Being Effective Through Weekly Planning
Weekly planning is an important activity that should be a habit for every business professional. Neglecting it can cost you in the long run, and even in the short run.
I have a recurring Friday appointment with myself for doing my weekly planning. Doing it on a Friday gives me a chance to do anything I may have overlooked during the week. I've found that it helps me to have peace and quiet (closed office door), but you may like some background music.
For mobile workers: If you travel a lot, you will probably want to have your planning material with you. (You can generally keep it all on your PDA or paper planner or combo of both.) I've sometimes done a good part of my weekly planning while on an airplane flight back home, using a weekly planning checklist on my Pocket PC to guide me (can do with a Palm device, too).
Before you do any actual planning, it's important to do a good review of the week to see if you've missed anything. This review would include going through all of your inboxes, physical as well as electronic, to look at memos, notes to yourself (including yellow stickies), and anything where you've put info that you might need to do something with. If you haven't implemented David Allen's recommendation on keeping your email inbox empty (I confess to guilty on this one), you'll want to look at all the email that came in during the week to ensure you haven't forgotten to flag any you have action on.
I also like to go through my Task list to see if there are any tasks I intended to complete but didn't. I also check to see if I need to rephrase any of the tasks to ensure they are really action-oriented.
After doing the review, it's time to get into to examining every Active Project to ensure that you identify a Next Action for each one. This is also a good time to double-check that you have defined a clear Successful Outcome for each project. This should be followed by looking at each of your Someday and Maybe items to see if there are any that need to become Active Projects (or even eliminated).
For more information on managing tasks and projects, see the following pages: Managing Tasks and Managing Projects.
Those familiar with Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People already know that a key part of weekly planning is to Review Your Roles (such as Active Learner, Consultant, Financial Planner, ...) and identify the "Big Rocks" for selected ones. Invariably when I do this I think of something I should do during the following week that is not already on my Task list. Often it's something like "Have lunch with ..." or "Get away for the weekend," but it's something I feel like I need to do in a specific role. The weekly planning session is also an excellent time to review your mission and also your goals, to see if you're on target with your goals and to take action if not.
After I've done this, I review upcoming appointments to see if there are any meetings or deadlines I need to prepare for. This is also when I review my Tickler mechanisms (folders, for example).
Note that it's a good practice to show project deadlines on your calendar. The way I like to do this is with an all-day appointment.
The final steps in the process are to identify Focus Items and to consider scheduling time for the most important tasks. I generally add my "Big Rocks" to my !Focus category or schedule them for a specific day and/or time (sometimes just as an all-day appointment). You should also consider setting aside time to work on specific projects or to do specific types of work (such as @Computer tasks).
Consistent and thorough weekly planning can help put you and keep you on top of your game. Hopefully the tips provided herein will help you in your weekly planning.
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© 2007 - 2008 Bruce Keener