We all know the saying – ”If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
It could also be argued that planning is pointless; clearly, none of us planned for a global pandemic this year. Talk about plans being interrupted!
This year has taught us about the limits of our control, and when we make plans, we typically do so because control is what we’re seeking. So, does that mean we should toss out our calendars and vow to never make a plan again?
I don’t think so.
Sometimes we create a plan and God has something different in mind. But rather than throwing our hands up in the air and giving up, what if instead we viewed these interruptions as redirections?
Time is your most precious resource. When you plan your week, you’re being a good steward of your time by thinking through how you intend to spend it. This guide breaks down how to plan your week using a simple system that’s guaranteed to make you more focused and productive.
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Table of Contents
How to Plan Your Week to Be Productive
Use this guide to help you plan your week for maximum productivity. Remember to keep a loose grip on your schedule, and plan for life’s surprises!
Benefits of Planning Your Week
Having a plan for your week isn’t about grasping for control or being inflexible. It’s for people who want to create lives full of intention, meaning, and purpose.
Accomplish your goals
We all have dreams about what life could be like someday. Whether you want to own your own business, hike Mt. Whitney, get married, or make new friends, there’s likely at least one area of your life you’d like to improve.
With some thought, planning, and discipline, those dreams you have for your life can become a reality.
By starting from your goals and working backward, you can create a roadmap to reach them. And while the road is rarely a straight path, you can always revise your plans as you go.
When you set out on a road trip, you don’t just pick a direction and hope you arrive at your destination. You ask Siri how to get there.
And when the route Siri chose for you doesn’t account for a roadblock, you don’t give up and go back home. You find another way.
Be more present
To some people, having a structured weekly schedule seems Type-A and anal-retentive. They’d rather “go with the flow” and just “be in the moment.”
But does having a plan equate to not being present?
I would argue the opposite is true. When you plan your week, you know exactly what you ought to be doing at any given moment throughout the day. You don’t have to worry about when you’ll have time to do that thing you promised your friend you’d do – because it’s already on your calendar.
Knowing exactly what you need to get done and when you’re going to do it gives you the freedom to live in the present moment. Those future obligations you used to worry about forgetting? Leave those to the future and focus on today.
Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Time is one of our greatest treasures. How we spend it reveals what matters most to us.
If you’re glued to social media for hours each day, or if all your free time is owned by Netflix, what does this say about what matters to you?
When you plan your week and do your best to stick to that plan, you acknowledge that your time is precious and what you do with it matters. Having a plan for your time forces you to live intentionally instead of allowing you to drift passively.
Weekly Planning Tools
The tools you use to plan your week should help you simplify the process, not make it more complicated. Otherwise, weekly planning becomes more of a time-sucking project than a routine that organizes and streamlines everything else.
Keep it simple. I use just a few planning tools, and each of them serves a distinct purpose.
Decide whether you prefer using digital planning tools, physical planners, or some combination of the two. My weekly planning arsenal contains two digital planning tools and one physical planner.
The first tool I recommend is the Things 3 app. It’s a productivity app that lets you make to-do lists, set due dates and categories for each task, and even set up recurring to-dos.
After assigning due dates to all of your to-do list items, the app will create a daily to-do list for you under “Today.” If you set up all of the things you need to get done at the beginning of the week, the app does the rest – your to-do lists are officially automated.
If you have a Mac computer, you already have one of the greatest scheduling tools – iCal! And if you don’t own a Mac, Google Calendar works just as well.
I suggest creating different calendars for each area of your life.
My therapist describes life as a house that contains seven rooms (the House of Self):
- Health (Physical & Mental)
Doing this allows me to very quickly see where the bulk of my time is going.
Using a physical planner is great for results-based scheduling (more on this later).
While the Things app is great for tracking small, detailed tasks, and the iCal gives you a high-level overview of how you spend your time, the Passion Planner exists somewhere in between. It ties the tasks on your to-do list to actual blocks of time on your schedule.
As a huge planner nerd, I’ve tried a lot of different planners. The Passion Planner is my favorite by far.
I got my first Passion Planner at the beginning of 2020, and this year has been my biggest goal-getting year by far. That’s because the Passion Planner layout is excellent for breaking big goals into smaller, actionable steps.
If you want to try out the Passion Planner system to see if it works for you before you commit to buying one, you can download practically every page of the planners for free on their website.
Pens and Highlighters
If you’re going to be using a physical planner to plan your week, it should at least look halfway decent!
Some people treat their planners more like an art project than a productivity tool. If that’s you, go crazy, but don’t forget what planners are for – planning!
I try not to go overboard with the planner supplies, but I do love using these Mildliner highlighters to add some color to my week.
Step 1: Know Your Roles & Set Some Goals
Before we start filling our to-do lists with tasks, we have to know why we’re doing it in the first place.
How you spend your time should reflect what’s most important to you.
How are you different from the future version of you inside your head? If you’re not sure, reflect on the seven rooms in your House of Self listed above. Pick just one area of your life in which you’d like to grow.
It’s also helpful to start with your current roles. Your roles change throughout the seasons of your life, and they help define your priorities.
For instance, you might be a:
- Group leader
Each of your roles comes with its own set of responsibilities. Those responsibilities are good places to start when you set out to plan your week.
Step 2: Break Up Your Goals Into Actionable Steps
After you understand your roles and you’ve created some goals, it’s time to create an action plan for reaching them.
So as not to overwhelm yourself, it’s best to just pick one big goal and go after it with everything you’ve got. Otherwise, you risk going after too many things with not enough energy, and you put yourself at serious risk for burnout. (I’m speaking from experience here!)
List out every single step you need to accomplish your goal. You may have to do some research if you’re unsure of the steps that are necessary to reach your goal. If this is the case, make “Research how to [blank]” step number one.
Don’t let a lack of knowledge be your excuse – you have an automatic answering machine in your pocket! Hop onto Google, find the answers to your questions, and make that list.
As you break down your massive goal into tiny pieces, list each of those smaller items as a task in your Things app or list system of choice.
Don’t forget to assign deadlines for each of them!
Step 3: Assign Blocks of Time to Your To-Do’s
Now that you know what you need to do, it’s time to decide when you’re going to do it.
This is where time-blocking comes in.
If you’ve never heard of time blocking, it’s essentially filling in every hour on your calendar with blocks of time dedicated to certain tasks or areas of your life.
Laying out blocks of time on your schedule will ensure you’re dedicating enough time to the parts of your life that matter most. It will also keep you committed to the present moment. When everything on your to-do list has a place on your schedule, you no longer need to worry about having enough time to get things done.
Start by adding recurring, non-negotiable blocks of time to your calendar. This includes fixed work hours, time for prayer, time with family, rest, exercise – anything that you consider high priority or unmovable.
To make a calendar event recurring in iCal, simply double-click on the created event, click on the date that pops up, and change the Repeat option from “None” to whatever you’d like. You can even have that task repeat on a custom schedule.
After you’ve added in your non-negotiable tasks, start scheduling your variable time.
Look at the to-do list you just created, and assign each task to an open block of time.
Bonus Tip: Schedule related tasks on the same day. This is called “batching” and will help you avoid task-switching, saving you time.
Step 4: Make a Results-Based Schedule
You’ve created a to-do list for the week, and you’ve set aside blocks of time for completing those tasks. What’s next?
A results-based weekly schedule will keep you accountable to your goals.
While you have generic time blocks on your calendar for working on your goal, a results-based schedule will help you measure your productivity during those time blocks.
This is what I use my Passion Planner for.
Here’s how it works: In your planner, during the time blocks you’ve created for working on your goal, write down the actual result you’re going to achieve during that scheduled time.
For instance, instead of writing “Work on blog” in your two-hour blogging time slot, write “Write one blog post.” Instead of writing “Clean,” write “Clean bathtub, toilet, and floors.”
Why does this work? Because “Work on blog” could mean anything. You could sit in front of your computer, watch a video about blogging, check your analytics, and produce nothing.
But “Write one blog post” means something specific. At the end of those two hours, you’ll know exactly whether or not you accomplished what you set out to.
At the end of the week, look back and see what you were able to get done. If there were tasks that required more time than you allocated, be sure to allow yourself more time to complete similar tasks the following week.
Step 5: Follow Through – Do What You Planned
The final and most important step to plan your week for success is to actually do the things you put on your calendar.
It sounds so simple when you put it that way, doesn’t it? But as you probably already know, this is by far the toughest part of weekly planning.
The truth is, putting in all this effort to plan your week is pointless without this final step. Unless you follow through, your weekly planning ritual turns into a colossal waste of time.
You’re not always going to want to do what you put on your calendar. In those moments, you have a decision to make – which is more important: the way you feel in this moment, or the big goal you set out to achieve?
We’re all human, so in all likelihood, none of us are going to stick to our schedules perfectly. But instead of hitting a roadblock and giving up, plan for the obstacles, and keep giving your best.
Over time, you’ll slowly train yourself to push through the difficulties. You’ll build up discipline as you become more deeply committed to your reason for starting in the first place. And before you know it, those goals will be yours.