How To Create Your Weekly Planner (Step 2/3)
A weekly planner will help you protect your time for important tasks and separate it out from the time for urgent tasks, meetings, emails and so on. Learn how you can use it as a blueprint for a typical week.
1Plan your week by starting with the template shown here or use your own diary.
2Enter repeating appointments, weekly meetings, breaks, and so on.
3Add “most important task for the day” as the first task of the day or at the earliest possible time. Allow at least 1.5-2 hours.
4Group small tasks, like checking emails or working urgent issues, in two or three distinct time blocks a day. Give yourself less time than you think you need. It will pace you!
5Group to-dos in one time block. In this time work on important non-urgent tasks. Plan at the end of the day which to-dos you will tackle the next day. This should take 50-60% of your time.
6Give yourself some contingency towards the end of the day. Leave enough white space towards the end of the week. It will get filled with things that come up during the week.
7 Add “plan tomorrow” to the end of the day. Ten minutes should suffice.
8Group similar tasks. For instance, Monday mornings that are all targeted to planning the week for yourself and your team.
9On your weekly schedules, allocate some time for non-daily tasks, such as twice-weekly one-hour slots for self-development goals; other long-term initiatives; or once-weekly reading news/industry feeds.
10Plan theme days such as an improvement initiative day as shown here on a Wednesday. But leave some time for other activities, even on theme days.
￼~~~ A simpler approach for daily schedules ~~~
If you prefer simpler plans, here is one. You can quickly jot it down on a piece of paper when planning your day.
This is what I used when I was studying. 55 minutes study, five minutes coffee break. The key to success was that I wrote down how many pages in my study book I managed to work through in each 55 minutes interval. After 2-3 days I found out my typical rate was around 17 pages.
It ties into the measurement step. Whenever I had a bad 55-minute block, when I just worked through ten pages, I asked why. If I found that those pages were for some reason more difficult, the slower rate was acceptable, otherwise I was highly motivated to be more focussed during the next block. It is a simple example for planning, measuring, improving within the “The Planning Cycle” shown in the next section.
~~~ Even simpler ~~~
Divide your day into two or three 3.5 hour blocks for more manageable daily schedules. This could be good enough if you have a schedule with a lot of free space to plan your day.
These simple plans can be supported by timer apps.
The key to success will be to stick to the allocated times. The more flexible a plan is, the bigger the risk of not adhering to it. You may want to start with a rigid plan for your day and in a few weeks time move to a more flexible plan.
~~~ Flexible plans ~~~
In order to be flexible it is important to have priorities clarified in advance and plan some contingency.
Should something come up that needs to be urgently done, you need to quickly assess which task is more important, the one you had planned to do or the new task. If you have some contingency, this decision will be easy. You will just put the less important task into the contingent time. It will be even easier if you have made a decision upfront what your priorities are.
Flexibility requires upfront thinking: Priorities clarified in advance and fallback plans. Knowing what’s more important, and having some contingency allows you to very quickly re-plan.
There are many calendar apps and they all can help you setting up a weekly schedule. Here are the probably three most common. I reckon it is less important which one you use. It is more important that you use (any) one.
Outlook - Most people use Outlook as part of the office suite. It also has its web platform with sync functionality.
iCal - The calendar on Mac, can be fully synced with your mobile calendar.
Google Calendar - Google’s calendar with several sync options is also a great fully web based alternative.
~~~ Weekly schedule template ~~~
Regardless, which alternative you go for, I believe you will get benefits of having high-level weekly schedules. The more practice you have, the easier it becomes to plan your week. The next step is to plan the individual days using a to-do list.
Learn more about fundamental time management skills
Check out our main article on time management or one of the specialised articles in this mini series.
If you want to know more about prioritisation and are interested in a very different approach, check out our key article: a step-by-step guide on Prioritisation (click this link).
By Murat Uenlue, PhD, PMP, 2013.