Weekly Planning: What and Why
One of the most helpful tools in my time management arsenal has been the weekly review or weekly planning. That is, taking a set amount of time with a prescribed list of actions that help me think through what needs to be done according to priority during the next week. Today and Friday, I will describe this process ““ from its background to its purpose, benefits, timing, problems, and details.
I was first exposed to the idea of a structured time weekly planning after attending a Franklin Covey workshop on time management. As I look back and prior to what I do now, I did try to plan out my week each week. Out of necessity and from too many weeks of being frustrated that I was never accomplishing what was most important, I would generally try to come up with some sort of schedule. However, after going through Covey”™s approach to thinking through my various roles in life and being intentional about how I would act on those important roles in the next week, I began to become much more purposeful in my weekly planning.
In the Covey seminar, we were asked to schedule a 20 minute time each week where we would review our personal mission statement, roles in life, and long-term goals. Based on these, I would put on my schedule and task list what I would do in the next week to enhance those roles and move my goals forward.
Then came David Allen”™s Getting Things Done. Covey was good for me in thinking long-term. Allen”™s book was a gold mine for me thinking through the nuts and bolts of organizing ideas into projects and making goals much more concrete. He also suggests a time to plan out your week. His description was much more concrete for me than Covey’s ““ he provided a list of things to do during that weekly review. I began with his list and have modified it since.
Michael Hyatt is another influential voice when it comes to the weekly review. I discovered his blog while searching for time management ideas. His post on the weekly review was a good modification of David Allen”™s list and served me well in enhancing my own approach.
CJ Mahaney also influenced me. I heard him make a statement in an interview to the effect of, “every week I am going to disappoint someone by saying “˜no”™ to their request for my time ““ I need to have a good reason why.” He also suggested taking some time each week to think through roles and goals and plan the week on purpose. He also posted an excellent series of articles on pastoral productivity.
All of these influences continue to mold my approach to managing my time.
Why Plan Weekly?
Let me just bullet-point a few reasons that tend to motivate me to plan weekly:
“¢ So I can lead and not merely react. I”™m in a leadership roll ““ I need to give some direction to the issues under my oversight. When I don”™t plan ahead, I put myself in a position to merely react, and not lead.
“¢ I need to tie my week to what is most important. When I don”™t plan, I react to what is most urgent. Covey”™s time matrix is so helpful in pointing out the issues of the urgent and the important. Covey also illustrated this so well with the “Big Rocks/Little Rocks” concepts. If you plan your most important priorities, others smaller issues will find their way around them. If you simply respond to the smaller issues, you will never fit the more important but perhaps less immediately urgent issues into your schedule.
“¢ Weekly planning helps me keep up with stuff. David Allen helped clean my desk and manage my files. Papers, receipts, files, notes, are all dealt with in one way or another each week.
“¢ I clear my head. This is another helpful David Allen suggestion. I can take the notes from the week, the issues running around in my head, the papers that need to be filed and I can spend an intentional time putting these into a system that will hold them, manage them, and remind me of them when and where I need them.
Video of Covey's Big Rocks
The benefits are obviously tied to the reasons behind planning weekly ““ but here are a few more thoughts on how planning weekly helps me:
“¢ I feel much more prepared to begin the week ““ prepared to address what is most important.
“¢ I am more confident that what I am doing will have long term benefit and is not merely a short-term reaction that will have little lasting value.
“¢ I have more confidence in what I say “˜no”™ to. I”™m not good at saying “˜no.”™ I”™m too much of a people pleaser ““ and I love to help in areas people desire my involvement. But saying “˜yes”™ to everything usually means that some of the more important areas of life and ministry get squeezed out.
“¢ Planning minimizes the affects of the spontaneous. Life happens, and it doesn”™t always work according to my plan. No problem. The reality is that a lack of planning guarantees that I will live by the urgent. It is fascinating to see how the issues of urgency tend to diminish the more proactive I am in planning. Also, if I have been regularly living in a way that is more purposeful, when the inevitable spontaneous issues pop up, their affects in pulling me away to the necessary distractions are not as great. The more you live intentionally the less the urgent becomes a distraction ““ the more I can confidently handle the spontaneous.
“¢ I find myself accomplishing the right things ““ not just doing good things.
On Friday, I”™ll post on when I do my weekly planning, how long it takes, issues to beware of, and a list of what I do each week.