In my most recent weekly newsletter (“A week’s worth” — do you subscribe?) I argued that a weekly planning session doesn’t need to take much time. When I suggest planning on Friday afternoons, people sometimes note that they are too tired to do much then. Which leads me to believe that we have different visions of planning, because mine is relatively low key. I’m making some decisions, but not a ton of decisions — I’m more looking at what is in motion, and should stay in motion, or start, or stop.
Here’s what happens. I flip to a new page in my “planner” (a notebook from Target). I write the week at the top like this “March 22-26 + 27/28.” I open my weekly At-A-Glance calendar to that week. I see what is already there that is worth noting, and I also think about steps I’d like to take toward my long term projects. What would I like to do with my time? What would make for a good week? I’m usually not brainstorming huge life direction changes during this time — it’s more of, “hey, the tulips will be blooming so we should go to a botanical garden” or that I’d like to call a certain friend or “I should chat with so-and-so about future projects we could do together.”
Then I start writing the week’s priorities in my planner. I put career stuff on the left. I put family and personal priorities on the right. These lists usually take about 30-40 percent of the page (I put daily task lists on the bottom half of the page — drawing from the lists at the top).
This week’s professional priorities include the category of “BB” (Before Breakfast), in which I nudged myself to write and record 10 episodes instead of the usual 5. That’s because next week is spring break and I’d like to have a limited workload for it. I’m constantly coming up with ideas for this podcast, so I look to make sure the master schedule spreadsheet has ideas for the week and if not I come up with some or make a note to do this later.
The next category is often “Promotion.” I list any media appearances/interviews in there, plus newsletters or social media stuff, plus any professional networking I’m planning to do. If I don’t have anything on my calendar for the week, this is a nudge to come up with something.
If it’s a BOBW week (we batch, so we don’t record every week) I’ll list what I need to do there. If I’ve got booked speeches, I’ll make a category for them (including practicing, or tech checks).
Every week gets a TBT category — what I’m doing to write Tranquility by Tuesday. Right now I’m monitoring the survey and doing some free writing, about 1000 words a week. That will increase after I’ve got all the raw material to work with.
I also do “LVK” — this blog. I list any post ideas I’d like to write about in the next week. Usually I’ve already got some percolating, and have lists I’ve kept various places, so I am not spending much time brainstorming.
Those are my main categories right now, though in the past I had NCO (The New Corner Office podcast) and Medium (where I was writing a weekly column). I realized there were too many categories on the left side of the page and I needed to devote more time to some of them (e.g. TBT!) so others had to go.
On the right side of the page, I figure out what’s going on in my personal life. These days there is almost always a “house” category as I manage this renovation project. This week the priorities include meeting with the interior designer to figure out what furniture makes the move from one house to the other, along with general construction availability.
We’re getting the baby baptized, so that was an entry, with notes about contacting the church to confirm details, figuring out what he’s wearing (his original baptism outfit from last March doesn’t fit…) and coordinating with relatives who are coming (our church is requiring registration to limit capacity right now).
I had some kid stuff— namely that they started full time school, so I was managing that return. Plus karate belt testing, and one kid’s Reading Olympics competition. Basic sports practices/games don’t go on here so much as I just deal with that in daily scheduling and they tend to be recurring on the same days, or else they’re weekend calendar entries. If the next weekend’s sports schedule is looking particularly crazy I might put a note about thinking through logistics on some day during the week. With the kids, I spend a little time thinking about whether there’s something that should be pro-actively addressed, or if one kid is having a tough time and needs some extra attention, I’ll put a note to make time for that during the week.
I’ll be recording Easter service music, so that’s on there, and this doozy: “PLAN SPRING BREAK.” We’re just taking some day trips around the area, though, so this is mostly a reminder to have a conversation with my husband about which days and places from our list we’ll do. We already have Gettysburg reservations, so that’s done.
And finally, I noted that Thursday is International Waffle Day, which needs to be celebrated.
Sometimes I’ll plan out Monday’s to-do list and schedule, and sometimes Tuesday too if lots of stuff needs to be allocated to particular days. But a lot of my projects right now are already set in motion, so this planning exercise is about making sure that the plates are still spinning at the right pace. If there are things I’d like to add, I’ll put them down on the list too. Then, during the week, I will find a spot for them, since my goal is to end the week with everything crossed off the list. That’s why I aim for fewer tasks than I might theoretically be able to do — plus, stuff will come up, and I want to leave space for it. Usually in 15 minutes or so, I have the week mapped out.
I then flip back to the current week’s page and make a quick-and-dirty weekend schedule (end-of-day Friday to Sunday night, drawing from any weekend priorities on that list plus the calendar entries) and email it to my husband (this is a 5-10 minute process). He can theoretically respond with input and ideas, but my experience is that as long as he gets at least one run or trip to the gym on the weekend schedule he is up for anything.
There are a few things that I know some people include in planning that I don’t. For instance, I don’t meal plan. We use Sunbasket meal kits two days per week, have breakfast for dinner on Wednesdays, and make-your-own pizza night on Fridays and everything else we just figure out. My husband generally buys the same stuff when he grocery shops, and we always have enough in the fridge + freezers to make a meal. I also don’t plan workouts. I run most days, but I’m not training for anything. Each day I just figure out when I can run based on the day’s schedule. And I run the amount I feel like running.
I’m curious if anyone else’s weekly planning routine looks like this or if it looks like something else entirely!