As we head into a new year, AND a new decade, lots of us will be starting to think about what we want to achieve over the next 12 months. It might be that you want to take your creative side-business full time and wave your 9-5 goodbye. Perhaps it’s a career change or you want to create a habit of spending more time with your family and less time working.
Whatever your dreams for 2020, anything is possible, but it’s important to remember that it’s the small steps that add up to big changes. It’s those weekly habits and showing up every day that will help you chip away at your big-picture ambitions.
One way to make it easier on yourself, to show up each day and take action, is to plan your weeks in advance. Not only does this help you feel more prepared and in control it also helps you make the best use of your energy in the week.
We don’t just have a limited amount of time each day, we also have a limited amount of energy. You don’t want to be wasting precious time and energy each morning, deciding what you need to do that day, you just want to be able to get on with it. The good news is you can batch all of the decision making into one short burst each week - when you plan out your week.
“You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia." – Barack Obama
I’ve seen for myself, and in my clients how getting into the routine of planning your weeks can be a game changer. It can help you create healthier habits, make time for your self-care and prioritise the tasks you know are important but never seem to have time for.
Sunday evenings have become my weekly planning time. It only takes 10 minutes to plan out my week and it helps me feel so much more prepared for the week ahead. There’s always a moment each Sunday evening when my brain flicks to next week. It’s usually about 6pm, and that’s when I’ll grab my planner and plan out my week. For you that time might be a Friday afternoon or first thing on a Monday with a cup of coffee. It doesn’t matter when you do it, it just matters that you make time to do it regularly each week.
How I plan my weeks using my Ponderlily planner
I start by making a list of tasks and to-do’s for the week ahead in the to-do or notes section. I personally go off my 12-week plan which has details of the projects I’m focusing on for the current quarter. For you it might be a case of looking at your calendar and deciding what you want to achieve that week.
Next, I block out my commitments and appointments each day. I’ll start by looking in my calendar and make a note of any calls, meetings, catch ups, socials etc in my planner. The Ponderlily planner has hourly time slots that helps me visualise what time I’ve already got taken up in the week with calls and prior commitments.
After that I’ll add in my non-negotiables, which for me is a long walk each day and an evening or two that are completely free from any work. Perhaps you want to fit in a daily yoga practice, a weekly date night or make Sunday’s a no-work zone and keep that day free for family time. Block the time out for your non-negotiables in your planner and make sure you’ve got some time in there for YOU to rest and recharge too. You can use the recharge box in your Ponderlily planner to act as a reminder to do this each week or the daily habits section for keeping track of the daily habits you want to stay on top of. Often the reason why these things don’t happen week after week is because we don’t make time for them, we don’t prioritise them. Making time for these non-negotiables in your planner gives them a sense of priority and importance.
Once I’ve blocked out the time I’ve already committed to appointments and your non-negotiables, this leaves me with a visual representation of how much time I’ve got left that week to spend on the tasks and to-do’s I listed out at the start of this process. At this point I check in with my to-do list for the week and check whether I think it’s looking realistic. If it’s going to be a stretch I’ll take a few things off my list.
Next, I move onto the daily planning.
I like to give myself just three ‘must do’ tasks each day. This is something that’s been a really useful tool for my clients as well. So many of us are prone to giving ourselves an unrealistic number of tasks to complete each day. By limiting yourself to just three ‘must do’ tasks each day, you’re much more likely to get to the end of your to do list. At this stage I’ll add in my three ‘must dos’ for Monday and possibly Tuesday, leaving the later days in the week to be scheduled out as I progress through the week.
At this stage, I’m pretty much done. I’ll give my weekly plan a final reality check and take some things out if I feel it’s looking like a bit of a stretch. I’m always telling my clients not to worry about their plan looking messy due to scribbling out tasks and moving things around – it’s not there to be a thing of beauty, it’s a tool to help you make things happen.
And at the end of the week, there’s one very important thing I do, which is to think of at least three reasons to celebrate that week. It’s the one thing most of us don’t do enough but I’ve seen in myself and my clients how motivating it is to keep acknowledging and celebrating our wins each week.
Planning is a really personal thing, so you might want to take my approach above and tweak it to work for you.
Play around with it and experiment with it until you find a way to plan your weeks that clicks with how you like to work.
Josephine Brooks is a Make it Happen mentor. She helps purpose driven creatives find clarity, plan more effectively and most importantly make those plans a reality. Her mission is to empower creative business owners to do more of what they love and create the slower, more meaningful lifestyle they long for. But her philosophy isn’t all about being busy and striving to get more done, it’s all about doing less and focusing on the most impactful projects and tasks.