“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” ~ Steve Jobs

This is a very practical posting in which I will show you my personal weekly planning process. I hope you can use and adapt it for your own productivity and success. It is basically my own mixture of systems from Anthony Robbins, Stephen Covey and David Allen with a little bit of today’s technology powered by Steve Jobs ;)

“Wait a minute,” you may think, “what does this quote from Steve Jobs have to do with weekly planning?”

Your weekly plan is your ticket to a self-directed and self-created life. That means a life that is mainly leaded by you and not by anyone else. It will focus your actions towards what you want. A weekly plan is right between your own goals and the actual things you do every day. This is exactly the reason to do weekly planning. One could say it is where the rubber hits the road.

Self-Leadership: Know your life-areas and goals

So, some things are necessary to be really effective with your weekly plan. My weekly planning is build around my life-areas. In the post “How to Create Balance in All Areas of Your Life ” I already wrote about life-areas. Life-areas are areas of constant and never-ending improvement, we want to keep them at a high level and even improve them constantly here. This naming of life-areas of importance enables us to set a clear focus and to use the mind as a tool to create life-balance.

For instance my life-areas are:

Private: body, mind, spirit, social, finance, juice
Professional: b2b, sales, e-commerce, marketing, technical, product, finance

Please check my post about balance and life-areas for more on this.

Another really important thing is to have set personal goals. In “The Fastest Way to Set Motivating Goals” I wrote about a simple and fast procedure to get your goals out.

The two steps are important, because we can be as good as possible executing our goals, but if the goals are fuzzy or not really what we want it can’t bring a good result for us. If you don’t have goals or know your life-areas, your areas where you want to improve and focus on, then you still can use the weekly planning process. But it might not be as effective in the results. Your life-areas and goals make sure that you really tap into your deepest resources and create the motivation you can have.

I call this Self-Leadership , because with it you are able to lead yourself to what you want. It makes a difference between action and reaction. The more you work towards your goals in your life-areas the more proactive you are. This is a source of freedom and happiness. It is not all, but a huge part of it :)

1. Brainstorm your weekly tasks

I would suggest to do the weekly planning on Sunday. The first thing you do is brainstorm all tasks into a list you want to do in the next week and put them into the right area. The template would be

[area] task-description

This could look like the following list:

Professional:

  • [sales] post a new job-description on my website
  • [e-commerce] start a banner campaign for my online-shop
  • [marketing] write a press-release for the new website-launch
  • [marketing] improve the powerpoint presentation and send a PDF of it to the pr-manager
  • [product] review and finish the project-plan of the Newsletter-project
  • [technical] produce actionable tasks from the project-plan and put them into the project-tool
  • [technical] meet with Peter to discuss the timeline of new shop-project
  • [sales] We 10 a.m. meet the new sales-candidate

Private:

  • [body] go swimming Mo, We, Fr at 6-7 p.m.
  • [mind] finish the last 20 pages of “Personal Development for Smart People” and …
  • [mind] … write a short review of the book into my journal
  • [social] make a date and meet with Andreas this week
  • [social] make a date with Susan on Saturday for dinner
  • [spirit] start next meditation session
  • [juice] book flight for the travel to California for March

Usually this whole process takes about 10-15 minutes, depending on how much you are already used to it. It is nothing to create something completely new, this would go to the goal-setting process. Here we have action-items that make progress during the week.

2. Set priorities

The next step is to decide what is most important this week. This means to set priorities to your tasks. I use the following system and found it to be very effective:

Priority A : Must get done
Priority B : Should get done
Priority C : Nice to have

All priority A tasks must get done within the week, there is no exception. This means that you start with priority A tasks and finish them, before you do priority B or even C tasks. If the task is scheduled for a certain time, then this time is blocked out and cannot be removed for any other lower priority tasks. This ensures that you always get done the most important things for you, which ensures real progress towards your goals.

Usually you have more A, B and C-priorities, so you sub-prioritize with A1, A2 … and so on. Then you order your tasks accordingly to their priorities.

So my whole professional weekly plan may look like this after prioritizing:

Professional:

  • A1 [e-commerce] start a banner campaign for my online-shop
  • A2 [sales] We 10 a.m. meet the new sales-candidate
  • A3 [sales] post a new job-description on my website
  • A4 [marketing] write a press-release for the new website-launch
  • B1 [marketing] improve the powerpoint presentation and send a PDF of it to the pr-manager
  • B2 [technical] meet with Peter to discuss the timeline of new shop-project
  • C1 [product] review and finish the project-plan of the Newsletter-project
  • C2 [technical] produce actionable tasks from the project-plan and put them into the project-tool

3. Put your tasks into your calendar

The next thing is to put the tasks into your calendar and lock them in to be done. Your calendar can be your number 1 tool to organize around. I personally love to use iCal on Apple as well as an iPhone to synchronize the tasks onto a mobile device. A mobile device makes sure that you have your schedule ready whenever you need it (you can always turn it off, if you want to ;)). You can use any calendar as Microsoft Outlook, Firefox Sunbird or Google Calendar.

On Sunday or Monday morning you insert your tasks into your calendar and if necessary set reminders, so the tool will inform you about the task. This way you have a system you can trust and you can get all the tasks out of your head. This is very important since you want to have all of your resources available to concentrate them on the one task you are doing.

Of course it is very important to leave space (time) in your calendar, since there are usually not only the tasks you select to do but all kind of tasks that can get to you. Maybe there are new tasks from your boss, from colleagues or an emergency. The important thing is though, to get your A-priorities done. So leave time open in your calendar. I keep 50% free every day, so I can react to what is happening. This also touches time-management with the important and urgent tasks, refer to my post on the 7 habits: 3. First Things First for more infos.

So the calendar would look like this (Google Calendar in this case):

You should use different colors for your different life-areas in iCal. So for instance in my weekly plan all professional tasks are blue, body is red and mind is green etc.

4. Execute

Start executing your A1 priority task on Monday and work along your calendar schedule. I simply have my calendar open and start with the first task now. Until it is complete I try to focus only on this task. If you get interrupted and can’t prevent it (you don’t have to take every phone-call or allow colleagues to interrupt with trivial questions), focus on that new task and then return to your current task asap.

If you have to reschedule then do it and make sure that you keep your A-priorities to the front. As I said the most important thing is to get all A’s done within the week. Then advance to the B’s and then to the C’s.

The result of this weekly planning and executing around your personal life-priorities is simply that you will make significant progress in YOUR chosen direction. You will make good progress in the week and huge progress over one year that way.

I wish you good luck! :)

Do you have feedback or questions? What are your systems and ideas that work for you? Please write and discuss them in the comments.