The time you spend weekly planning could be the most important 30 minutes of your week!
Dallin H. Oaks, former Utah Supreme Court Justice said:
“We should begin by recognizing the reality that just because something is good is not a sufficient reason for doing it. The number of good things we can do far exceeds the time available to accomplish them. Some things are better than good, and these are the things that should command priority attention in our lives.”Dallin H. Oaks
Have you ever felt like the day just flew by?
Perhaps you were tired and overwhelmed; every minute seemed to be full. Days like this can feel fulfilling at the end of the day, but be careful.
Ask yourself how many of those activities were empty calories? Or how many were good calories but not the best calories?
Don’t let good activities rob you of great activities. When you look back on those busy days, how many of your goals did you accomplish?
The need to be busy is one of the worst addictions of our time.
One of the biggest regrets people have when they’re dying is that they worked too hard and didn’t pay enough attention to their central relationships. The other common regret is that they didn’t live their best life.
One of the reasons people don’t live out their purpose or reach their long-term goals is that they don’t have a system to organize their schedule. Most people have trouble staying focused on the most important tasks and relationships.
The busyness and distractions of the modern-day world are powerful and plentiful. The constant call for meetings and never-ending notifications on your phone are tough to ignore.
Marketing professionals and advertisers are getting more and more sophisticated. They are listening and sending you the ads that you’re interested in. These calls to action are also difficult to ignore.
So what do you do?
Weekly planning is a terrific way to stay focused on the important relationships and activities in your life. Planning your week is an opportunity to be intentional and get rid of the bad or even some of the good but not great activities throughout our day.
Weekly Planning Is a Super Power
Develop your weekly plan during a commercial free, interruption free, and notification free period. This is the most important 30 minutes of your week. Treat it as such.
Build in times during the week that you can go notification free so that you can focus on your number-one activities. Hide your phone, turn off notifications on your computer, and focus your mind on the most crucial task. You will feel an increased clarity and focus on what’s at hand.
I recommend investing in a weekly planning system to help you organize time around your purpose, roles, and goals. Doing so also helps you prioritize.
As you can see in the weekly game plan above, your purpose, roles, and goals are along the weekly game plan's left-hand side. These remain mostly static during the year. Each week you will identify the weekly activities that help you accomplish the goals you’ve identified. You must find a consistent time every week to plan. Consistency trains your brain to be prepared and ready for a productive planning session.
Here are four steps you can walk through for your weekly planning session.
4-Step Weekly Planning Session
- Schedule your weekly planning session the same day and same time each week. For example, 7:00 p.m. each Sunday.
- Review the past week. Start with reviewing the highlights of your week. What were you most proud of? What were your big successes? What did you learn from setbacks or wins? How can you apply what you learned this week?
For example, let's say you planned your reading/studying time during the evening, and you had four interruptions during the evening that prevented you from reading. Those interruptions came from important family and friends. What could you do differently to accomplish your goals? Perhaps you could do the reading another time. This week you can try switching your timing to when there are fewer interruptions.
- Plan your most important activities. Look at your purpose, roles, and key goals and plan your key activities for the week. Plan the important non-urgent things. I never include scheduled meetings that are in my calendar unless they need a big planning component. If you include all of the urgent/planned things, you will overwhelm yourself. Plan to have 10-20 important non-urgent activities each week that are small steps towards your big goals.
- Schedule your weekly activities. Try to schedule your 10-20 important items into your week. Use your calendar to plan these activities. For example, if you want to start 30 minutes of aerobic exercises five days a week, calendar it in at 6.30 a.m. every weekday.
Follow up throughout your week with daily planning. Each day as you plan, look at your weekly plan. You should complete a 3-step process for your daily plan.
3-Step Daily Planning Session
- Put a checkmark next to the completed items. Have a mini celebration in your head for every activity you completed. Celebrating your wins gets some positive endorphins going inside.
- Check and see which weekly planning items are already planned. Mentally prepare for those important activities.
- Add items that were either not scheduled in or must be rescheduled because they weren't accomplished earlier in the week.
Other Tips for Weekly Planning
To develop this productivity superpower you need to:
- Plan during the same time each week and day.
- Find a place in your house for planning. Train your brain that this is the planning space. You can train your brain to recognize the time and place, and it will respond with increased concentration and efficiency.
- Put your most important activities during quiet times—the times when you will get the least interruptions. Do not be afraid to update your calendar in the morning or at lunch to include key non-urgent activities in your weekly plan.
- Plan in time and activities with those most important to you. I am still surprised after 40 years of using this planning system how many “highlights of the week” come from relationship activities. For example, a good talk with my wife Cheryl during our Saturday morning run always makes my weekly gratitude list. Exercise and connecting with your spouse is a double endorphin hit!
Pitfalls to Avoid with Weekly Planning
You are about to develop a motivation and productivity superpower. Be careful with your kryptonite:
1. Don’t over plan and get overwhelmed. Instead, start small. I believe that one reason people aren’t good at accomplishing goals is that they over schedule.
As Dr. Bob Maurer says in his book, Small Things That Change Your Life -The Kaizen Way, he describes a breakthrough he had while working at a hospital. Dr. Maurer learned that taking small steps led to the task getting done and then his patients were able to work towards more ambitious goals.
One example highlighted in his book is a patient who came in several times with high stress, weight gain and unhealthy habits. The doctors previously recommended the patient start exercising to lose 20 pounds, but she wasn’t able to get started. When Dr. Maurer asked her if she watched T.V. when the kids went to bed at night, she said yes. Dr. Maurer asked if she could do jumping jacks during 1 commercial break at night, and she said she would.
She came back the next week and reported success with the small task. As the weeks went by, Dr. Maurer asked her to do jumping jacks during all of the commercial breaks and steadily increased the amount of exercise. In six months, she reached her goal of losing 20 pounds.
Dr. Maurer learned this technique from Japanese Kaizen. Kaizen is a Japanese continuous improvement technique that trains employees to find small faults in their factories to continually improve. Dr. Maurer talks about how the limbic system gets fired up with fear when talking about big, daunting goals. But it stays quiet if you start with small goals. I highly recommend the book. If you want just a 30-minute version, you can listen to this podcast I did with Dr. Maurer here.
2. Be intentional but flexible. Little kids are the classic example of this. Kids don’t understand weekly and daily plans. Of course, you can coach them to honor your time, but you must be flexible and open to making changes. People are more important than tasks or efficiency.
3. Just because you are a super planner, your time isn’t more important than others. Please be careful with this one. Remember what and who is most important in your life. As you follow this plan you will become more focused, motivated, and productive. Close members of your family will see the pros and cons of this.
Just the other day my daughter Mackenzie reminded me that my time isn’t more important than hers. I was asking her to do a chore around the house so I didn’t have to worry about it and I could focus on writing this chapter in my book. “Dad,” she said, “it sounds like you’re saying your time is more important than mine.” I quickly apologized and thanked her for giving me honest feedback.
Do not let busyness rob you from doing what’s most important in your life. Don’t get sucked into the exhausting and empty calories that busyness can bring. Focus on what is most important in your life and then plan around it. A good weekly planning system can help you live with no regrets and live your best self! Start by accessing my free weekly planning system online, and schedule a free coaching session to help implement the system.