Do you have trouble keeping up with everything you need to do? Do you struggle with feeling like it all needs to be done right now or maybe even yesterday? Or maybe you feel caught up in one area but always behind in another?
I know everyone uses lists or planners to keep track of these things, and there are a million great ones out there*! However, what I’ve grown to love is a simple weekly model (largely influenced by 7 Habits because I’m obsessed with that book). Taking just 10 minutes to plan each week and give thought to a few key pieces can make a world of difference – not only in your productivity but also in your confidence and peace of mind!
^^ love these Sharpie pens!* ^^
1. Plan according to your roles.
Planning on a weekly basis allows you to stop & consider each area of your life- what Steven Covey calls “roles” and what I discuss more here in the context of a personal mission statement. More than anything else, this method has changed the way I approach planning. I typically review my mission statement to remind myself what I am ultimately striving for & what principles I want to guide my time and decisions. Then, I create priorities within each role.
This helps not only by bringing balance to your list, but also in viewing each role as equally productive. What I do to support a friend or the time I spend working out is just as productive as meal planning or reviewing finances, because it supports my goals & principles in each individual role.
Practically, I have one section of my plan devoted to identifying 1-3 priorities in each area. (I recommend only listing 5-6 roles to keep things reasonable.) From this first to-do list, you can assign each task to a day or a specific time.
I use Excel to do this, so that I can color-code each area and easily copy and paste it. You can see below what it looks like, and you can snag the template of it for free if you’d like to try it out!
2. Schedule time to be thoughtful.
Just a quick note regarding the role of “friend/family member” – the only way I’ve found to be a good friend is to literally schedule time & make a to-do item to be one. While some of you will think this is too much, I keep a list of my friends & family members with my planner template, so that I can consider them during my weekly planning. I take time to think about what’s going on in their lives & if it’s been a while since we’ve caught up. If there’s something I need to check in on, it’s going on my to-do list! If it’s been a few weeks, I text them to see when we can get together.
It seems that people think “being thoughtful” is a personality trait and that people & needs just naturally pop up in your mind. In reality, that doesn’t always happen, and those relationships are too important to rely on that chance. I need to make sure I think about them. So when I’m creating my to-do’s, I include things even as simple as “text Meredith about her exam!” – find whatever works for you, but be sure to prioritize those you love 🙂
3. Plan your week, but focus on your day.
Once you’ve gotten all your tasks written down & assigned to a day, stop looking at the week’s plan. I have (painfully) realized that my #1 productivity pitfall is constantly reorganizing my list to help me feel some sort of control… but it literally is the opposite of productive.
If you’re like me, it’s best to fill out a separate daily to-do list the night before. I keep a simple to-do list on my favorite app, Todoist, but you can also check out these lovely daily planners here! I love that she has so many options & colors. Focusing on one day at a time will help you feel less stressed & overwhelmed, and you can adjust at the end of the day for the next.
4. Have a “family” meeting.
Whether it’s your spouse, your kids, a roommate, or even coworkers, get on the same page with whoever you need to before the week starts. It doesn’t matter how great your plan is if your kids/partner/manager has other ideas for you 🙂 As much as you can, plan ahead together so you’re set up for success.
For us, it works best on Sunday night. For you, it may be Monday morning with coworkers or Friday afternoon so you can enjoy the weekend. This has been a harder habit for Evan & me to implement but I believe it will help us share the load, move more smoothly throughout the week, and even just understand what’s going on & how we can help each other.
5. Build in some margin.
No matter how much you plan, things inevitably come up. Sometimes that’s helping a friend in need, an appointment we forgot about, or just a really killer headache. While I am definitely “preaching to the choir” here, try to build in some margin & not overbook yourself. I tend to always overestimate what I can accomplish, so I’ve started identifying at least 1 thing per day that is a “bonus” item or just postponing it all together.
While some things have deadlines, are urgent, and need to be prioritized (which means we should always do them first!), the truth is that sometimes we just take ourselves too seriously. I often feel SO anxious about not getting things done, when the only thing that is truly affected is my timeline. Choose to be grateful for what you have & what is going well, and give yourself some grace & a good laugh for the rest 🙂
We have a running joke in my office that, “The good (and bad) thing about work is that it’ll be here in the morning.” If you can’t fit everything in this week, or if you don’t get to it, I promise you it’ll be here next week.
6. Keep a running list for next week.
And speaking of things for next week, just keep a list of those items so it doesn’t bog down your mind. As it pops in your head, write it down and move on. I find that the more I keep stored in my head, the more it wears on me and stresses me out. Plus, if you already have it jotted down for next week, it’s a great starting place for your next weekly plan!
What do you think about weekly planning?
Again, if you need a template to get started, make sure to grab it above! You can also learn more about this model & a ton of other great life information in Steven Covey’s book here*. Everyone works differently, so keep trying things until you find something that works for you. <3
If you already have an awesome system, I’d love to hear your best tips!