The Key to a Productive Week

There is one key to having a productive week. It is an activity I have adopted into my life, and when it doesn’t get done, my week typically goes to sh*t by mid-morning on Monday. The key is what I like to call “weekly planning”. All you need is about 10-15 minutes, a planner or calendar, a piece of scratch paper, a pen and to read this blog post!

Before we get started, let’s just be real here for a second. Be honest - have any of these things ever happened to you:

  • You’re driving to work on Monday morning and are suddenly overwhelmed with all of the things you should’ve done over the weekend.
  • You are going about your day and a co-worker invites you to happy hour. Being the young and fun person you are, you agree... only to remember mid-sip of vino that you were supposed to workout after work.
  • You are looking forward to the weekend so you can sleep in all week until Friday night when you remember you have every errand under the sun to run on Saturday.
  • You have items on your to do list that are older than you. Crap, that’s old.

Don’t worry. These are all totally normal things to happen when you aren’t doing your weekly planning!!

What exactly is weekly planning? It is a Sunday ritual designed to dissect your week and put it back together again so that you feel productive and in CONTROL of your time.

Here are a few things to keep in mind before you get started with this ritual:

  1. Identify what HAS TO BE done this week. What is mandatory on your schedule this week? A big example for most of us is commuting and going to work. Ok, great, you’re most likely unavailable from about 8 a.m. -6 p.m. You also might have some prearranged events or commitments for the week. Add these mandatory elements of your schedule to your planner.
  2. Identify what you WANT to get done this week. What would be ideal to get done this week? Make a list of no more than 21 things you would like to get done this week. 21 is the magic number because I think it is physically and mentally exhausting to commit to more than 3 things per day (7 days a week x 3 things per day = 21 things per week). Be sure each item on the list is really only one event or activity. For example, if you want to get 3 workouts in this week, that would be 3 items on your list.
  3. Identify how much free time you have. What chunks of time do you have open this week? Write these on your piece of scratch paper.

If the time you have available isn’t great for some of the items on the list of things you’d ideally like to get done for the week, spend a few minutes thinking creatively about how you can rearrange your time and existing schedule to make room for these things. Here are a few questions to get you started

  • What would change if you started your day 15, 30, or 45 minutes earlier each day?
  • Are there any work days you can extend or shorten?
  • Is it possible to work from home any of the days to save on commute time?
  • Is there anything you need to cancel or reschedule?
  • Can any of the 21 activities be combined? (Check out this previous blog post if you want to know what I’m talking about: My All-Time Favorite Time Management Trick)

Once you have your mandatory items on your calendar, you’ve identified what you’d like to get done in the week and you’ve creatively designed your time to allow for effective availability, you’re ready to do the actual planning.

Here are the rules for weekly planning:

  • No more than 3 to do’s per day (excluding mandatory items)
  • Mental and physical health items come before everything else (including mandatory items - tired of being too tired from work to work out? Set your alarm for one hour earlier and take care of yourself FIRST)
  • Commit to consulting your weekly plan before adding anything NEW to it

I swear by this. Like I said earlier, if I skip this weekly practice, my week is horrifying. It's also a good practice to enlist your significant other in this process, too. Dane and I will sit down on Sunday night and walk through our weeks with each other. It helps keep us both organized and in tune with what the other one has going on. 

TRY IT OUT. You have nothing to lose and a productive week to gain!