Weekly Planning: When and How
The previous post looked at the background, reasons, and benefits of having a weekly planning or review in order to focus on priorities in life. In this final post, I want to look at when you should do the review, what I do, and some things to watch out for.
Some of the principles that should govern when you do your weekly review are:
“¢ Toward the end of your work week so you can look back on what was effective, how the next week will be affected by the previous week, what needs to be adjusted, and what needs to be followed up.
“¢ Close to the beginning of your new work week. More than likely, your brain needs a break from the activity of the week. But before you begin a new one, your mind needs to gain an overall perspective of what”™s ahead. Pick an in-between time ““ where you”™ve had the opportunity to get away from the previous week and when you can mentally set the agenda for the next.
For me this is Saturday morning. Friday is my day off and I typically block the day for family activities and rest. I don”™t want to think and plan on that day ““ I want to decompress and enjoy my family. So planning on Friday would simply be exhausting and frustrating. Sunday is filled with ministry opportunities. The morning is focused on preparing to preach and teach, the afternoon generally consists of lunch with church members and preparation for our evening gathering. I also often meet with a group of men to discuss Sunday”™s sermon(s) at the end of the day, so Sunday is no day to plan. Further, I need my next week set before I go to church on Sunday. Inevitably, I will have conversations with people who I will want to get together in the next week. I need to make sure my priorities have been planned before I say “yes” to these requests.
Saturday morning is perfect. Generally, I can get up at a decent time (not as early as the rest of the week, and not as late as Friday). After a time of prayer and reading, my mind is ready to engage in thinking of the next week. Typically, my only other significant agenda item on Saturday is writing my sermon for Sunday. Clearing my mind of all the things that need to be done in the week ahead, gives me a clarity and freedom to focus on preparing my sermon. So, each Saturday, typically from about 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., I do my weekly review and planning.
As I just mentioned, my time generally takes around an hour. Sometimes it is more and sometimes it is less. Any time I miss a weekly review (rare), the next review takes longer. More stuff has accumulated that needs to be done, more notes need to be re-digested and followed up on ““ so I will spend and hour and a half to two hours. On the whole, one hour is sufficient if I am consistent in my weekly review.
What do I do?
1. Collect everything and act on it 2 min or less. This is a David Allen fundamental principle. You really need to get his book to understand this. Essentially, papers, notes, books ““ stuff that does not require immediate attention, but will if I neglect it, gets thrown into my bottom right desk drawer at home. That drawer is my “in-box.” I don”™t like an in-box on top of my desk ““ its”™ too distracting and will draw me away from what I need to work on. So I put it in the drawer. My first step is to empty that drawer onto the top of my desk. I also look around my office, in the flaps of my Bible, through my wallet, etc., for any receipts, papers, books, cups, trash, etc. From the top to the bottom, I begin working through the pile. I use the FAT method. I may File it ““ Act on it (which may mean do it or schedule it) or Trash it. If I can act on the issue in front of me in 2 minutes or less, I do it right them. Otherwise I either file it away in long term files, or in my tickler system (that”™s probably another post ““ or read Allen”™s book).
2. Process notes from the week. I use a Moleskine notebook to keep notes in throughout the week. I can write more quickly than I can type on an iPad or iPhone and in some meetings, jotting down quick notes is easier than bringing using something electronic. So I flip through the notes from the week and act on the issues in there. They may be appointments to set, tasks to put in my management system, contact information to put in my address book, etc. I also use Evernote for electronic note-taking. It is at this time, I pull it up and review the notes from the week and plan any tasks or update information.
3. Review previous calendar, note adjustments, or what needs to be followed up this week. I regret it when I don”™t do this. Usually there is a meeting that I need to follow up on or perhaps an appointment that reminded me that I should send a thank you note. I can also look at how I planned my week and think through how it really ended up. This will help me adjust for the next week.
4. Review/Set Upcoming calendar. I have a general plan for a typical work flow for my week (again, this would be another post). I know which day I will give to study, meetings, day off, when I will exercise, etc. This governs the general plan I have for each week. I follow David Allen“™s advice here and only put things on the calendar that are hard and fast appointments. My administrative assistant knows that where there are blank spots, she has freedom to set appointments. This means that I need to block of time for family, study and a few blocks for concentrated task time.
5. Review Action lists/Weekly/Monthly/Quarterly lists. I have a series of tasks that I want/need to do each week ““ planning time with the kids on my day off, reviewing my calendar with Kelly, copying and sending my sermon for certain folks at church, etc. I have certain tasks I want to make sure I have covered each month and each quarter. I review these lists to see that they have been accomplished and if not, what need to be put on the list to do this next week.
6. Review Someday/Maybe and Waiting For Lists. David Allen suggests that you get everything out of your head ““ especially those projects that you can”™t do now, but might do in the future. So, I keep a list of ideas and projects that will need some time and attention in the future. I review these each week and determine if they now need some action. This may also include tasks that have been delegated to others to follow up on.
7. Review roles & projects and set next actions. Here is where Franklin Covey“™s influence comes in. I have identified the primary roles I providentially play: Christian, husband, father, family member, neighbor, Friend, teacher, overseer, Shepherd. I have thought through the Scripture”™s explicit statements regarding these roles and have written out some steps and long-term goals associated with each. These are my big rocks. Reviewing these roles helps me to consider what needs to be done this week to move them forward and give attention to them. They are my priorities. I also review particular projects (these are more than likely associated with my roles) and assign tasks and appointments that are the very next actions necessary to complete these projects. In addition to an electronic list of these projects, I have a physical manila folder for each of them. In that folder are papers, notes, brainstorms, and plans for these projects.
8. Clean Computers/Sync Phones/Task Manager. By this time, everything is put away and my head is empty of upcoming plans and tasks (its all in my computer, in a file, on my calendar, etc.). I then clean off my computer screens, sync my iPhone and iPad, and sync my task management systems with all of electronic devices.
By the end of this process, I”™m prepared for another week.
Here are a few thoughts to make sure you give some thought to for a weekly planning time to be most effective:
“¢ Put your weekly planning time down on your calendar. It is a high priority appointment. If you don”™t schedule it, you will likely ignore it.
“¢ Communicate with others when you will plan. It helps them with their expectations of you and your schedule. Your family needs to know when this typically happens ““ you”™ll be surprised at the effect it has.
“¢ Approach your planning methodically. That”™s why I have a list ““ so I don”™t miss something. I need the weekly reminder.
“¢ Don”™t rush it. In a pinch I will minimally set my calendar for the next week and jot down tasks. That”™s better than nothing ““ but not most helpful. Having a methodical, unhurried time to think and plan, even if only for one hour a week, helps to genuinely clear your head and put things into a system that will readily remind you of what you need to do.
“¢ Trust God”™s sovereignty. I”™m mindful that my best laid plans are regularly rearranged by God”™s providence. No problem. I find it generally helpful to have a plan ““ when the changes come, I find that previous regularity has minimized the negative impact these abnormal changes bring.
Those are my present thoughts on how I work my weekly planning ““ and they are regularly changing and being enhanced. What are yours?