I’ve never been a fan of Sunday nights. Sure. It signals the end of the weekend. But, for me, it’s more about worrying about all of the things I need to do in the coming week. It’s overwhelming and can almost cause a panic attack — if I don’t focus on moving forward.
The good news is there is a way to put my mind at ease. Planning my week out in advance so that I’m organized and focused enough to get things done fixes most stressors.
Whether you’ve been doing this for some time or a newbie, here are 25 tips that you should use to map out your upcoming work week.
1. Set an intention for the week.
Positive intentions can keep you centered throughout the work. They can also keep you focused and productive when life throws curveballs your way. Kick-off every week with an intention — like to be kinder, lead by example, or to live each day with purpose.
2. Do a brain dump.
Before you map out next week, conduct a brain dump or mind sweep. It’s a simple activity where you get everything out of your head and onto a piece of paper or a digital memo. The benefits of this exercise are:
- You now have a single place for all of your thoughts or ideas.
- You’re able to make connections over a period of time.
- Prevents you from forgetting ideas or things that you need to remember, like making a phone call.
- It gives you a chance to prioritize your responsibilities.
- Clears the cache of your brain.
- Reduces distractions.
- It’s been proven that writing things down improves recall.
- Makes it easier to plan out not just a weekly calendar, but a monthly calendar.
3. Prioritize your tasks.
“We all have a million things to get done every single week,” writes Sarah Sharkey previously for Calendar. “However, if we just leave it all on one big list, it can be difficult to determine what is actually important.” Instead, Sarah suggests that you “set priorities for the tasks you need to get done during the week.” When you do, you’re “more likely to actually accomplish those things.”
“Before the week gets started, prioritize your tasks.” Ideally, you could do this on Friday afternoons or during the weekend. “Make sure to get everything important done,” adds Sarah. “If you get other tasks done, then you should think of that a bonus.”
4. Last week tonight.
Even though I’m a fan of the show, this has nothing to do with John Oliver — unfortunately. Instead, you should review and reflect on past calendars to help you plan for the future. Why? Because you can see if any recurring events keep popping up. If so, then organizing your time is slightly more manageable. For example, if every Tuesday you meet with your team, then that could be set up as a repeating event in your calendar.
You may also be able to spot tasks that can be automated or outsourced. Or, you may even notice that there were chunks of time that you wasted. To make sure you don’t repeat that mistake, you can use that time more wisely.
5. Connect and visualize the big picture.
Right now, I think it’s a great time to take a step back and breathe. Now, reflect on what your life goals and dreams are. When you take a moment to remind yourself of the big picture, you’re able to focus on what truly matters. And, as a result, you’ll be able to prioritize and organize your time to achieve them.
6. Define personal success v. business success.
Success doesn’t just mean having a thriving business. It’s also living a meaningful and fulfilling life. Of course, the challenge is scheduling the time for both. But it is feasible.
According to Renzo Costarella, the first place “to identify what’s important to you in both of these categories.” If you want to have a family, then working 80 plus hours per week won’t help make that a reality. But, if the family isn’t as relevant to you, then working so many hours, to build a successful business, it would be more of a priority.
After identifying what’s most important to you, you need to set boundaries. If you want to be there with your kids, then work is left at the workplace when you leave. You could also batch similar activities together and working during your peak-performing hours.
7. Sundays aren’t just for football.
Sundays have long been used to spend time with family, attend a religious service, or sit back and watch lots of football. But, if you want to have a more productive and organized week, then you should also use Sundays to your advantage.
How you plan to do this is totally up to your discretion. But here are some ideas:
- Do household chores like laundry or cleaning your home.
- Run errands like going to the grocery store or filling your car with gas.
- Prepping all of your meals for the week.
- Writing out and organizing your to-do-lists.
- Taking care of yourself so that you can reset your body and mind.
8. Limit the number of your plans.
You’re probably getting overwhelmed with everything that you have to do this week. Again, take a deep breath and being trimming down your list. Ideally, you should focus on at least accomplishing one primary goal per day. If you cross that off your list, then move on to your next goal.
To help narrow down your options, try out a method like the 4D’s of time management. Here you would go through your obligations and determine which ones to drop, delegate, defer, and do. It’s an effective way to reduce the number of things you have next week.
9. Arm yourself with the right tools.
Despite your best intentions, the only way that you’re going to remain organized is by using the right tools. Personally, I use a combo of tools. I have a whiteboard to remind me of important to-dos, like the calls I have to make this week. I also use a notebook for a mind sweep. And, I use Google Calendar to schedule my priorities.
Another alternative would be apps like Todoist or Wunderlist. And, you really can’t go wrong with the good old weekly planner.
10. Schedule your days.
If you have your to-do-list nearby, then move these items over to your calendar. But don’t randomly place them on whatever day you like. Instead, schedule your days more strategically by:
- Creating theme days. Mondays would b reserved for administrative tasks, Tuesdays would be when you take all of your meetings.
- Organizing your days when you most productive. You can do this around specific times and days. For instance, if you’re most energetic in the morning, then scheduling tasks in the AM. As for days, research has found that Tuesdays and Wednesdays are when we’re peak energy level. It begins to ebb on Thursday, with Friday being the lowest energy level.
- Scheduling your days by priority.
- Estimating how long a specific task will take and blocking it off in your calendar.
11. Anticipate time for the unexpected.
No matter how prepared and organized you are, the unexpected is always lurking in the corner. Your child gets sick, and you have to stay home. You get a flat tire on the way to work. A meeting runs late. You get the idea.
Obviously, you can’t plan for every worst-case scenario. But, it can be a little less stressful if you set aside time throughout the week for the unexpected. One such way would be to leave an hour or two of blank space in your calendar each day. Don’t use this time to watch a movie. Instead, use this block to address any unforeseen situations.
And, if nothing happens? Use this time to meditate, reflect, or get started on your next task.
12. Schedule meetings wisely.
“Meetings can be effective and efficient, but there are times when they aren’t,” writes Choncé Maddox. “If you’re going to schedule meetings with clients, team members, and prospects, make sure you keep them specific goal orientated.”
Choncé limits the number of meetings and conference calls she takes with clients and her team because that’s time that everyone could be working. “Connecting with others and discussing important topics can be helpful,” she adds. “But if you spend hours a day in meetings instead of completing actual tasks, you’ll set yourself up for a much longer workday.”
If a meeting is necessary, Choncé suggests that you “create a realistic schedule and make sure the conversations stay on task.”
13. Color-code your calendar.
Color-coding your calendar allows you to see what’s in store for the upcoming week quickly. It can also help you visualize your goals. So, take a couple of minutes and assign the right colors to the right activities, such as red for detail orientated tasks and grey for meetings.
14. Live a clutter-free life.
Clutter is stressful and distracting. And it’s not good for your overall health. That’s why you must maintain a clutter-free life.
You can achieve this by throwing away, recycling, or donating anything that doesn’t bring you joy or no longer necessary. Start saying no to freebies and time requests that don’t serve a purpose. Simplify your goals, practice mindfulness, and stop multitasking. And, schedule time to tidy up your workspace, home, and vehicle.
15. Have an accountability buddy.
You must hold yourself accountable. But, it never hurts to have a second set of eyes to review your calendar.
Let’s say that you share your calendar or weekly plans with your spouse during the weekend. They notice that you’re planning on working late Wednesday. The problem? You already had plans, like taking your child to basketball practice or hosting friends for dinner. You can adjust your calendar before this becomes a scheduling conflict.
16. Allocate time for fulfilling routines.
Fulfilling routines keep us fresh and rejuvenated. Examples would be hobbies, spending time with family, and reading. But, with so much going on around us, they can be easy to overlook. Make sure that you block out time for these routines every day.
17. Take on your hardest tasks ASAP.
“The beginning of the day is good for focused work that requires more discipline and energy,” Laura Vanderkam told Domino. “Not for everyone, but for most people. So if you can carve out, say, 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. for a big, important project, you will probably make progress.”
For soft tasks, like email, save them during productivity lulls.
18. Try the “Da Vinci Schedule.”
Leonardo Da Vinci once said, “Just as a well-filled day brings blessed sleep, so a well-employed life brings a blessed death.” Inspired by this quote, entrepreneur Adrian Iliopoulos developed the “Da Vinci Schedule” for peak performance.
To get started, reflect on the weekend and plan your week every Sunday evening. Next, divide your week into the following categories: deep work, administrative, meetings, fitness, networking, and play. You’ve just given structure to your work and de-cluttered your personal space.
19. Organize like a chef.
In the culinary world, there’s a French term called mise-en-place. It means “put in place.” And, chefs use this concept to keep their kitchens organized and running smoothly. They do this by gathering and arranging all ingredients and tools required for cooking.
You can apply this to your life as well. Make sure that you give everything a home and put items back when not in use. If you need a specialty item to complete a task this week, make sure that you have before diving into your work. And, spend a couple of minutes each day cleaning and tidying up.
20. Nothing compares to you.
I don’t like playing the comparison game. It can make you feel lousy about yourself. There are times, though, when it can come in handy.
One such instance would be comparing your weekly calendar or plan with someone else’s, such as a colleague, mentor, or productivity expert. It’s not to make you feel small. Instead, it’s a chance to learn how they’ve successfully organized their week.
21. Introduce rewards.
Rewards are a simple and effective way to keep motivated. So, if you’ve had a successful and productive week, then treat yourself to that new movie that’s streaming on Netflix. Make plans to hang out with your friends on Saturday night. Or, plan for a weekend road trip.
22. Accept that you’re not perfect.
Definitely, don’t just go through the motions. Always strive to do your best. But, also realize that nothing will ever be perfect. Perfectionism can hold you back from succeeding in life. Sometimes good is enough.
Was there anything that you didn’t get around to this week? Don’t beat yourself over it. Just add it to your to-do-list for the following week. But, I would suggest that unless it’s important and urgent, it should come after your priorities.
24. Reflect and celebrate the past week.
I like to end my week on Friday afternoons by reflecting on what I’ve done. Whether if it’s the goals I’ve reached, something new I’ve learned, or what I’m grateful for, this gives me a chance to pat myself on the back. And, as a result, it will keep me motivated to keep on trucking.
Moreover, reflecting on the past week allows me to ask what things I wish I had done? I can then plan to focus on those items I want to do better in the next week.
25. Rinse, wash, and repeat.
Finally, review your progress to see what worked and what didn’t. Let’s say you weren’t estimating the right amount of time needed to complete a specific task. Then next week, you would either add or subtract more time. For the techniques that kept you organized, then keep using them.