How To Do A Weekly Planning Session.
When I first read David Allen’s Getting Things Done I, like many people, scoffed at the idea of giving up an hour or so at the end of the week to do a weekly review. I felt that once I had got everything into my new GTD system everything would take care of itself.
The thing is, it does not ‘take care of itself’ and without a weekly review things will slip through the cracks and to protect ourselves (and self-esteem) we blame the GTD system, not the fact that we are not doing a fundamental part of the whole GTD system.
Over the years since, my weekly review has evolved. Because I process my inboxes frequently — usually every 24 hours — and I do a quick inbox scan at the end of the day in case there are any fires building up, I do not need to “get clear”. And now, with the Time Sector System, the only work that matters is the work I want to / need to do next week.
So, how do you do a weekly planning session?
Well, you probably have heard of the experiment with the glass jar and the rocks, gravel and sand. The experiment demonstrates how to fill a jar with the rocks, gravel and sand. The experiment shows when you start with the big rocks you can fit everything into the glass jar. If you begin with the sand and gravel there will be no room to get the big rocks into the glass jar.
Well, the analogy is if you plan your week (or life) with your big, most important life goals and tasks and then add the less important tasks you ensure you get your most important work and goals done first.
So, when you plan your week, you begin with your big rocks. The most important tasks you have to complete. This could be a project that needs doing or a goal you want to focus on. Get the time you require to do this work blocked out on your calendar.
To do this, you go through your active projects first. Which projects need moving forward next week and what needs to be done to move it forward?
In my case, right at the top of my projects list today is my Create Your Own Apple Productivity System course update. This course must be completed this week. That is the big rock and I need around six hours to complete the project.
Knowing this, the first thing I do when I do my weekly planning is to block three hours on Tuesday and three hours on Wednesday to finish the recording and editing. I have also blocked two hours on Thursday for writing up the text and preparing the course images. Finishing this course is my focus for this week.
After that, I go through my tasks in my “Next Week” folder, check they are still relevant and move them to my “This Week” folder and give them a date based on what my calendar tells me about what my commitments are next week — my appointments, coaching calls and doing my YouTube videos, blog post and podcast.
And that’s it.
In a typical week (this week is not a typical week) I may have two or three big rocks — my objectives for the week — this is where my focus will be for the week.
Fill no more than 50% of your time
Now the secret to building a manageable week is to plan out no more than 50% of your time for the week. You need to build in flexibility because each day you will be picking up new tasks and commitments. There will be new appointments and new problems to solve. You need flexibility to deal with those.
So, before I finish a weekly planning session, I make sure I have plenty of blank space on my calendar to deal with these emergencies. I also try to keep Thursday / Friday afternoon as free as possible to catch up with anything I did not manage to get done in the early part of the week.
Of course this will vary week to week depending on what projects you are working on whether you are in a busy or quiet period. But where possible try to keep as much blank space in your calendar for the unexpected and unknowns.
The weekly planning checklist
So, here is how I would recommend you do the weekly planning session:
- Go through your active projects and goals and ask: what needs to happen next? Block the time required to do that work on your calendar. (Your big rocks)
- Review your appointments for next week and make sure they are still happening
- Review your “Next Week” tasks to make sure they still need to be done next week and if they do, move them to your This Week folder and add a date.
- Do a final review of your calendar to make sure you have enough space for the unknowns.
And that’s it. You are done. In total this should not take more than thirty minutes.
The thing about doing a weekly planning session is you have a focus and a direction for the week. You know what you want to accomplish for next week and you know you have time to complete the things that you must complete.
For me, when Monday morning comes around, I know exactly what I want to get done for the week. I know I have my exercise scheduled for the week and I know I have enough time available to manage all the unknowns and emergencies that will inevitably come up through the week.
I hope this helps you understand the importance of the weekly planning session. Starting the week knowing exactly what you want to get accomplished gives you a focus and a purpose for the week. And there is something special about getting to the end of the week having completed everything you set out to achieve.
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