Let me be honest with you. I don’t look forward to planning. My mind throws a little fit every time I tell myself it’s time to sit down and organize the week ahead.
But just like exercise, I never regret the time I put into planning my week.
On the (rare) weeks I don’t plan, I feel overwhelmed and lazy. I find myself wasting time trying to figure out what the next task should be, or I don’t leave myself enough time to take my kids to an appointment. It seems as if I never really accomplish anything.
I’ve come to the conclusion that my life is just a lot easier if I plan ahead. I am more productive, and feel calm and confident knowing that everything that needs to get done in the week, has a place and time on my calendar.
I’m going to walk you through the planning process I use to dump everything out of my mind, and plug it into my calendar, one week at a time. This planning process is pretty detailed, and requires some focused work on the front end (Saturday or Sunday), so you can enjoy the rest of your week. If you’re interested in a simpler planning routine, you can check out my old way of planning here: Easy Weekly Planning Routine.
Let me walk you through how I plan my week. Then I’ll share with you why I am extremely co-dependent on my planning system, or more simply, the benefits of planning your week.
My Planning System
I set aside about an hour (give or take 15 minutes) on Saturday mornings to go through this system.
I grab my coffee, family calendar, and day planner and head to my office. Once I’m at my desk, I pull out my work calendar. I like having everything spread out in front of me so once I’m sitting down, I can focus.
I’ve been using this system for over three months now and besides the increase in my productivity, the biggest change I’ve noticed is that I no longer feel daily overwhelm and agitation over not accomplishing what I intend to accomplish. I feel much more in control and confident with my days.
I use a combination of analog and digital for planning my week.
This is not a planning system I created on my own. It’s adapted from a time management program I took through The Life Coach School.
Here are the steps in my planning system:
Step #1: Write Everything Out On Master To-Do List
This is where I just empty my brain. Everything that needs to get done for the week goes on this list. Don’t edit what you write, just keep writing. No task is too big or too small for your list.
I even write down text messages that I need to send, or research I want/need to do. Add to your list things that you want to do for fun. I put watch TV, read, and cross-stitch on my list because these things make me happy and I want to make time for them.
Once you have your list done, look over it again and see any tasks that need to be broken down into smaller tasks. For example, “pay bills” is on my to-do list every week, but this is actually two tasks. I go through our money and pay bills online, and I need to physically go to the bank. I want to make sure I make enough time for both of these tasks.
(Master To-Do List comes with The Simple Routine Planner. You can find the Planner here.)
Step #2: Bring Up Your Digital Calendar
I was hell bent on not using a digital calendar. But then I used it once for scheduling my time and I’ve been hooked ever since. Maybe it’s my past Administrative Assistant job, but I feel like I’m taking my time much more seriously when I’m typing it into a calendar.
I use Google for my calendar, but this works for whatever digital calendar you prefer.
Step #3: Input Your Appointments
Some of my appointments automatically populate to my Google calendar, but others don’t.
I pull all my (and sometimes the kids) appointments for the week from the family calendar, and my work calendar, and add them to the digital calendar.
Step #4: Input Your Work Time
I work two part-time jobs – one where my schedule is decided for me, and one where I can make my schedule.
I add in my designated and self-chosen work time to my digital calendar.
Step #5: Block Off Focus Time
What is “focus time”, you ask? It’s time you use solely to work on one project, or one big task. It’s called focus time because it’s time that is free of distraction. You don’t pay attention to your phone, or get up and grab a snack. You put all your energy and concentration into what you’re working on.
I use focus time to work on this blog, and any other creative endeavors that go along with it. I try to schedule two solid hours of focus time in my day. Due to my work schedule, this works out to be about three days a week.
You could use focus time in your job, too. For example, your focus time is from 10am – 12pm and during that time, you are going to work on one major project or task. You can get a lot done in a small amount of time when you decide ahead that you will not be distracted.
Step #6: Block Off Personal Time
If I don’t have a small amount of personal time on the daily, I burn out real quick (or want to literally burn my dayplanner).
Personal time is for you to do whatever you want with. I view it as less structured time. Mostly, I use my personal time to catch up on the latest Real Housewives episode.
I block off anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour every day for personal time. I try to schedule it the hour before the kids get off the bus, but sometimes it’s after the kids go to bed.
Step #7: Add In Your To-Do List Items
The last thing you will do is pull the tasks on your Master To-Do List and plug them into your digital calendar.
This is when the digital calendar really comes in handy. You should be able to see pockets of time that are open in your day. These areas of open time are where you can add in all those to-do’s.
Make sure to take into account the amount of time that’s taken up by certain tasks. I like to overestimate on time so that I don’t feel like I’m falling behind if something takes longer than accepted.
This is where routines really help when it comes to weekly tasks. For example, I have a weekly laundry routine. I do a load of laundry every day. This way, I know that the laundry will get done and I don’t have to schedule a big chunk of time to do it. I create Laundry “Task” in my digital calendar and schedule it in the morning.
Step #8: Transfer Digital Calendar To Paper Calendar
You can totally skip this step and move onto Step #9 if you want. But, I like to write things down, and I like to have a paper calendar to reference.
I find that writing things down on pen and paper helps me remember my schedule better. And I don’t like to always be looking in my phone to see what I need to do next.
I actually schedule about 15 minutes a day to sit down and transfer my digital schedule for the next day, onto my paper planner.
Another reason that I love using paper so much, is that I get a little dopamine hit every time I physically cross something off on paper. It builds my momentum to feel that accomplishment from crossing off taks/appointments/work that I finished.
Everyday when I sit down to copy my schedule into my dayplanner, I feel excited to see what my past-self scheduled for me.
Step #9: Follow Your Plans for Productivity
Now that you have spent an hour planning your week, commit to following the plans you made in order to be productive.
This is where you might get tripped up and want to ignore or avoid the best plans you created for yourself and instead, do something more appealing.
A little trick I use is to remind myself that I took time out of my weekend to plan my week. I don’t want all that to be for waste if I choose to not follow what I have created for myself.
Plus, I like to tap into how great it feels to be productive. It always sounds totally appealing to blow off the things I don’t want to do, but when it happens it’s kind of a let down. I would rather end (most) days knowing I did what I needed to do to keep myself and my family running efficiently.
The Benefits of Planning Your Week
One of the best things about planning in advance is that it’s a gift I can give my future self. When I plan my time a day or days before, my future self doesn’t have to put mental energy into figuring out what to do when, or what needs to get done next.
I love waking up and looking at my dayplanner with everything already filled out for the day. I sometimes consider that I’m a really good personal assistant to myself.
Taking care of your future self is just one of the benefits to planning your week ahead. Here are some other benefits:
- Planning ahead keeps overwhelm at a minimum and free’s up mind space. When you know exactly when you are going to get the grocery shopping done, or work on your blog, or spend time with your kids, you aren’t drowning in overwhelm trying to manage every minute.
- It’s easier to obtain your goals when you plan. You can set time aside to work on the things that matter to you and the things you want to accomplish.
- Planning stops you from wasting time. I’ve been known to stand in the kitchen, completely confused, about what I should do next. Especially if I have a lot going on in my mind. These moments of confusion usually lead to scrolling my phone and wasting time. When I can look at my day planner and see where my focus needs to be, I get stuff done.
- Planning makes your time a priority. Time is the one thing we cannot get back, so why wouldn’t you treat it with importance and make your time a priority? When you set aside time to figure out how you will spend your day, you are sending a message that you matter.
- When you work into your day where you have to be and when, you’re more likely to be on time. I always schedule in more time then I need to travel to appointments or work, that way I don’t feel flustered and hurried, and I’m respectful of others times.
- Planning helps you create personal time to do what you enjoy. I like to plan personal time into my day. I spend this time watching TV, reading, cross-stitching, or catching up with friends. If I didn’t plan this into my day, I would feel guilty taking time for myself because I would be thinking I should be doing something more “productive”.
Get To Planning
My planning system is one of the easiest ways to minimize stress and overwhelm in my life. It supports productivity and sets my future self up for success. And despite what some people may say, planning ahead creates a sense of freedom for me. I have control over my time and don’t waste precious minutes wondering what needs attention next.
Are you a planner or “fly by the seat of your pants” type of person? What’s your favorite way to plan ahead?
Get started planning today with the Simple Routine Planner. This planner includes:
-12 Month Calendar Pages (fill-in the date)
-Weekly Schedule Layout on one page
-Daily Routine Page to fill-in your morning, afternoon, and evening routine
-Master To-Do List page
-Weekly Meal Planner + Grocery List page
-Daily Planner Page + spot for daily To-Do’s, Who To Contact, and Reminders
-Monthly Habit Tracker page
Check Out These Other Helpful Posts:
- Are you more interested in using time blocking to schedule your time? Check out this helpful post on how to time block your schedule.
- Looking for more productive mornings? This is the morning routine I use to boost my productivity.
- Do you find yourself procrastinating your planning? Use these 5 Minute Productivity Tips to get stuff done now.