Adopt this systematic method to make progress every week towards your biggest, most important goals

This Simple Yet Powerful Weekly Planning Routine Puts You in Control

As someone with a personal passion to help others execute on their professional goals, I do more than assist in the definition of their objectives and encourage them on their path.

To be effective, we all need to develop the right productivity habits to stay on track and reach our goals.

I recommend a regular weekly planning routine. Well, this article gives you all the details you need to create the same method that I use myself and help others build for themselves, step-by-step.

Having a bullet-proof weekly planning method can make all the difference, and will save you several hours of procrastination and indecision through the week. If you had to focus on just one execution tactic, intentional planning for the week ahead is probably the one providing with the most significant impact.

This system keeps me productive and consistent, and has helped others achieve their professional goals with less effort and in less time than it would typically take.

Let’s dive in!

On Sunday, you should spend some time with your calendar and decide when you will do in-depth work on your most important goals.

Focusing on a weekly timeline provides the best results: long enough to give you perspective and sense of progress, but short enough to keep you present and in “action mode”.

By scheduling time in advance to execute on meaningful projects each week, you will also notice a positive side-effect: after fitting in everything that is required to push your goals forward in a simple weekly calendar template, you will realise that you still have plenty of time available for other things.

This simple exercise is empowering. It has allowed me to fit more than I thought possible into a single week, and still remain calm, with a sense of order; in control, and ready to comply with my own plan.

I insist on this when helping others implement an execution system, and it always brings a dramatic increase in self-belief and productivity.

In short: set aside some time on Sunday afternoon to accomplish the detailed steps that follow.

2. Understand Your Tasks And Your Workflow

Real life forces us to juggle our plans with meetings, calls, office politics, personal errands, admin work, and the like. Prioritizing includes deciding how to tackle the non-priority work.

The below matrix, a combination of the Eisenhower Matrix and the Covey Urgent vs Important Matrix, can be helpful in that context.

As you create your calendar below, you’ll think about how to schedule these four types of activities:

Your Turn!

We’ll get to actually putting these blocks on the calendar in step 4 below. For now, you might want to draw out a quick box chart like the one above, classify your to-do’s coming up this week, and put them in each quadrant accordingly.

3. Protect Time For Things That Will Push You Forward Towards Your Goals

To cut through the fog and stay focused on what needs to happen before the end of the week, no matter what, I have been experimenting with a “Weekly-5” and “Daily-3” approach in recent years (W5 & D3).

It is dead simple, and it helps me focus on what matters so that I can maximize my output every week. The idea is to work as much as possible in the green quadrants of the energy vs effort matrix, as described above.

Weekly “W5” to-do’s: the 5 things I need to deliver by the end of the week — no matter what.

I also call them the Big-5's.

No excuses, they need to get done before I leave for the weekend. These tasks normally belong to the “Focus Work” quadrant, and having them already booked in my calendar means I can no longer escape. They become another calendar appointment I need to respect.

Daily “D3” to-do’s: every evening, I list 3 things I need to deliver by the end of the following day.

Also known as Tiny-3's.

A D3 task may be something I need to do to progress on a W5 commitment during the week. The idea is to combine an excellent weekly view of what matters with a daily commitment to get at least 3 relevant tasks done. D3 tasks may belong to the “Easy Wins” quadrant: tasks that don’t take that much energy or time to complete, but that have a tangible impact on my progress.

Your Turn!

4. Use Your Calendar as Your Main Productivity Tool

5. Reward Yourself, Gamify The Process to Solidify Habits, And Take Time Off Deliberately to Avoid Burnout

You can be pursuing the most meaningful goals and still despise some of the tasks involved in making those goals happen. That won’t change. Planning and systems are never a substitute for hard work and sacrifices, no matter how smart those systems are.

Sometimes it can get stressful and even plain dull.

But we can put our psychological biases — like our preference for immediate rewards over longer-term commitments — to work for us, creating strategies that will keep motivational momentum high when you don’t want to do “what you need”, and you would rather do “what you want”.

Treat yourself

You may be familiar with loyalty cards and “frequent flyer” schemes. Well, why not create a “frequent doer” points plan for yourself? Think of ways to reward yourself on a daily and weekly basis if you hit your Weekly-5 and Daily-3 targets.

I know someone that allows himself to watch 1 hour of guilt-free Netflix once all is done for the day; someone else I know implemented a “Friday afternoon off” rule when reaching the weekly targets by lunchtime on Friday. A while ago, a student of mine decided that she would put N30k in a piggy bank for every week she would comply with her “inbox zero” target. Last I heard, her shoe collection was growing fast!

Having a tangible reward is a powerful source of motivational momentum, and anything works when it comes to keeping us on our toes. I would encourage you to find ways to link pleasure and duty within a manageable and motivating timeframe (weekly would be my choice).

Have fun tracking your progress

Many apps track recurring activities or habits. They work because they keep ourselves accountable as we start transforming a behavior, providing us with a scorecard that demonstrates progress and builds momentum.

According to some studies observing heart patients that were asked to make drastic lifestyle changes, the participation of some patients in support groups resulted in an ca. 8-times increase in long-term adherence to healthier habits vis a vis those patients that we not held accountable by a peer group.

Take deliberate downtime

We are not machines, and overworking will lead to inefficiency. In professional sports, resting is not only as important as training: it is part of the training program.

This applies to any other aspect in life, for a good reason: in 2012, journalist Sara Robinson went through 150 years of research on the topic to find out that once you go over the 60-hour-per-week mark, tasks that took an hour to complete start taking double the time to do.

A good way to implement this? I made a rule of blocking time in my calendar for downtime as well, and I respect these slots as I do with any of the others.

Focus on Achieving Your Daily And Weekly Targets, And Don’t Stress About Your Bigger Goals

The best habits are those that you can keep; success is not completing one perfect round but coming back to the practice every week.

If you keep up with these small practices, you will focus less on worrying about your longer-term aspiration (which can trigger “paralysis” when tackling big goals) and more on getting your immediate tasks done. And by doing that, you can trust that your daily and weekly routines will take you to your goals over time.

Don’t spend too much time thinking about the process. The fact is, we cannot be creative or productive when we regularly question ourselves and try to define the perfect workflow.

This article is my approach, after years of self-experimenting and helping others along the way. I encourage you to try the different alternatives and fine-tune your weekly process. Reject perfection upfront, focus on what brings progress to you, and stick to a system that works!



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