your mind. Spending time watching tv or playing out with friends was often much higher on my priority list than doing homework or getting my schoolbag ready for the following day. I don’t know about you but I always paid for my laziness the following day, I would turn up to school unprepared, often forgetting essential items such as my p.e kit or homework. Days like these where stressful.

In contrast, the days where I told myself to stop being lazy and prepared the night before where quite different. I had the time to calmly prepare everything I needed for the following day which meant I didn’t need to rush in the morning or try to do homework on the bus to school or in between lessons. Believe me when I say the school bus is not a place for concentration!

Working life can be quite like the schooldays mentioned above, in the moment we are always busy. We have very little time or energy to focus on anything except the task at hand and when we’re not prepared we pay the consequences. How can you ensure that you are always prepared? And less stressed because of it?

Start your week on a Sunday

I have an alarm set for 10am every Sunday. When that alarm goes off I sit down for an hour (sometimes two) to plan the week ahead, reflect on the previous week and review where I am in relation to my quarterly goals.

1. Reviewing the previous week

I start by reviewing the previous week, I look at the tasks I set myself and the progress I have (or haven’t) made. I’m not strict in the questions that I ask myself but the general thoughts running through my mind are:

  • Did I complete all the tasks I set myself?
  • If I didn’t complete all the tasks why was that?
  • Was there any tasks completed that weren’t part of my original to-do list?
  • If there was tasks completed outside of my original to-do list what were they and why did I not consider them at the beginning of the week?
  • What did I learn from the previous week?
  • What worked well?
  • What could have gone better?

These questions help me think about my actions and how they have affected my week. I store my weekly review as a note in the notes app on my mac, I format each note with the weekly to-dos at the top followed by the answers to the questions above. Keeping my weekly reviews like this allows me to keep track of my weekly reviews and gives me a diary that I can reflect on whenever I want.

2. Plan for the week ahead

Create a list of tasks

Once I’ve reviewed the previous week I turn my attention to the week ahead. I start by looking at my quarterly goals, I ask “What are the most important tasks that will move me towards completing the goals?” I write down these ideas and add them to any to-dos I didn’t complete in the previous week. I also have a list of to-dos that haven’t made the cut previously which I add to the current pool of to-dos.

Prioritise and reduce the tasks

With my large pile of to-dos, I then prioritise them so I only have 5 or 6 key tasks to complete in the following week. To do this, I review my quarterly goals again and make a decision based on my own assessment of the to-dos. I could use some sort of prioritising system, such as numbering the items by priority and ranking them in order but I don’t feel this is necessary for my needs. Any tasks that don’t make the cut are moved to a ‘parked’ to-do list that can be reviewed again next week.

Consider time specific commitments

Finally, I look at my calendar to see what other events I have planned in the week and consider when might be the best time to complete each to-do. I also use this time to book at least 2 new events through as part of my ongoing efforts to improve my networking and communication skills.

Staying on track during the week

I don’t want to spend all that effort on Sunday just for everything to fall apart on Monday, to ensure I stay on track I have a mini-review at the end of each day where I make a small note about how the day went, including what went well and what didn’t and I plan for the following day.

Overkill? You be the judge

It might like seem a lot of planning to do each week, too much for some. However, I urge you to give it a try for a couple of weeks and see what impact it has on your life. After all, you’re not losing anything except maybe a couple of hours on a Sunday. I’m really happy with the effect that it has had on my life and hopefully it will have the same on yours. I know my childhood self would be proud of me!