Be more productive in 2017 (Day 5: Plan your workweeks on Fridays)

img_2410Over the past five days, I have shared some of my favorite productivity habits. All of them are small in the grand scheme of things, but all have a big impact.

Today’s habit is important because of a simple fact: time passes, whether you think about how you spend it or not. In that way, it’s like moving water. If you’re swimming in a moving stream, it can be difficult to see where you’re going. Ideally, you make eye contact with your destination before you leap in. Likewise, you want to think through units of time before you are actually in them. Since a week is the cycle of life as we live it, it makes sense to think through each week before the week commences.

I started thinking of my life in weeks, and planning my priorities for each week, after reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People many years ago. I tended to do this exercise on Sunday night. Then, a few years ago, I interviewed Getting Things Done author David Allen, and he mentioned that many people he worked with did a weekly review (or preview, as the case may be) on Fridays. I soon realized this was brilliant and made the switch.

Here’s why you should plan your workweeks on Fridays. If you work a Monday-Friday schedule, chances are you are not doing much of consequence by Friday afternoon. Even if you’re not counting minutes until you can punch out, you probably lack the energy to start anything big. That makes these hours what an economist might call a “low opportunity cost time.” So why not redeploy this time to something meaningful? Make a short priority list for the next week, ideally with three categories: work, relationships, self. Choose 2-3 things you want to do in each category. Then look at your calendar for the next week, taking into account the “hard landscape” of commitments (as Allen puts it). Schedule in your priorities. That doesn’t guarantee they will happen, but it massively raises the odds.

A bonus habit? Take five minutes during this scheduling session to triage your calendar for the next week. See if you can cancel things you don’t want to do. If you are going to cancel something, it’s much more considerate to do it far enough ahead that people can make other plans. See if there are redundancies, such as a meeting with the same person on Tuesday and Thursday that could be condensed to one meeting. See if you can delegate something to somebody else with advance notice. In five minutes you might be able to buy yourself hours. Maybe not always, but worth trying.

Planning your workweeks on Fridays also creates a virtuous cycle with our first habit of the week. If you’ve planned your weeks on Fridays, that means you don’t have to plan on Mondays. You can hit the ground running, tackling your most important task for the week, rather than spending Monday figuring out what your job is.

Here are links to the rest of the series:

Day 1: Climb your mountains on Monday morning
Day 2: Plan mindful breaks
Day 3: Think through weekends by Wednesday
Day 4: Make one connection daily

In other news: I Know How She Does It! On sale in paperback this week. You know the drill. Thank you for supporting me and my writing.

Speaking of supporting me and my writing, the first snowfall in January reminds me of the writing retreat to Jim Thorpe I took 3 years ago. With a wintry landscape around me, I spent two days working all day on the novel that became The Cortlandt Boys. Will you give it a read?

More connections: I spoke with Chris Bailey, author of The Productivity Project, yesterday. If you’re into time management and productivity topics, you should probably be reading him too. Our conversation should go up on Heleo soon. I will post a link when it does.

Finally, I will be doing a 7-Day Time Tracking Challenge next week, starting on Monday. If you’ve ever wanted to try tracking your time, this could be a good chance to get some moral support. I will post my logs here. You can sign up here for motivational daily emails.

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