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weekly plans

Page history last edited by rsb 4 years, 3 months ago


Summary:

 

The advantage of weekly planning is that you have far fewer surprises during busy times.

 

When I plan my week, the operation is very simple:

 

I organize my work environment, update my master todo list, and update my calendar, in that order.

 

My todo lists are all in a master_todo_list spreadsheet with a bunch of tabs on it.  The tabs on that spreadsheet are named for categories of activities I engage in (writing, family, business, etc), plus one summary tab, and one tab for yearly goals.  

 

A note on minimizing weekly planning time:

 

I rarely plan my week anymore because I plan my days well.  The goals on my master task list don't change often, and the tasks themselves are easy to manage on a day to day basis.  I add new things to my calendar or task list immediately on finding out about them.  I have google drive and calendar on my phone.

 

Every once in a while though, I regret skipping weekly planning. 

 

That's the short version.  Stop here unless you want to get heavily into this.

 

Maybe you were looking for a time management troubleshooter?

 

The Long Version:

 

I never want to spend more than an hour planning my week.  So I (try to) follow a checklist when I plan.

 

The planning checklist goes:

 

  1. CLEAN UP __
  2. TODO LIST __
  3. CALENDAR __

 

I limit each task on the above checklist to 15 minutes.

 

That means that I DON'T COMPLETE OTHER TASKS when I'm planning.  I star emails that I need to respond to rather than respond to them - and I can only identify physical mail as important or unimportant - I can't work on it.  

 

To accommodate the short planning time, I make *heavy* use of gmail and google calendar - notifications and meta-data on those are something I *rely* on.  I use stars in google mail or forward email messages to a system that can track them.  My calendar has notifications turned on, and I want copious notification well ahead of each appointment.  If I didn't know how to use gmail, google calendar, and google spreadsheets like a ninja, weekly planning would be much more time consuming.

 

To accommodate the whole weekly planning thing, I generally require a strong cup of coffee.  The whole thing takes less than one hour per week on Sunday.  

 

After I do my weekly planning, I only have to do a tiny bit of daily planning (if any) to grab items off my master task list.

 

More Detail on My Weekly Planning Checklist:

 

1) Clean up 

 

Optimize my desk, backpack, office, and anything else I need to work with that day.  - (limit 15 min)

 

2) Visit your master todo list.

 

If you are like me, on your master todo list, you probably have tabs(spreadsheet) or pages(notebook).  

 

Each tab is a logical grouping of tasks - a sublist labeled by category (home_repair, consulting_for_x, writing, family, budget_paperwork, buy, sell, business_x, infrastructure, retraining, etc.) 

 

Open the spreadsheet.

 

Do a brain dump of any new tasks you know about that are not on there.

 

Remove any old stuff that is no longer relevant along the way (be brutal).  


As I visit each sublist, I mark three tasks on each list as special tasks: Most Important, Most Want To Do, and Most Resistant.  I also mark any task that is due by a certain date (doesn't matter what the date is) as Due.  


All the tasks I mark show up automatically on a tab called Summary_Tasks. 

 

3) Calendar for the week.  

 

This is my approximate method of calendaring.  Some appointments will invariably already be on the calendar - that's fine.  

 

Health

 

First, if applicable, I add the stuff that makes my life long and useful - lets call that the HEALTH category: exercise, training, reading, meditation, etc.  I know I'll do some of this in my free time, but I like to put some HEALTH time on my calendar - sometimes it works.  I end up putting a lot of things on there that don't get done, but enough of them work out that this is well worth it.

 

Appointments

 

Second, I add Appointments to my calendar - these are tasks that are to be done with someone else involved, and are therefore marked "Due" on my spreadsheet.  

 

Reserved For Work

 

Fourth, I block time to do work (RFW - reserved for work).  Big-ass blocks of time marked "RFW at location" now show on my calendar.  

 

Fifth, I consider every time frame not marked (scheduled) on the calendar - every white space - to be time for me and my family and friends.  I try to keep as much of it open as possible.  If my calendar doesn't look open enough, then I messed up, and I need to change my week, or maybe even change my life.

 

My RFW pomodoro time is when pretty much all my work will be done.  I prefer to do that in the largest blocks I can get (2-8 hours is nice).  The breaks are built-in.  If I can get 40 hours of that in per week, after commute time, that's ideal (and a little miraculous).

 

Reserved for "Specific" Work (Avoid)

 

Third, I handle things on my Todo List that have a Due date but are not an appointment with someone.  These are horrible.  Officially, I call them Reserved for Specific Work.  In less official circumstances, I replace "specifically" with a shorter, four-letter version.

 

Under abnormal circumstances, such as last-minute tasks, I have to make an appointment with myself to do work ahead of a deadline.  I have to take those appointments-with-self very seriously, and make sure the work gets done during a time when I can isolate myself somewhere and not be interrupted.  I add commute-time to and from those appointments, as well as setup-time.  I sometimes turn off my cell phone and email/chat during those.   In general, these types of tasks are always the ones at the greatest risk of failure.  I try to arrange my life such that they are minimized.  Zero reserved for s-work is ideal.


Under normal circumstances, tasks with due dates get tagged *important* on my master todo list.  Those tasks get completed or redacted long before they are due - removing them from my todo list and avoiding s-work.

 

Hints and Recommendations:

 

Dealing with cruft:

 

Your master task list can get crufty, full of old tasks that are not wholly relevant and suck your time each week looking at them.  That's not good.  You need to do something about it.

 

For me, I start anew once in a while.  

 

I make a copy of the master task list (it's a google spreadsheet called Master_Task_List), and rename the old task list ARCHIVE_Weekly_Master_Date, where Date is the date it was archived.  

 

Then I ruthlessly cut tasks and projects out of the new master task list, blowing away at least half of the stuff on there (sometimes all of it) - only focusing on the stuff that needs to be accomplished in the next 30 days.

 

It's not perfect, but it works.  It IS possible to go back into the archives and look for stuff.

 

Links:

 

Brett McKay from the art of manliness on weekly planning. - Great summary of his method, obviously drawing on a lot of other peoples writing and his own experience.

 

Matt Vance's wiki has a summary of David Allens Getting Things Done  - The key components of weekly planning are all there.

 

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