We’re in the age of information overload both in work and non-professional contexts. It’s critical to spend a nontrivial amount of time each week planning on how you’re going to tackle all your obligations.
I’ve spent the better half of the last year experimenting with different processes. I’ve finally nailed the perfect weekly planning process for me. It includes a heavy dose of sunshine and Trello, two of my favorite things.
It takes about 60-90 minutes each Sunday, and it sets me up for success in the coming week. It’s not about following what I plan exactly, but having the intentionality to think through how to spend my limited time and attention.
Step 1: Find somewhere aesthetically pleasing
There’s a beautiful neighborhood within walking distance of me. I pack my backpack with the essentials – laptop, water, and AirPods – then I make the short 10 minute trek to the neighborhood.
There’s a bench hidden from public sight amidst a gathering of trees close to the end of the neighborhood. I sit down there to start the next step of the process.
Step 2: The first burst of 15 minutes: my personal life
The important roles in my life right now are as a husband, as an employee, and as an athlete (said semi-facetiously). It’s important to give appropriate time for each role.
I open a simple plain txt file and begin with my personal life. I look at my Google Calendar. What are the key activities happening this week? Are we FaceTiming with any friends? Do we have a date night planned? And so on.
Then, I review my Trello board reserved for my personal life and determine what the 2-3 big rocks that I want to complete this week. For example, this week, my wife got a new standing desk. I made a note in the plain txt file that we want to carve out an hour or two after dinner this week to build it together.
Step 3: The second 15 minute burst: as an athlete
Close by the neighborhood is a small office park. There’s a half dozen buildings, each with picnic tables outside. After I spent 15 minutes reviewing my personal life, I walk to a picnic table and look at my role as an “athlete”.
I’m currently on a workout program where I lift weights 4x/week and track what I eat in MyFitnessPal. I use my time on the first picnic bench to write down my workouts for the week and slot in the upcoming week’s workouts.
My preference is to get to the office early and leave early once or twice a week to get in afternoon workouts. I fit my other two workouts in on the weekend.
Sometimes, due to my work schedule, that’s untenable. However, I look at my calendar, schedule the workouts like a doctor’s appointment.
I mark in my plain txt file when I’m planning my workouts as well. Time to find a new picnic bench!
Step 4: Plan the work week
I leave the most involved step of planning last. I used to plan the workweek first, but found that I gave my workweek too much importance. Now, I work backwards and fit work around my personal life and fitness routine, as possible.
Like many folks, I have quarterly goals at work that I’m aiming to hit. I start with those. How much time did I spend on them last week? How much time can I spend on them this week? What progress do I need to make?
My goal is to spend 10-15 hours of Deep Work a week on my 5-7 key objectives. That target is a steady drumbeat that no matter what else happens during the week, I’ve made progress on my goals.In a standard week, I carve out the first two hours of the work day to work on my goals, and an hour right after lunch.
Now that I have my big rocks evaluated and planned, I look at my calendar. What are the important meetings this week and how do I need to prepare?
Then, I look at my Trello board and determine what tasks I need to push forward to the finish line this week. It might be an employment agreement for a new hire, an invoice that needs to be paid, etc.
Then, I take out my trusted Time-Block Planner and plan Monday in detail. Giving every minute of my day a job has been transformative to me. As Cal Newport says, time-block planning allows people to get 2-3x more done that the person who just rolls into work, answers some emails, and shows up to meetings.
Step 5: Walk back home
I make the 10 minute walk back home without any podcast or music. I’m a big consumer of podcasts, but I like to have little doses of solitude sprinkled throughout my days, especially on the weekend.