The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Productive Week
Happy New Year! I can’t believe how quickly 2016 flew by and that we’re in 2017 all of a sudden. Now that we’re almost at the end of the first week of the year (!!), let’s talk productivity and planning.
I used to be one of those poor saps that wrote a daily to-do list every morning. It was part of my ritual: chug a giant iced coffee, check my social media accounts, write myself a full page to-do list. Honestly, it was an addiction. And like any addiction, it turned ugly.
I couldn’t stop myself at a few tasks. So, I kept going back for one more, until soon I was scheduling myself impossible workloads every morning. Because I wanted it all: an empty inbox, impressed clients, and perfect products finished ahead of schedule.
I was burnt out. With no time for myself, I was getting caught up in the busywork and missing the big picture. At the end of the week, I couldn’t pinpoint which major goals I had helped move forward. I felt like I was just running (as fast as possible) in place.
If you’re mapping out your day instead of your week, you’re probably running into the same problems. Overcommitting, under-producing and losing sight of your real goals. Don’t worry, I’m here to help you change all of that.
Read on for my Ultimate Guide to Planning a Productive Week (AND grab the free printable weekly calendar!)
Narrow Your Focus
Let’s be realistic: no matter how productive you are, there’s only so much you can get done in a week.
I know. Shocking. At least it was to me.
The key to productivity is not cramming as many tasks as you possibly can into your day: it’s making sure that everything you do accomplish brings you one step closer to your goals.
Before you get into the daily minutia, take a look at the big picture. What really needs to get done this week? Are you relaunching your website or preparing to move? Hiring a new staff member or releasing your next line of products?
I tend to think of my big picture in two parts: my weekly to-do list, and my focus.
My weekly to-do list is made up of the goals, the things that I want to accomplish by the end of the week. Sure, I might also throw in a reminder to pay the electric bill, but usually we’re talking the big time goals: launch a new product, finish a proposal for my next client, host an unforgettable event.
My focus is a little more conceptual. It’s about my mindset going into these tasks. If I’m going to be doing a lot of writing, I might focus on authenticity and fighting the inner critic. If I’m drudging through paperwork, I’m pushing my mind towards gratitude and remaining present.
These days, I write my to-do lists on Sunday night. Because I’m a little obsessed with organization and list making, it’s become part of a self-care ritual rather than a busy morning must-do. I do my skincare routine, read a few chapters of a good book, snuggle up with the hubs and map out my most productive, rewarding week yet.
Divide Major Goals into Manageable Tasks
When I draft my weekly to-do list, I’m thinking big picture. When I’m thinking about the day-to-day, I want manageable tasks that I know I can accomplish.
Your weekly goal is the finished product. Your daily tasks are steps you need to take to get it done, organized in a way that works for your schedule.
If my weekly goal is to launch the sales page for my new product, my daily goals might include:
- Draft sales copy for the launch page
- Create social media images for corresponding blog post
- Compile mailing list for announcement newsletter
- Shoot promotional photos
Pull out each step that will go into your final product, keeping in mind that you’re looking for tasks that can be done in a couple hours or less.
Once you’ve got your steps, start plugging those babies into your daily to-do lists. This is where knowing your own work habits will really help: I like getting any writing or content creation out of the way in the morning, saving the afternoons and evenings for design, website maintenance, research and organization. Speaking of which…
Don’t Make Room for Busywork
Have you ever started a great day by deciding to clean out your inbox… and then spent the rest of the day fiddling with your email settings? Or maybe you’ve decided to just “tidy up your space” a bit before you get going on a big project, only to find yourself color-coding your filing system two hours later.
And the big, important project you were going to work on: how did that go?
I’m not saying clean workspaces aren’t important: an Instagram ready desk is seriously my happy place! But these kinds of tasks can sap our time and energy and leave us with less motivation to dive into the deep waters.
“Eat the frog first”, as Mark Twain once said. Cross the hardest thing off your to-do list as soon as you can. It’s best to attack your biggest challenge when you’re freshly rested.
Getting the hardest task out of the way also means you’ll plan a day that winds down as you do, with tidying, researching, organizing and other less-urgent work finishing out the day rather than starting it, and setting you up for success tomorrow. Planning to do the hardest thing first pays off – trust me.
Give Yourself Downtime
You’ll notice on my weekly planner, there are only three blocks per weekday and three split between Saturday and Sunday.
When you’re able to work independently and by your own rules, it’s usually because you are driven to go above and beyond. I’ve actually found myself feeling guilty for taking a day off on the weekend or vegging on the couch after a full day of work (instead of plugging away at the next project- the shame!)
That, my friend, is when burnout hits. And burnout ain’t pretty.
Burnout is that level of exhaustion that makes you miss appointments, forget important deadlines and produce work that’s way below your standards. It may seem counterintuitive, but trust me: sometimes planning that afternoon nap really is the best thing you could do for your productivity.
At the end of the week, you should be able to look back and see how each day contributed towards the completion of a major goal.
Not only will this method keep you on track to kick ass, it will also boost your motivation throughout the week.
Ready to get started? Click here to download your Free Printable Productivity Planner!