Do you consider yourself a planner? Or do you take a more reactive, spontaneous kind of an approach? Or perhaps you would like to be a ‘planner’ but haven’t quite got into the habit yet. Either way, today’s blog – written by Chloe, our resident planning and goal-setting expert – is all about why you should plan your week, and how to get started.

Why you should plan

If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.

When I searched for it online, this quote is attributed to various different people, including Winston Churchill and Benjamin Franklin. But, whoever first uttered these words, it has really stuck. Why? Because it’s so true! 

I am a HUGE advocate of planning. Planning your year, months, weeks, days, and your hours! I really do believe that if we don’t do that planning we’re just setting ourselves up for a fall. We all know that if we didn’t book an appointment to get our haircut for instance, it wouldn’t happen. So then, why should we expect anything to get done when we haven’t planned it?

In my experience, when the planning time isn’t happening, we resort to fire fighting. We know that we have some sort of ongoing to do list. But generally, what happens is that this list remains stubbornly long. In the meantime, all the other little things that present themselves become distractions. We do those instead and become super-reactive. Then we end up frustrated and cross with ourselves for being unproductive and not making progress.

A lack of focus

But why beat yourself up when you didn’t give yourself any chance to do these things? Not only did you not have a plan, but you left yourself open for constant decision making all day long. Big things, small things, tiny decisions from the moment we get up, from whether we snooze the alarm, to when we might do our exercise, to whether we need to reschedule a meeting or book a trip away. So. Many. Decisions. So much energy taken up and no focus whatsoever.

Why you should plan your week

So, as well as an understanding of why you should plan your week, I want to give you my top tips for strong planning habits. And an understanding of how those translate into smooth running days which then allow you to achieve and feel good about yourself and your direction.

1. Know your systems.

How do you do your planning? Are you a pen and paper fan? Or do you use online calendars or planning systems like Asana? Take the time to find out what works for you, and what you will use. This is going to make life much easier and allow you to get really familiar with how you organise yourself and your time. I like the old fashioned way and use pen and paper – my bullet journal is never far from my side!

2. Use a Master List.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of how to plan out your week, we also need to remember to consider future weeks, rather than just the coming one. Too many times I see people overwhelmed by an enormous to-do list that they keep dragging over from day to day, but never ticking things off.

To help you avoid this temptation, keep everything you want to do in any area of your life on one Master List. Then, as you do your different stages of planning, you can draw from that master list and decide when you have time to take tasks from it. The big bonus of this is that a) your head is clear of what you have to do, and b) you only write down each day what you can realistically achieve. This is such a win and breeds a sense of accomplishment rather than feeling annoyed with yourself.

3. Weekly Review

On a Friday afternoon I like to take 5-10 minutes out to review my week. I go through the week that has just happened, check I’ve not missed any tasks or if there are things that need rescheduling. Let’s face it, with all the will in the world, sometimes things just don’t happen, or they have to be moved. Then, I set up the coming week – you can see from the image how I like to lay out my days in my bullet journal. Space for all my daily appointments on the left. My task list on the right and space for notes.

4. Daily review

Following on from the Friday review, I like to do the same at the end of each day. So on Friday I will have ensured my “must do” tasks and appointments for Monday are all ship shape and ready to go. I just keep this process rolling, so at the end of Monday I review Monday and check how Tuesday is looking. This also means I don’t lose things or miss things that didn’t get done, because I’m always reviewing.

5. Time blocking

When looking at my week, or more usually the night before the next day, I like to be able to see my day laid out with all appointments and client sessions booked into their time slot. This means that any tasks I have laid out that day can then be allocated to any free spots during my day. 

6. Colour coding

I use colour coding throughout my bullet journal system – you could do this just as well on a digital system. I have different colours for things like work; family; wellbeing; general tasks. This allows me to see at a glance what balance of things are coming up in my week ahead. It also lets me see where things are missing. For instance, I can see where I’m lacking any wellbeing and alter that so that I incorporate more walks or exercise sessions, or perhaps plan to see a friend.

7. Don’t over-commit or forget the little things

When you’re planning, be careful not to give yourself too much to do, and don’t forget all the little things you’ll need to do in your day. Whether that is chores around the house, school runs, dog walks, phone calls, helping a neighbour….there are so many small things that end up using quite a bit of our daily time! This is where you have to be realistic and remember that you need time for the general life admin as well as your business tasks.

So, when it comes to the business tasks, don’t go crazy and dump your entire list on your daily to do’s (see master list point number 2). Many people think you should only include the 3 MIA’s (most important actions) on your list for that day, and then as long as you accomplish those, any extras are a bonus. I can’t say I stick to that, but that’s probably because I break things down so they’re very do-able…read on to point 8 for more on this! Think about what works best for you. If you can’t cope with overwhelm, keep it small, and then refer to your master list once you’ve finished for more tasks.

8. Keep tasks small

When you write down your tasks for the week, please make sure they are tasks and not projects! You will not get anything done if you give yourself great big chunks of work to tackle in a short space of time. You won’t know where to start. So take that project, such as building your website content, and break it down into the most do-able of tasks. See attached image of a project list and reasonable sized tasks.

I’m always learning from my weekly planning systems and tweaking to make it more effective. Whatever system you choose to use, one thing is for sure, if you’ve done your planning, your day can run so much more smoothly and be so productive!

We hope this guide has shown you why you should plan your week, and how it can be done effectively. Have a go at putting some of the ideas into practice and let us know how you get on! And if you need some more help with making progress in your business, we’d love to work with you – check out our Business Coaching page for more information.