Why Plan For The Week Ahead
I take for granted that I need to plan for the week ahead. And not the kind of plan that stays in my mind, vaguely formed with no completion date. Instead, I devise a well devised, realistic outline of what I want to achieve and then a very granular look at all the steps I will take to achieve them.
I like planning. It’s what makes my mind happy. Coming back to my childhood home has shown me that I’ve always been a woman who plans. I have books and books, dated by year, of checklists and plans and goals and aspirations. Plans not only allow me to see where I’m going but also to celebrate when I’ve achieved my aim or show where revision is necessary.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Sometimes I don’t achieve my goals and that’s super fine too. Not all are realistic, attainable, or even for me to achieve. Sometimes they are just skills I need to learn in order to make the next time I try better. Maybe I’m meant to use the knowledge of creating a database that failed to assess a database that needs help to be better.
Life isn’t a race in a straight line.
Not having a 9-5 job means I don’t have the structure of an office or work to guide my day. Nevertheless, I’m not truly unemployed. I have 1 blog active right now and I have 3-week old puppies to feed. Plus, I’m gearing up to restart my Seminar Business. I’m busy!
Here’s what I do the plan for the week ahead. Without this planning, it’s too easy to see my week as Saturdays in a row where I always have time to do things later. The downside is that at the end of the week, without this plan, I get nothing done. And that is a waste of a life.
My 6 Steps To Plan For The Week Ahead
1. I make tea.
I enjoy the process and the relaxation that comes from making a cup of tea or a tisane. Right now, I’m obsessed with Pukka Tea and Lipton and I don’t see that ending soon. You may think it’s because I went to Tesco and bought 8 million boxes of Pukka Tea and came home to find 8 million more of Lipton but I don’t think so!
2. I take out my bullet journal.
I think it’s fun to have a planner that is as flexible about my planning as I am. Some weeks I’m very detailed. Other weeks, I may have 3 things jotted down, hurriedly scribbled so I don’t forget. My bullet journal allows me to do both without feeling that I’m wasting pages. I hate wasting pages and seeing days with nothing written in them in traditional planners.
3. I look back at all the other tasks I haven’t done.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
― Benjamin Franklin
Before I add new information to my list, I need to see what on my old list needs to be brought over. And I seriously need to consider why I didn’t do that item.
- Did I not have the tools available to do it?
- Did I not know how?
- Did I not want to do it?
- What caused the resistance?
- Does it even need to be done anymore?
- Am I afraid of all the work that I’ll get if I do it successfully?
The challenge with putting off tasks is that it is blessedly easy to write a task down. The doing is much more difficult. Was it a project I called a task?
The most important part of Getting Things Done for me was learning that everything I wrote as a to-do list item may not be an item but a project. Email annual report isn’t an action item if the annual report hasn’t been written yet and needs the input of 7 people and to be signed off on by 3 more. That means for weeks the 1 to do item will stay on the list forever frustrating you if you don’t see it as needing several steps to complete, each with their own action items. If productivity involves checking off to do lists, you need to learn to write the right kinds of lists.
4. I add the things that didn’t get done the week before and are still relevant and useful to do now and cannot be delegated.
For some tasks, they are no longer urgent and so can get punted to a week or more in the future. So I do that. My list is only useful if it reflects what I can reasonably accomplish within the week, not a list of everything I could possibly do during my entire life. I have a “Future/Someday” list for that and bring it down to my weekly list as needed.
What’s the fun in having action items you can’t tick?
5. I figure out the 3-5 most valuable tasks I have to get done this week.
“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”
― Yogi Berra
The things that in my assessment bring 80% of the value to my life and work. It isn’t always easy to work those tasks out. Sometimes, it takes me a while to whittle down a list of 10-20 things that I “should” get done this week into the 3-5 that need to get done. My criteria are generally:
- What would future me be most proud of accomplishing this week?
- What couldn’t be done next week because I didn’t do this part this week?
- Is anything urgent and crucial for someone else to do their job? and
- Is it something important for my long-term success that I need to spend time on.
6. I then break down the 3-5 most important things into mini-tasks to complete.
The 3-5 things are properly thought of as projects with several sub-parts that have to be done at different times in order to complete them. As I’m a more tangible person when making lists, I get great pleasure from writing each project list out, writing little check boxes beside them then checking the little boxes. What can I say? Nothing feels as productive as doing the little tasks that get a little tick. And it makes me feel like the giant project of emailing the annual report is moving forward day by day and isn’t just one stupid project item that won’t come off my damn list.
The biggest bonus, however, is that I’ve already thought of the next step to do. When I want to work on the annual report, I don’t have to stop again to figure out where I am, what I have pending, or what to do next. Past me looked out for future me by having a detailed list.
“If you don’t know exactly where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?”
― Steve Maraboli,
So, That’s How I Plan For The Week Ahead
I don’t know what to tell you to plan. Hell, as we speak, I’m looking at my planner trying to find purpose in my life. But this process is one I’ve been doing for years and it has served me well. And I have stacks of nice dated notebooks to prove it.
If this doesn’t work for you though, chuck it and use the method that does. Planning for the week ahead, however, may help you feel less out of control when things seem to be falling apart or when you have more obligations than time. It’s also a great way to guide what you will say yes to based on your long-term priorities.
Be kind to yourself, always. And plan a little this week.