Panic, absolute sheer, this flipping can’t be, hold the phone and get me some chocolate panic. That is the best way to describe the feeling when you realize you have a meeting in one hour you didn’t prepare for earlier or even worse, you missed the meeting. Doesn’t matter if it is for work, volunteering or school, that feeling is plain, stinkin’ awful. Often this come from not taking the steps to plan our week.
One of these moments occurred on an exciting day, my sister was shopping for her wedding dress and she was the first one in the family to be married. Walking into the shop I was filled with excitement for her as my beautiful sister tried on these amazing gowns. As I walked down a row of puffy white gowns with my mom to search for other options, she commented about her birthday and a gift she received. Warning light begins flashing red in the back of my mind. Slowly I began panicking and whirled my memory backwards in time. My thoughts became more frantic as I realized I hadn’t remembered my Mom’s birthday . . . . at all. I didn’t call, email, telegraph or send a card. What in the world! Shock rolled over me and I literally fell down on my knees at the disbelief and embarrassment. My mom was so graceful to me, but it broke my heart I was busy with work yet my personal life so unorganized I didn’t even call her. Moments like this are wakeup calls. If we don’t hear the wakeup call, sometimes the missed moments in the future carry even more weight. This was one event of many that pushed me to develop a weekly planning process.
Here are my 7 steps to plan the week, if you follow to the end I sum it all up for you. Well, these are my steps at this moment. I add this caveat since life is dynamic and what works for me know can easily not in a few months. Honestly, I don’t do these 7 steps 100% perfect. But when I follow this process I am able to be proactive with my life instead of reactive.
Usually (notice I didn’t say always) early Monday morning I spend extra time to plan out my week and if at the beginning of the month even a little extra time.
- FOCUS. First I review my personal mission statement and life verse (Colossians 3:1-2). This has been extremely helpful for me to weekly focus on what will be important to me at the end of my life versus focusing on checking off a bunch of to-do items so I feel good, which is a temptation of mine. Can you relate?
2. ROLES. Next I review my roles or major areas of responsibilities. I schedule my activities and tasks related to those top important areas or roles of my life into my day. For example my role as a wife and mom is extremely important so I look at each day of my week when we can have time together. Also my morning routine automatically covers my other important roles such as my time with God and being healthy by exercising. It is so easy to ignore family quality time and workouts since there is no deadline for game night or the running on the treadmill. Eventually over time there is a cumulative effect of neglecting these areas of my life from feeling sluggish, extra pounds and kids who are craving for my attention.
3. EVENTS After I schedule the activities for my roles I write down all of my appointments, meetings and family events into my planner for the current week and the next week. The reason I look at next week’s events. Several times in the past I forgot to prepare for the next week’s events which is why I now check a week ahead. Below I have a picture of my planner as I was writing down my week events.
One a side note I keep all of my events on my phone using either iCloud or Google calendars, depending on the event. I highly encourage anyone to use their smartphone to keep track of their appointments especially with the ability for notifications prior to the meetings, directions and location based notifications. But if this doesn’t work for you, don’t do it.
4. EVENT TASKS Next I review each of these events and write down any to-do items that these events bring to mind, such as shopping for birthday gifts, finalizing a work project, create an outline for my blog post or calling to reschedule a doctors appointment. For example, if I have a conference or training coming up I need to plan my travel time, jot out a packing list, check any reservations and verify arrangements for the family are covered.
5. MASTER TASK LIST I keep all of my tasks in one central area, called the Master Task List. Some people keep one major list. For myself it becomes too overwhelming seeing all of my tasks in one location and so I divide these into separate master lists. The Master Lists I keep are 1) My Tasks, 2) Family Tasks, 3) Work Tasks and 4) Work Admin Tasks. For yourself think about the general areas of your life you have tasks such as work, home, school, or a volunteer program. On each of my Master Lists I have the task and the date it needs to be completed. So each week I scan each of my Master Lists for tasks I need to move to the current week and begin finding a day to assign the task before I reach the due date.
One quick tip, any task I write down on my weekly list I always put on my Master Task list as well. Why? Because when I review my Master Task list the following week I will see I forgot to finish a task and forward the delinquent task to the new week.
6. BRAIN DUMP This is also a good time to complete my brain dump of ALL the tasks that come to my mind into the Master Task Lists. Because why should we use our brain power to remember to pay the bills, reschedule the meeting on Wednesday at 10 am, or call back a client. Instead let’s use our energy to be present with your family and focus on our priorities.
7. ASSESS As I am assigning tasks to my week I begin see potential problems such as not having enough time to prep for a meeting the day before. Or I overestimated my abilities by scheduling an appointment for the kids at the doctor and dentist followed by meeting a friend and a afternoon meeting. Clearly I need to add buffer or margin into my schedule because I will end up stressed and frustrated at not being meet all the expectations.
If I begin thinking, “I can get this all done if we all stay perfectly right on schedule”, I know I need to reschedule and create space in my day. Honestly, all of us daily deal with unexpected problems or delays that throw our plans and expectations into a tailspin. Possibly even causing overwhelming moments for us. As I become wiser I stop scheduling my “perfect day” and instead schedule my realistic day of delays leaving the house, lengthy unexpected phone call and forgotten lunches.
The rest of the week each morning I look over the tasks I have scheduled for the day, tweak as necessary and start the day. Since I spent extra time on Monday or sometimes Sunday night I am able to shorten my planning time in the morning.
My goal is to plan wisely so I don’t overstuff my day with to-dos and instead have time with my family while still getting my stuff done. At the end of the day it is not about having all of my to-do’s checked off because that will not give me lasting peace and pleasure. Strategically living my life that honors God and my family, this gives me lasting pleasure and peace.
Here is a quick breakdown of the 7 steps to plan your week:
- Focus: Review mission statement & life verse or inspirational quote
- Roles: Schedule activities for my key roles FIRST in my week
- Events: Write down/review events for the current week & next week
- Event Tasks: Write any tasks for these upcoming events
- Master Task List: Scan my Master Task List for any tasks to add for the week
- Brain Dump: Write down any tasks you keep floating around in your head
- Assess: Check your tasks and schedule for any overstuffing of your day, reschedule as necessary.
So which step did you like the most? What is your sticky wheel for planning out your day or week? Let me know in the comments below.