Have you ever dropped your kids at school, only to remember as you are driving away that it is picture day?
Have you ever had someone call and ask why you aren’t in a very important meeting, and your first thought is: “WHAT MEETING?” as you frantically scurry around to get somewhere you had no idea you were supposed to be.
Have you ever pulled up to drop your kids at school and then realized…THERE IS NO SCHOOL?
Have you ever proudly showed up to a meeting 5 minutes EARLY…you’re the first one there…10 minutes pass, then 20…you call your colleague to see if the meeting location changed, and he or she says: “That meeting is tomorrow…”. And, you realize with dismay that you are actually 24 hours early.
This was my life.
Never really sure where I needed to be.
Frustrated, embarrassed, overwhelmed.
That is, until I purchased a planner and learned about planning out my months, weeks, and days.
In a prior post I discussed how to plan your month. Mapping out my entire month is the best way to effectively see everything that I have going on, including upcoming project deadlines, school events, and anything that I need to anticipate so that my month runs smoothly.
Some people can look at their month and have a good sense of what is going on in their world. However, if you are like me, you have many balls in the air at the same time. So, looking at my whole month wasn’t cutting it.
It needed to get a bit more granular than that for me not to feel
I also break down my planning by weeks
Currently, I use a
Ok, let’s get started. I recommend pulling out your planner and working while you read this post in order to get more bang for your buck!
8 Steps to planning your week
Step 1: Plan your month
I recommend planning your month first, so that you have a good sense of the specific items to tackle during the week that you are planning.
You’re in luck: I did a whole blog post on this! Check that out, plan your month, and then move on to Step 2.
Step 2: Pre-plan
I love and use paper planners, but I pre-plan using my outlook calendar. My colleagues and folks at my job send meeting requests to me through outlook, so it is a convenient way for me to throw things on my calendar.
If someone asks for a meeting during the next week, or if I have an upcoming event or deadline, I throw it on my outlook calendar so that I can reference it when I plan for that particular week.
Some folks utilize sticky notes and place them in their planner for the upcoming week. Try out whatever tactic works best for you.
Step 3: Pick your day
If I am not intentional about which day I will be planning, next thing I know it’s Wednesday, my week is shot, and I am overwhelmed and discouraged.
I plan on Sunday mornings. After I make my coffee and light my candle, I pull out my calendar and my computer and get to work.
My goal is to always plan on Sundays, but life happens. It helps to always have a back up plan in case Sunday doesn’t work for me.
Monday morning is my second option for weekly planning, but it isn’t ideal. I prefer to go into the week with my plan in place, and when I plan on Monday morning I already feel behind.
Step 4: Reflections
When reflecting, I typically ask myself these questions:
- Biggest wins last week
- Write down the one thing that you are most proud of from the last week. Maybe you exercised regularly, stuck to your diet, or completed all of the items on your task list. Celebrate yourself! It’s important to celebrate wins in order to keep yourself motivated.
- What worked last week? What didn’t work last week?
- Get real with yourself. This is about keeping yourself honest and reflecting on the systems, processes, and habits that allowed you to be successful last week, as well as the things that did not work so well. Do you have any regrets? Was there anything that you did that worked well? Did you snooze every day? Did you get caught up in minutiae and neglect your major goals? Were you disorganized? In order to make a change, you must first get real about what is working for you and what isn’t.
- List review
- If you had a to-do list last week, review any items that you completed and those haven’t finished. Remove any items that are no longer on your to-do list, either because they were completed or are no longer a priority. We will review this again when we begin the planning process for next week.
- Overall goals for the upcoming week
- Write a paragraph or two outlining what your overall goal for the upcoming week. At the end of the week, when you are doing your reflections, what would be the “biggest win” for you? Everything else in your weekly plan should move you toward this goal and this goal only.
- Major events/deadlines/tasks for the upcoming week
- If you already know of any events or deadlines that you have coming up for the week, list these out so that they are readily on hand when you begin planning your week.
Step 5: Fill out your appointments/events/meetings, etc for the week.
Write all of the things down that are already SCHEDULED. These are items that have a specific date and time associated with them.
Do not write a to-do list at this point. You simply want to write down your non-negotiable items that already have a schedule associated with them.
Don’t forget to include any projects, deadlines, or important dates for your children.
Step 6: Brain Dump
This step is CRUCIAL. Many busy working moms often feel like we have 100 tabs open in our brain. When this is the case, it is difficult to get anything done. Get all of that out of your brain and onto paper! Do not try to prioritize your list. Sorry for the analogy, but: just vomit onto the paper and clean it up later (Moms…this is basically our lives anyway! )
Step 7: Organize your to-do list
For the time being, you want to separate your tasks into 4 quadrants/priorities:
- Important/not urgent
- Urgent/not important
- Not urgent/not important
This is based on Steven Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”
Let’s define these terms (these are my definitions, not the official ones from Covey. Click here if you would like to learn the official definitions).
Urgent: urgent tasks are those that need to be done right away in order to avoid dire consequences.
Important: important tasks are those that help move you toward the life that you want.
Start off with your urgent and important tasks. Look at your calendar for any major deadlines that are important for your family, career, business, etc. These are the tasks that you complete first. You probably procrastinated on these tasks, and now they MUST be done. (Hey, no judgement here! I am a master procrastinator myself). It is helpful for me to include deadlines here, as they help to hold me accountable. An example of an urgent and important task is the keynote address draft that I have due next week (*cough, cough). It’s urgent, as the deadline is approaching, and it is important, as it will further help to establish me as a public speaker, which definitely moves me closer to the life that I want.
Ok, peeps. This quadrant is where the magic happens. It is where all of your hopes and dreams reside.
This quadrant is where the keynote address I am delivering in a few weeks resided until last week (*cough).
These are the things that move you toward the life you want.
In this quadrant is the e-book you want to write, the blog you want to start, the exercise routine you have written down but haven’t done, the meeting with your mentor that you want to set up, the course you want to sign up for.
Think about it: No one is beating you over the head to get these tasks done.
But, they are extremely important, as they move you closer to your goals.
These are things that you procrastinate on.
Most people in life procrastinate on these things, and, as a result, most people never truly fulfill their highest purpose.
You don’t want to be one of those people. Schedule these things in your planner, so that you can begin moving toward your dreams.
Helpful tip for Quadrant 2:
These are likely big, daunting tasks. If you see “write e-book” on your quadrant 2 list, you will likely start getting palpitations every time you see it. It is much more helpful to break down your projects into small tasks.
So, if your ultimate goal is to compose an e-book, one of the tasks in quadrant 2 for the week could be “the first draft of the book outline”. This is MUCH less daunting and much more doable.
You are more likely to actually complete these tasks when you break them up into bite-sized pieces.
This quadrant sucks up all of your time, because this is likely the quadrant that involves what other people want you to be doing. (Read that again)
These are the menial tasks, like email, that eat up so much of your time.
You can spend hours on email and feel like you are being productive, however, you are likely just busy and not actually productive.
It’s helpful to limit the amount of time you spend on these areas and to delegate these items if you are able.
Not urgent/not important:
Why are we even doing these things? Think about it. If they are not urgent and not important, what are they? Likely the things that distract you and prevent you from moving into quadrant 2! Think of: facebook, twitter, IG, etcetera, etcetera.Limit these activities to your break times.
STEP 8: TOP 3
If you only got 3 items done for the week, what items would make you feel accomplished and that you have moved forward toward your goals? These are the 3 items you should prioritize.
Don’t guess-you already prioritized your to-do list! Take a look a Quadrant 1 and Quadrant 2.
I like to select two items from quadrant 1 and one item from quadrant 2.
I include quadrant 2 because, again, this is where the magic happens, where my dreams lie, and getting a Q2 item done will make me feel super duper accomplished at the end of the week.
What do we do with Quadrant 3?
Get those items on your calendar. These items are urgent but not important. You need to do them, but don’t spend a lot of time on them. Schedule specific and limited times during the week to get these things done.
Bonus Step: I love decorating my planner! I do this before I write any items in for the week. I simply enjoy looking at a pretty planner. This step is optional, but try it! A well-decorated planner could inspire you to actually use it.
You have now effectively planned your week! Going through these steps should help to alleviate overwhelm and will help you move toward your goals and develop the life that you want.
If you go through this process and find it helpful, I’d love to hear from you! Drop a comment below or email me at email@example.com.
Peace and Love,