Do you know what has been the biggest improvement for me this year? It is planning my work well in advance, and then periodically reviewing whether I achieved the results I wanted.
If you procrastinate a lot, then this guide is for you.
Have you ever sat down some day and wrote down the goals that you want to achieve in the long term? It boosts up your morale and gives you the motivation to achieve something big.
How many times did you actually achieve those goals?
When we think of achieving something big, it gives us a dopamine rush and a motivation boost. But when that motivation fades away in a few days, we tend to forget about those goals. Then we go back to our usual track, repeating this cycle after some months.
When we do not know what we are supposed to do, we try to keep ourselves busy with small tasks. Then we lament that we do not have the time for the most important things in our lives.
To achieve the goals that we dream of, it is necessary to work daily towards achieving them. To reach a destination, it is not enough to just decide what the destination is. It is even more important to lay down the tracks every day towards that destination. (Tweet this)
Weekly planning is the best way to work every day to achieve those goals. The weekly timeline is long enough to show you what you need to achieve and short enough for you to be in the present moment and not think too far away.
How to make a weekly plan?
The short answer is — sit down every week with a pen and paper (or your laptop or smartphone) and write down every single task that you want to complete during the next week. Spread them throughout the week. Then every day of the next week, work hard to complete those tasks. Repeat this every week.
Here is a more detailed step-by-step guide:
Do a brain dump
On a weekend, take your note-taking gear with you and start writing down everything that is on your mind. Everything that you want to do during the next week goes here. Buying groceries, reading “The Personal MBA”, creating non-toxic LinkedIn, everything goes here.
Then just spread those tasks throughout the week. Mark them on your physical calendar, or your todo app (like TickTick), or in your digital calendar (iCal, Google Calendar).
Even if you do not do anything else in the rest of this article, this will help you a lot if done every week.
Laying out the tasks
To achieve the max out of what you do, how you plan your weekly tasks is also important.
All of your tasks can be divided into 3 general categories.
First are the things that you need to do every day to achieve some big goals. Like learning something new in your field, or upgrading your skills. Or working on your side project. You need to give them enough time almost every day if you want to achieve them. We will call them Major Tasks. (Not Urgent and Important according to the Eisenhower matrix).
The second group of tasks includes the things that you have to do and which require both your time and brain. These may include finishing the school assignment, completing that report, filing taxes. You have to set aside time to complete them before the deadline. We will call them Have Tos. (Urgent and Important according to the Eisenhower matrix).
The third group consists of all the small, less important things that you should do but it may not be possible to delegate or delete them. These include cleaning your room, watering plants, cutting your nails. These require a quick burst to complete. We will call them Quick wins.
A good daily schedule consists of at least one focused slot where you work on one of your Major Tasks. This is to make sure that you are on track to achieve your major life goals.
A couple of time slots for your Have Tos every day keeps you on schedule to complete your important tasks. Make sure to schedule them well before the deadline so that you do not have to rush them on the last day.
The Quick wins are for when you are not in your most focused mood. Completing these tasks at that time will give you a dopamine hit. Batch such tasks together if you have a lot of time when you don’t feel productive.
Schedule 1 Major Task, 1-2 Have Tos, 2-3 (or fewer) Quick Wins and you will realize that you still have plenty of time available for other things like fun.
Plan weekly, review daily
If planning weekly helps you in laying out the tracks to the destination, then daily review makes you see if you are laying the tracks in the right direction.
Reviewing what you do every day helps you understand what blocks you. If you realize that most of your tasks were not completed, then decrease the number of tasks that you schedule for a single day.
Ask yourself –
- Did I work on things that take me closer to my goals?
- Am I taking too much on my plate?
- Can I improve in how I schedule my tasks?
- Am I working too hard to complete the scheduled tasks?
Only focus on achieving your daily targets, do not think about your long-term goals.
As with every other habit, don’t try to achieve everything in a single week. You have a lot of time to achieve your goals. Once you get in the flow of planning weekly, you will realize that you can achieve a lot more than you used to do before this.
Take it easy, schedule only the things that you can achieve easily day after day.
Schedule your rest
You do not want to get burned out doing all of this. When you schedule your week, do not forget to plan when you rest and have some fun. It is very critical as your brain and body need enough rest to help you achieve your weekly goals.
If you ever feel too tired in the middle of the week, just take a break. Do not stress over your targets like a salesperson. It is fine if you only move 1% towards your goals. 1% progress is still progress.
(BONUS) Review Your Life Plan & Goals
Each fourth or fifth weekend, review your life goals. Then align your life goals with what work you do in a week.
- What should I work on if I want to achieve my goals?
- Am I working on those things?
- What small thing can I change in my week that helps me best achieve my long-term goal?
It is normal to see your goals changing over time.
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.
If you think that you do not have enough time to do this every day and every week, think again. Because you will save hours or even days in a year if you plan your weeks out.
If you want to read more, here are two articles that I recommend:
Eat That Frog! is a small book but contains a lot of wisdom on productivity and planning.
August Bradley has an amazing series on using Notion as a Life Operating System. He has made the most impact on my work this year.
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