We’d all like to make better use of our time. To do more of what matters, and to do it more of the time.
One of the questions I’m asked more than any other is:
‘How do you get away with eating so many burgers and pizzas?’
That question is irrelevant here. But another question I’m often asked, which is more appropriate to this post, is:
‘What’s a great system for managing my weekly priorities and to-do items?’
If you’re interested in a fantastic time-management process that I developed, one that uses your natural preferences in your favor, rather than as something you have to push down and fight against, then check out the link at the end of this post.
But if you want a quick-and-dirty solution that you can learn right now and implement instantly, then I have just the thing for you.
Have A Weekly Planning Meeting With Yourself
This solution involves a weekly planning meeting for which the agenda is: you.
At this meeting you consider your overarching goals, the commitments for the upcoming week, and how you will spend your limited time, energy, and attention resources. You schedule appointments, make lists, brainstorm ideas.
In short, you organize yourself for the week ahead.
Tips For Your Weekly Planning Meeting
- Schedule your meeting in your diary. Treat it as you would any other appointment. Respect yourself and turn up on time and ready to focus.
- Schedule your meeting for the same time and day each week. I find it a motivating start to the week to do mine on a Monday morning. But Friday afternoon or even Sunday night can also be a good time – or any time that works for you.
- Set your weekly planning meeting as a recurring appointment in your phone. Not only will this make the meeting a habit, it will also condition your brain to be ready at this time.
- Have your meeting away from your usual work area. (A coffee shop is ideal because, well, coffee.) This will protect you from non-important home or office interruptions and also provide your mind with fresh visual stimulation.
- Decide if you want to write or type or use a combination. Although I do almost everything electronically – diary, notes, to-do items, ideas, lists, etc – I like to use a Moleskine notebook and Lamy pen for my weekly planning meetings. It feels freer and more fun.
- Once you’ve got your beverage of choice, start big-picture and review the goals you’re working on right now. I suggest you take a holistic approach and think about all your current goals – work, home, personal, health, relationships, etc. I aim to have 5 to 7 goals at a time. Fewer under-challenge me, more stress me out. Write these goals down, even if you think you know them.
- After writing down your goals, use them to think strategically about how you want to allocate your time and energy during the coming week. For instance, if tasks or engagements you’re considering make no contribution to your current goals, then you could cross them off your to-do list, or graciously decline.
- Now schedule your week. Put in the appointments, meetings, and social engagements you’ve consciously chosen (if you have a boss then of course you need to take their expectations into account). Also schedule sessions for projects and tasks that need a chunk of quality time.
- Next, add in exercise and time out – yes, in your diary! You will feel much happier if you make yourself a priority, and a happier you is a more productive worker, more patient parent, more loving partner, more helpful friend.
- Before you bid yourself adieu and go your separate way, write down anything else that will support you in the coming week. Ideas for dealing with a challenge, successes from last week to feel good about, lessons from things that didn’t go so well, even a rant about something that’s frustrating you (burn afterward if necessary). Put on paper or screen anything that needs to get out of your brain, so you can clear the pathways for a productive and happy week.
You might want to allocate a couple of hours for the first time you do this, but soon you’ll work out how much time you need for your weekly planning meeting.
It will be time very well spent, as you’ll be freshly aware of your big-picture goals, you’ll have allocated your time strategically, you’ll have everything important scheduled, you’ll get mental sludge out of your brain, and you’ll feel nice and organized.
Plus, you’ll go back to work freshly caffeinated.
PS Here’s that online time-management program I mentioned: 7 Days To Better Productivity & Time Management.