Friday planning and the spinning plates

At circuses or carnivals, some performance artists specialize in spinning plates. They hoist plates or bowls or some other such objects on poles and try to keep as many of them gyrating as possible.

Life has had a similar circus-act feel to it lately. We just wrapped up the pilot phase of the Tranquility by Tuesday project (and got some awesome results! But more about that when the book comes out…). I’m thankfully down to two podcasts, but they both require their own logistics, as do my virtual speaking engagements and general promotional and writing activities. Three children will be attending new-to-them schools next year, so course selection and such needs to happen, to say nothing of the usual teacher meetings, doctor appointments, passport expirations, etc. (sneaks up on you when no one’s traveling…). Four children all have at least two activities apiece (the fifth needs to be watched constantly). And then there is the house renovation, which is…intense.

Anyway, most of these plates are spinning. Processes are in motion. However, I want to be sure that nothing stops spinning, that anything slowing gets an appropriate nudge, that any new plates get started spinning at the right time, and others get pulled down as needed.

This is where my Friday planning comes in. Every Friday, I take a few minutes to survey the week ahead. What needs to happen? What is already on the calendar? What would I like to do? I think about my priorities, both professionally, and personally (the “relationships” and “self” categories in my time rubrics). I make these lists on a page in my planner…

…which is really just a notebook from Target. But, fun fact: these things don’t have to be fancy to work. This whole process takes 15 minutes, maybe. I’m writing this at about 9:30 a.m. on Friday and I have already written out my priorities for next week. I have surveyed the spinning plates and I have a reasonable sense of where everything stands.

This is not perfect, of course. Certain plates can turn out to be more wobbly than anticipated. OK, scratch that. Some plates will definitely turn out to be wobbly. Such is life. But a wobbly plate can be addressed when you have a sense of how the others are spinning and what will be required to keep them spinning, and when those things can happen.

Do you plan your weeks on Fridays? If not Friday, do you have another designated weekly planning time? Why did you choose that spot?

Photo: Plates — not currently spinning

15 thoughts on “Friday planning and the spinning plates

  1. I split my planning between Friday evenings and Sunday evenings. Friday evenings are for family and household planning — the menu for the week, the grocery list/order, making sure everyone’s activities are on the calendar, fun and chores for the weekend, when I’ll get my long run in. Sunday’s for work planning — I review my calendar, my project boards, notes from meetings the previous week, etc., and then make a list of priorities for the week and schedule in tasks. I’ve thought about doing work planning on Friday afternoon, but I’m a college professor and I find that all of the work/student crises tend to happen then 🙂

  2. I meal plan and finalize our weekend plans on Friday. I also like to make sure the childcare schedule is set on Friday. This gives me a general overview of what to expect in the coming week. For goal setting and time blocking I prefer to wait until Sunday afternoon. I like to have a little more time (Fridays tend to get taken up in making sure patients are tucked away for the weekend and that patient messages are all sorted and issues handled) and Sunday afternoon while my kids have screen time I can really focus on what I want to accomplish in the next 7 days and check off any quick leftover odds and ends for the previous 7 days. This split session has been working for me for awhile.

  3. I do Friday and Sundays as well. Fridays are for work, however (so I don’t have to think about work over the weekend), and Sunday mornings are for personal. There is a show on my local NPR classical station called Sunday Baroque, which has become my soundtrack for answering personal emails and planning my personal priorities for the upcoming week.

    1. @Kersti- I’m interested to see how many people plan work and personal at totally separate times. In my mind we have one block of time, and unless there is complete and total separation (which is the case for far fewer folks now with so many people working at home) then the two will affect each other. A later work meeting means that’s not a good night for some personal project. Some family/self related stuff has to happen during business hours, and so that would affect the allocation of work priorities. Once you get into planning mode, it wouldn’t add many minutes to address both. So I’m really intrigued to see how common this two-time approach is!

      1. You are giving me something to thing about! I think this mode of planning has to do in part with billable hours. I’m an attorney and I usually try to get all my billable hours done from the hours of 9 to 7, with an hour and a half lunch break (on break now!) in which I generally relax and/or exercise. Usually work planning is at least part billable (I might be reviewing case deadlines and figuring out next steps for example) but personal planning is not. I could bill time later into the evening or weekend to make up for it, but I used to do that and found it depressing. There’s this constant pressure I feel not to take my eye off the billable hour timer, even if it’s a couple of minutes. If I have, for example, a dentist appointment during the work day, I try to schedule it at lunch and that’s my lunch break. I do have a stay at home spouse, however, and I’ve been back in the office full time since June, which keeps work and home a bit more separated. BUT I recently made partner and I am not as wedded to the billable hour anymore. I may have to try integrating life a bit more now!

  4. Yes, I’m a devout Friday afternoon planner! And today is an extra fun one because I’m planning my month ahead. My weekly Friday planning tends to take me about an hour, in which I: review all my pending tasks (both upcoming in ToDoist and simmering emails), check my goals of the month – semester – year, outline 5 work priorities in the categories of writing/research/teaching/service/admin + self and relationships, set up my schedule for the week based on my week template in Google calendar and any appointments already booked in there, and possibly move some calls if I find overlaps, and then take time to plan the weekend by seeing which adventure we can do and which things need to be taken care of.

  5. I do my planning on Wednesday evenings, looking ahead a week and a half through two weekends. Reason being is we camp a lot (one of the few things left to us in this pandemic). So I can’t start planning on Friday when we leave ON Friday (we usually camp for two nights, back home Sunday afternoon). I need to know a couple days in advance if there are camping supplies I need to restock (think paper plates, plastic utensils, etc.), and we need to meal plan and grocery shop. In the pre-pandemic days, we would have social obligations that also required backwards planning from some weekend event (ex. a Saturday potluck: grocery shop day before, pick out/plan recipe two days before, coordinate with host several days before on what they need, etc).
    I also look ahead to the following/second weekend, just because A) it’s easy enough to do–only takes an extra five minutes, and B) I’m not waiting until the last minute to arrange logistics for anything.

  6. I also do my work planning on Sunday afternoon, when my kids take a nap. In our house the rule is that you need to stay in your room during the nap time whether you are sleeping or not. If they follow the rules, they would then get to do a fun art project with mommy after nap – something like painting, coloring, crafting, etc. An activity that we choose, and I actively supervise/engage into.
    So i use the Sunday nap time as some time for myself, to go over my schedule for the upcoming week, and prioritize the time for deep work, review project deadlines, and create to-do lists. If i have any time left, i might as well use this time to look up some travel destinations for us for the upcoming holidays/ school breaks/mini-vacations. We are not taking any flights this year, so i am trying to be creative and find some things for us to explore within 2-6 hours of driving.

  7. I am impressed by all the planning and goal setting. Especially in these times where everything is so limited, I basically only meal plan. That’s on Tuesdays because of the Farmer’s Market.

    1. @Maggie – I assume people still have to plan work project time lines and such. People plan workouts, they plan personal organization projects, they plan family weekend activities that are still available… lots of things can still benefit from planning!

  8. I tried for Friday planning but Friday afternoon seems to be the moment where all my colleagues are waking up and answering my emails / requests so I end up tying up a lot of loose ends on Friday afternoons and can’t get in planning mode. 🙁 Monday morning is my planning time for work (that’s my way of easing in a new week of work, feeling in control of what will come up). For private stuff Sunday morning is the most quiet time as kids watch cartoons but as the day is not over, some tasks are still pending. So I usually do a bit in the morning and finish up later in the day.

    1. @Ellie – I tend to wind up using Friday morning for planning, rather than Friday afternoon, partly because of the loose end issue. I often do an email triage Friday afternoon, starting around 2-3 p.m., which means that plenty of people respond to what I send out right around 4 p.m. However, I suggest “Friday afternoon” for many people because there tend not to be many meetings then, and also, planning doesn’t have to take that long. I am talking 15-20 minutes. If it helps to be fresher, then Friday morning could certainly be an option.

  9. I use Sunday mornings for planning the week. I work part-time outside the home on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, so the combination of getting things done at work and Friday night family movie nights didn’t work well for planning the following week. Sunday mornings tend to be slow — even now with the kids being 12 and 14. Since I do grocery shopping on Tuesdays, it works well for me.

  10. Monday morning planner here. I use Saturday morning and often little bits of time throughout the weekend to tackle loose ends from the week and admin-type things. Then Monday I rollover the week and dive right in….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *