In this article I would like to describe to you my personal way of managing my week. It is important that you develop your own system but maybe this is a good starting point for you. I developed my system over the past years but it is a living system and sometimes I still need to adjust the way I’m doing it. If you have your own system and you’re able to manage your live 80% with it – that’s great. Don’t mind if not reaching 100% – there will always be something that impacts you planning. But I absolutely agree to the statement from the US president Dwight D. Eisenhower at a speech to the National Defense Executive Reserve Conference in Washington, D.C. (November 14, 1957): „Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.“ The more you plan yourself the better you will feel – reducing the level of being other-directed. Ok, let’s get started.
I’m using a paper based week approach but you can easily port this to a digital approach. The weekly planning has the benefit that it is easier to handle interruptions and reduces the time for replanning to a minimum. I have a big Could-Do list where I collect all topics I need to do which can’t be done within 2 minutes – small things I’m doing immediately. This list grows over the week and the items only include a fix date where absolutely necessary. I’m calling this list a Could-Do list as it is a container and separated from my weekly To-Do list.
At the beginning of a week (Monday morning) I write down all my personal roles (Eng. Mgr., Teamleader, father, husband, …). Yes, my planning also includes my private roles and tasks. Otherwise you may reach the weekend feeling sad as you have only worked for your company and done nothing for your private live. For each role I define my objectives for the next couple of weeks / months that are currently in focus for me. For this it is also helpful to have a look at your calendar items for the next weeks – maybe some of them require preliminary work. Based on my future objectives I derive weekly targets that I need to do in order to proceed in direction of my targets. Afterwards I write down all tasks that I need to do this week to fulfill my weekly objectives. You should also consider the tasks in your Could-Do list as they may already be objectives or required tasks to reach them. The resulting list of tasks is my To-Do list for the week.
For all my tasks in my To-Do list requiring an amount of more than 15 minutes of time I put time blocker in my calendar to ensure that I have reserved enough time to process my important tasks. All other tasks on my weekly To-Do list I’m doing in between of the other tasks and appointments. During the week I collect all new bigger tasks in my Could-Do list if they are not absolutely important for this week (which usually requires replanning) to prevent from forgetting them. Unless my To-Do list is completely empty I do not touch my Could-Do list. This has the benefit that you only have a small list of tasks in front of you that you are able to handle instead of a huge list containing hundreds of tasks giving you the feeling that you have done nothing at the end of the week. What feels better: Finishing 18 tasks of a 20 tasks list or of a 200 tasks list?
At this point I also want to give you a hint regarding handling your Emails. I switched off the Email notifier and I’m processing my Emails in small 30 minute sessions multiple times a day. Small topics (< 2 minutes) I process directly. Bigger topics will be added to my Could-Do list. This has the benefit that you can concentrate on your Emails and you are not interrupted while working on your tasks.
I hope that this article helps you and please feel free to comment on this and paste your personal way of managing your tasks.
Please find my template for my personal week planning here: