How to Plan for a Productive Week

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A successful week begins with a successful strategy. You need to think about all the things you need to get done, organize it all then execute. Stop saying you don’t have enough time and figure out how to make the most of all the time you got. Don’t let another week go by where you look back and know you could have done more. It’s up to you to achieve your goals. Scott Dinsmore of Live Your Legend breaks down how to have a successful plan of attack for the week.

1. Make Time – Establish a Ritual

The days of diving into Monday morning totally unprepared are over. Reserve a minimum of an hour (maybe 1.5 or 2) each week for your planning process. At first this is as counter-intuitive as working out – but no matter how crazy your schedule is, you will be more effective, confident and calm if you take time before you jump into the storm. Look at your schedule and decide when is your best time at the start of each week. Ideally, make this is the same time every week so you can establish a ritual. For me it’s usually from 8-9:30 on Monday morning. Sometimes it’s Sunday.

Just be sure you do it before you start any of your weekly tasks, and especially before you check email! If this means spending an hour Sunday night, then so be it.

Make it something you look forward to. Put on your favorite relaxing music (mine is usually classical or something meditative). Pour a cup of your favorite tea or coffee. Shut off the Internet. Get away from the world.

Do This: Write down your planning time and schedule it.

2. Connect and Visualize the Big Picture

Time recommended: 2-5 minutes

Take a few deep breaths. Then take some time to look at your big lifetime goals and dreams. What do you want to be remembered for? What do you want your life to be about for the next 3 to 10 years? Look back over your lifetime goals and Areas of Attention from the Goal Setting and Action Workbook process. Starting with the big picture allows us to keep our focus on what really matters (i.e. building a loving family vs. worrying about paying your cable bill).

Do This: We’ll get to the little tasks later, but for now just visualize, feel and connect with the biggest things you want to be a part of your life. No need to write anything down.

3. Celebrate Last Week

Time recommended: 5-10 minutes

This is the most important step of all – I absolutely love it. Write down everything from the past week that you’re proud of. Anything and everything positive goes – having a record sales week, getting a rewarding thank you, having a hot date or sticking to your workout. Running a marathon or walking around the block – it’s all sacred.

We rarely take the time to appreciate the things we’ve accomplished, big and small, before diving into what’s next. This leaves us with a constant feeling of dissatisfaction. I guarantee there are things you did last week that you can be proud of. Recognize them. Bask in them. Celebrate it all. That pride turns into confidence, and that confidence snowballs into the week to come.

A couple of mine from last week include: Being a guest expert for Jonathan Fields’ Good Life Project, making fun plans for my wife’s birthday, having time to spend Friday and Saturday in the sun with close friends, being a part of Simon Sinek’s latest project (more on that soon), sorting out a new healthcare plan and doing an awesome webinar with Corbett Barr. Seriously, anything goes.

Do This: List at least 10 things – but feel free to write down as many more as come to mind. You’ll often find that once you start, it’s hard to stop. Perfect. This will put you in an unbelievably powerful state for tackling what’s to come. Have fun with it. 

4. Write Down Major Lessons

Time recommended: 2-5 minutes

We learn new things every day. But an education is worthless if you don’t make the lessons a part of your life. Write down any key learnings from the past week: major lessons, meaningful quotes and things that inspire you. I also keep a list of “dream connections”, which I’ll get to more in the Connect With Anyone course, but this is basically a list of people I’d love to connect with and my progress in making it happen.

A big lesson for me last week was: Digital communication is great for trading information but terrible for emotional discussions – leave those for phone or in person. Simon Sinek made this point on our call and it really stuck, so I took note.

Do This: Look back through your notes and ideas from last week and list all the lessons that come to mind. Give them a chance to become a part of your life.

5. Analyze What Didn’t Happen

Time recommended: 2-5 minutes

Nothing ever goes exactly according to plan. Look back on the important things you wanted to accomplish last week. What didn’t happen? Be totally honest with yourself. List them out. Only list the things that actually mattered. For each one, write down why it didn’t happen. Was it for a good reason (i.e. other more important things happened), or was it for a bad reason (i.e. you got sucked into checking emails for 9 hours straight)? What could you have done to avoid this? How will you improve it going forward?

For me, one of my misses last week was: I didn’t complete the outline for my Connect With Anyone course, but it was because creating content related to last week’s webinar was more important at the time.

Do This: Be honest with yourself and list the big things that didn’t happen and what you can improve for next time.

6. Clarify and Commit to Your Biggest Outcomes

Time recommended: 5-10 minutes

Now that we’ve properly reflected on last week, it’s time to dive into what’s to come. I like to start by quickly reviewing my mission/purpose, values and strengths to get in the right place. I keep a list of all these items on a couple sheets of paper. Now look at each major area in your life  and the related goals (in the Goal Setting and Action workbook, we call these Areas of Attention).

Decide on on a maximum of 6 to 7 outcomes you want to accomplish related to the various areas in your life. This could be creating a personal budget, cooking a healthy meal or having a great meeting with a mentor. You get to decide. Just be sure they get you closer to your yearly goals. That’s the key. So “checking Facebook” would not count.

One of my big outcomes for this week is: writing this article and the free workbook to go with it (you can download that at the bottom).

Do This: Pick a total of 6-7 outcomes max and spread them throughout the week.

7. Schedule Everything

Time recommended: 5-15 minutes

This is the missing link for many people. Everything you do takes up time in your day. Yet most of us create lists of tasks with no concept of how long they’ll take. In fact, I bet if you took your current task list and wrote down how long each item would actually take, you’d find you need about 20 hours for today’s tasks. Ever feel like you never get everything done in a day? This is why. We drastically underestimate how long things take. Since everything takes time to do, we need to assign actual time to the things that matter most to us.

Look at your 6 to 7 weekly outcomes and decide what core tasks will need to happen to accomplish these. Now spread these out throughout the week. Most people can’t accomplish more than 1-3 meaningful things in a day, so that’s your limit. Pick 1-3 “most important tasks” (MIT’s) as my buddy Leo likes to call them, and schedule them throughout the week. Keep in mind any meetings you have or calls you need to make.

Now actually reserve the time on your calendar. I mean actually book a meeting with yourself on an actual calendar. You should see my Apple iCal – it looks like someone spilled a pack of Skittles on it with all the self-appointments for each big task related to my Areas of Attention. If I need to do something important, it gets a place on my calendar. Period.

Do This: If you want it to get done, you have to schedule it. Schedule 1-3 important tasks for each weekday. If you don’t have a calendar yet, then get one. I love iCal because it syncs with my iPhone and is visually really fun.

8. Fill in the Gaps and Housekeeping

Time recommended: 5-10 minutes

Most of us fill our days with the little tasks – the ones that are easy to do, but also that don’t end up getting us any closer to our goals. These need to get done, but not at the expense of the things that help us accomplish what actually matters. Once you’ve scheduled your outcomes and MIT’s, now is where you get to fill in anything else.

Do This: Look at what’s left on your to do list. Now look at your calendar and see when you could fit the little things in. Schedule these as well. By the end of this process you shouldn’t have any stray to-do lists or tasks.

And also, since nothing happens without help, I like to take a minute or two and think about two questions in the context of my week:

  1. Who can I help this week?
  2. Who could help me accomplish what I have planned for the week?
Write down 1 to 3 people for each.

And as final housekeeping, I like to review my expenses from the last seven days.  I use Mint.com, so this usually takes about 3 minutes to categorize and see if everything looks right. If I put it off until the end of the month, this stuff turns into more of of a mental monster than it needs to be. A few minutes goes a long way.

(via Live Your Legend | image via wikiHow)