How To Plan
How to plan
Planning your hours, days, weeks and months of the year is a skill. It’s about structuring everything there is to do. A plan is something you can hold on to when there’s a lot of demands, chores and tasks. It helps you memorize what needs to be done.
We all find our challenges when it comes to our weekly/monthly plans. Sometimes we forget, make double appointments, reschedule and change things.
Everything you do is a personal process. I won’t tell you what to do, I want to help you find your best practices for planning.
What is it that needs to be put in your schedule? Let’s start with all your commitments: job, appointments, going to school and/or responsibilities.
Now, let’s look at the things we find important. In the coming month, what type of activities do you want to put down in your schedule?
Below you can get a PDF work file with which you can map out your current routine and your desired routine. It shows you exactly what your weeks look like so you can see what’s going wrong. Knowing the things you don’t like about your weekly planning gives ideas for creating a new weekly schedule.
Start with visualizing your current weekly schedule. You already know the activities you do regularly. Put these activities into themes wherever necessary and choose a color that suits the themes. Differentiate between light/dark, bright/dull and beautiful/ugly colors to facilitate the visual view of your planning. For more detail, you could also use different shades of one color. However, I advise you first keep things more general, like in the example below.
Then work on your desired routine. This is where you are going to shift and correct parts of your weekly schedule, until you have found a new routine that fits your needs.
PDF work file
Keep in mind
We are not talking career changes over here. This blog is about your weekly routine and how to create a routine that fits your needs. The right schedule will be a tool in becoming more productive, motivated and energized.
Here are some guidelines to keep in mind, while working on this puzzle:
- Check out your personal energy bible to include information about your daily energy flow. When are you most productive/creative? Do you have the freedom to align your tasks with your energy flow?
- What aspects should be included in your planning, but don’t take (enough) part at the moment?
- Are there aspects you make a part of your planning, while you’d rather exclude them? Do you see a way of making that happen?
- Take a look at importance for creating ways to maintain your willpower. How can you reserve time for the things that really matter to you?
- Consider flexibility versus continuity. Do you like to keep things more flexible for you to fill in some gaps on the spot? Or would you rather have continuity with clear expectations that allows automating things?
These are all great locations to put down your schedule. What is the best place for you to be reminded of the things you have planned this coming week/month?
Consider whether you want to work digitally and what location will be easiest to consult when new commitments arise. Also, consider what type of location will be most clear for you. Google Calendar works with specific hours, while a whiteboard usually doesn’t have enough space for doing that.
Detail vs general
The preferences for working detailed or more general will play a part in choosing a location as well. As mentioned, it is possible to map out every hour of the day, but maybe just a list with tasks will work just fine for you. Here are some questions for you to consider:
- How can you make sure to remember your deadlines?
- Do you prefer a separate task list, or do you include them in your calendar?
- What time slots are you going to use; per hour, per day, time periods of several hours?
- How can you make sure to take enough breaks in between?
- What will help you to prevent the tendency for procrastinating tasks?
- Is there a color system that might help you clarify your schedule?
Prepare for setbacks
Are you a person who already schedules extra time for activities that might take longer than expected? Or do you usually find yourself lacking time because you thought things would go faster?
That’s exactly the difference between an optimistic planner and a pessimistic one. Knowing your tendencies on this matter can help you figure out what strategies for planning are going to help you. You might benefit from scheduling an extra 30 minutes even though you think you won’t need it. Or maybe you usually find yourself waiting a lot, due to having too much time, and you could schedule a backup activity.
Something to consider is the different types of setbacks that might occur in your process. Here are some examples for which it might help to schedule extra time within your process (and thus your schedule):
- Working on something you have never done before or something that takes extra practice.
- Doing the work within an environment with colleagues/friends/students that might approach you for chitchat.
- Having things in your schedule that you tend to postpone because they are difficult, annoying or boring.