All too often we find ourselves at the end of the week exhausted from the constant stream of busyness, while at the same time feeling that we didn’t accomplish all that much—at least when it comes to the most important things.
Without a plan or intentional strategy to tackle the week, we easily fall prey to the many external entities vying for our attention. A reactionary mode leaves little time for big-picture thinking, creativity, or dedication to life’s true priorities.
A simple habit that helps alleviate this problem is planning your week on Friday. This process not only allows you to set yourself up for a great week ahead, but also frees your mind to enjoy the weekend unburdened by the tyranny of open loops.
If you’d like to give it a try, here are a few suggestions.
Schedule the Time
To ensure that you actually take the time to plan the week ahead, you need to schedule it. Otherwise, you’ll likely arrive at the end of the day on Friday wondering where the time went and wanting nothing more than to just start the weekend.
Block off uninterrupted time on Friday to make your weekly plan. I find Friday morning to be a good time for clear thinking and high energy.
Dump Your Brain
On Friday, as you get down to planning, the first thing you’ll want to do is perform what’s known as a “brain dump.” Taking pen to paper (or digitally, if you prefer), write down all the to-dos on your mind. You may be surprised by how many ideas, big and small, pop into your mind. Whether they be personal or professional, mundane or profound, get them out of your mind and onto your list.
Assess the Past
Consider the week that’s concluding and recognize the accomplishments and great moments you experienced as well as the challenges and unmet goals you’d like to make progress on. If more action items come to mind, add them to your list.
Categorize Your List
Looking at your brain dump may feel overwhelming. Begin to make sense of it all by organizing your action items into categories.
For example, you may find some of your action items relate to your personal finances. Perhaps you’ve written, “Pay bills,” “Call broker,” and “File taxes.” Move each of these to the larger category, “Manage personal finances,” or whatever makes sense to you.
In the end, you’ll probably find you have between 5 and 15 categories—a much less overwhelming proposition.
Identify Your Top Priorities
Looking at your categorized list, identify the top three priorities for the week ahead—those things that if completed would make the week feel like a success. Star or highlight them so you can find them easily during the week.
Schedule Your Categories
Commit time in the coming week’s schedule to handle each of your categories. If you find you don’t have enough available time, move those items to the next week, or delegate them if possible.
Clear the Decks
Before concluding, ensure any inboxes you manage—email, direct messages, physical inboxes, voicemail—are cleared out and processed, incorporating onto your list any new action items that come up.
Sit back with a smile and a mind at ease knowing that you’re on top of what matters and you can enjoy your weekend feeling confident and free.