For years, I’ve been planning my life by weeks. Before my work week starts on Monday, I write down my list of personal and professional priorities for the next 7 days. Then I can think about when, over the next 7 days, I will tackle those tasks.
Over the past year or so, though, I’ve started shifting when I do this weekly review/planning session. This is partly as a result of interviewing productivity guru David Allen, author of Getting Things Done. We’d discussed weekly reviews, and he told me that a lot of people do this on Fridays. Friday tends to be a slower workday with fewer meetings. A reasonable number of people work from home on Fridays, which means they aren’t getting interrupted as much. They can focus on thinking and planning. In Allen’s system, the reviews are often backwards looking, too. It’s as much about closing open loops as planning the next week, and so doing the review on Friday allows you to get zeroed out on that week’s tasks.
I tend not to have a whole lot of open loops. If I’ve set something as a priority for the week, I generally will do it before Friday morning. However, I have come to agree that Friday afternoon is a better time for a review and planning session than Sunday night.
For starters, the opportunity cost of that time is lower. Many people, myself included, are dragging by Friday afternoon. You’re not going to start something big, and yet you’re still in work mode. Sunday evenings, on the other hand, can be personal or family time. I’m not saying I don’t work Sunday nights (I do) but setting yourself fewer tasks for that time keeps more weekend time open.
Second, much of mental churn is about not having a plan. Once you have a plan in place, your brain can relax. Planning on Friday means that even if the next week is going to be a doozy, you know where the pieces go. You don’t have to think about it until you consciously decide to work again. If you leave the planning until Sunday night, the volume of work waiting for you may weigh on your brain all weekend.
Third, planning on Friday allows you to knock off some quick items, or prep items for the next week, during business hours. When I’d plan on Sunday night, I might decide to do interviews for a certain story during the week. I’d figure out my sources and send them emails. But since other people aren’t necessarily responding to email and scheduling things on Sunday night, I wouldn’t hear back until Monday, which means interviews wound up happening later in the week. If I send those emails Friday, I often hear back Friday, which means the whole week is available. I can also plan other things around those interviews, knowing when they’ll occur.
Knocking off the quick, brainless items on Friday afternoon means a lighter load the next week, and it means using time that’s often wasted in a more productive fashion.
And finally, if I haven’t gotten around to thinking through the weekend earlier in the week (or in the previous check-in), a Friday review/planning session gives me another shot. This past Friday I realized that this past weekend would be a much better one for an attempt at date night then the next few. So I sent a text message to a babysitter, and got that set up, and we got to enjoy Indian food and then a trip to a Belgian bar on Saturday night.
Do you do a weekly review/check-in? If so, when do you do it?