Reclaim your Time and Plan your Week

by Niamh Brady, Productivity Coach

What would you do if you had a half-day off from work? A recent study of over 3 million people found that we are working, on average, 1 hour longer each day. This means many of us are spending 5 hours, or over half a work-day, every week working when we didn’t plan to. There are many reasons why the workday can spill over into evening or weekends but one of the most effective ways in addressing the problem is properly planning your week. A weekly plan will help reclaim that extra time so it can be spent doing something that’s valuable to you.

Weekly Planning means identifying what needs to be done for the week ahead and deciding, in advance when it will be done. It allows you to see if what you want to achieve in the week is realistic, if you have some free time or if you need to reduce the list of things to be done.

There are four steps to the weekly planning  process and it can be completed in as little as 30 minutes.

How to Create a Weekly Plan

  1. Make a list of the things to be done

  2. Create an outline of the week

  3. Block out unavailable time

  4. Use the list to fill in the rest of the week

Make a list of the things to be done

If you are planning for the work week then it is important to include everything that needs to be done. A common mistake people make is forgetting to include email or some other small tasks which would not take a full hour. These need to be included if you want to avoid having to “find time” for them later. If you are planning for your entire week the same rule applies. As you make your list, note which tasks are a “must-do” compared to a “would-like-to-do”, as well as how long you expect them to take. This will make it easier to identify where you have options when you get to step 4.

Create an outline of the week

This simply means having a sheet, either online or paper, with the days of the week across the top and the hours of the day down the side. You can download a template and make a copy each time you want to use it. Some people prefer to plan in 1 hour, 30 minute or even 15 minute intervals. The most important thing is to choose time intervals that make sense for you and your week.

Block out unavailable time

Before you begin filling the week, it’s very important that you block out unavailable time. This includes things like lunchtimes, and non-negotiable meetings or other commitments. Doing this step first allows you to see how much time you really have for the week. You can then fill the available time with the tasks that need to be done.

Use the list to fill in the rest of the week

Map each of the items on your list to the week. Where you place items will depend on how long they will take, what else is happening that day and when you would like to have them completed by. If you are planning for the entire week then check to see if you have allowed enough time for fun and relaxation. A good rule of thumb is to leave at least 30 minutes each day of “buffer” time for the unexpected things that will inevitably happen.

Top Tips for Weekly Planning

By now you will have created a schedule. If you want to make the most out of weekly planning then you can also follow these tips.

  • Respond: The purpose of the weekly plan is to act as a guide for the week; it is a tool to support you, not constrain or burden in you. With that in mind, be sure to respond to the events of the day and week as they occur in a way that makes most sense for both you and the situation. Take note of where and when the plan changed course and carry on.

  • Repeat: When completing a weekly plan for the first time, make sure to add in a slot to repeat this activity. Choose the same day each week to build this into your routine.

  • Reflect: At the end of each week, take 15 minutes to reflect on the plan. What went as expected? What new things came up? What took longer than planned? Take the lessons you learned and apply them to the next plan.

To quote Yogi Berra, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” Follow the four steps outlined above to take back control of your time and spend more of it on the activities which are important to you.