Whether you work 10 or 80 hours a week, it can sometimes feel like time is slipping away from us. With so much to do and so many different things begging for our attention, you can get overwhelmed just thinking about the week ahead of you.
The solution? Creating a weekly plan. Today, we’ll find out what a weekly plan is, how to create one and which tools can help you along the way.
What is a weekly work plan?
A weekly work plan is a document or a sheet outlining the work that you want to accomplish during one week. It can be as simple as a bullet-point list or as complex as a full board in your favorite project management software.
The role of a weekly work plan is to help you better plan, prioritize and structure your work for the week ahead. Creating a plan like this not only hones your time management skills but can also significantly improve your productivity.
Speaking of which…
The benefits of developing a weekly work plan
If you’ve never sat down to work out a plan for an upcoming period of time, you might be unaware of some of the advantages it presents. A weekly work plan is a great way to get a better grip on your time at work, no matter your role, seniority or the industry you work in.
1. Increased productivity
When you know exactly what you need to do and you have set deadlines ahead of you, there’s a better chance you’ll crush those goals. In any case, you’ll be more aware of what you’re working on at the moment and the workload that is ahead of you. It’s also going to become much easier to identify potential obstacles ahead of time and seek assistance from others.
2. Easier decision making
When there are two seemingly equally important things you need to do, how do you choose which one is more important? When you create a weekly plan, you know ahead of time what is more important for larger business goals.
3. Regaining your time
The average employee spends at least 3 hours in meetings every week. The more senior you get, the more meetings you have. With a weekly plan, you know your workload in advance so you can focus on the work first, not the meetings.
One side effect you’ll notice is that you’ll have a better idea of what you need to do yourself and what you can delegate to others in your team.
4. Better prioritization
Weekly plans are great for prioritization. Once you take a look at the workload to be done, you can prioritize the more important tasks while pushing aside the more mundane stuff into the next week.
5. Staying on track with your goals
Rome wasn’t built in a day and some tasks can take quite a bit to complete. A weekly plan allows you to break down large goals into smaller, more manageable chunks that you can tackle on a daily basis.
Instead of constantly pushing unfinished business into the next week, you can set attainable goals for yourself and your team.
Tools to help you make a weekly work plan
A good old-fashioned combination of pen and paper can do the job just fine. However, there is no need to waste a perfectly good tree when there are so many great apps available nowadays. Most of them are completely free too – or cost just a few dollars a month.
Option 1: A time-tracking app
There are countless benefits to tracking time and we won’t go into all of them today. However, a time-tracking app should be at the top of your list. A tool such as Timely allows you to track how much time you spend on specific tasks each week. This will not only uncover time drains that make you productive, but also let you plan your week more accurately.
Timely is a great choice because it works in the background and doesn’t interrupt your day-to-day tasks. Moreover, you can easily switch back and forth between different devices while having all your time logged in a central dashboard.
Option 2: A project management tool
Managing your tasks becomes a whole lot easier when you have a board with everything you need to do for the week ahead. Project management tools go from super simple (Trello, Asana) to more complex (Jira, ClickUp), but whichever you choose, will do the job well. If it’s your first time with a PM tool, choose something intuitive and easy to use.
Option 3: Calendar tools
What better way to plan a week than fill it out in your favorite calendar app? You’ll want to use a dedicated calendar tool for your tasks, deadlines and meetings for a super accurate weekly work plan. Some popular choices include Google Calendar and Microsoft Outlook Calendar. Be mindful of who has access to your calendar if you want better control of your own time.
Option 4: Scheduling tools
If you have a lot of meetings every week, it’s a great idea to let people know about your availability. An app such as Calendly connects to your calendar and allows you to block off time slots when you don’t want to have any meetings. At the same time, any new meetings are booked automatically, saving you time.
While these tools have their own pros, there are some cons too. Set restrictions in your favorite scheduling tool so only those people with access can schedule meetings for certain time periods. It’s not just a convenience, it’s a way to preserve your weekly schedule.
How to create a weekly work plan
Now that you know the benefits of creating a plan for the week ahead, let’s get into some practical steps that you can start with today:
Step 1: Set aside time for weekly planning
To save time, you first need to spend some time planning. And while this won’t be a 6-hour long session, it will still require your full focus and a dedicated time slot for the activity. You can plan your week any day you want, but some days are simply better than others.
On a Monday, you’ll be too busy with your upcoming tasks to devote time to planning. On a Sunday, you’re still not in work mode – and Sundays are for resting anyways. Fridays are a good choice as you’ve just wrapped up the week behind you. This brings us to our next step…
Step 2: Reflect on the week behind you
Take a look at what you accomplished the week before. Did you meet all of your goals? Are there many things you’re carrying over into a new week? What went well and what could have been done better?
Identifying past performance helps you prioritize better and determine the types of tasks that are slowing you down. By looking at the past, we can better prepare for the future.
Step 3: Set your goals for the period ahead of you
Let’s say that you have a goal to launch a new marketing campaign for the upcoming month. Without a weekly plan, you could just aimlessly tick off tasks from a list, but there is a better way.
Take this larger goal and split it up into smaller, bite-sized pieces that you can manage on a weekly level. For example:
- Week 1: Create the copy and the visuals for the campaign
- Week 2: Develop materials for a webinar presentation
- Week 3: Work on outbound communication for existing and new customers
- Week 4: Webinar dry run and actively promote the campaign on socials and in emails
While this example is by no means perfect, it illustrates a point. Instead of having one major goal, you now have four smaller ones which can be further broken down into even smaller, daily tasks.
This approach becomes invaluable, especially if you have more than one long-term project on your plate.
Step 4: Prioritize your tasks and set deadlines
Not every task is equally important. Unless you do your prioritization beforehand, you can easily spend hours every week procrastinating. You will see tasks get completed, but there will be no progress toward your larger goals.
For example, creating a daily post for your social media channel is somewhat important, but it will hardly bring you closer to improving your monthly recurring revenue by 10%.
To prioritize properly, first sit down and consider which tasks are the most important in terms of long-term impact. To help you with this activity, you can use a variety of frameworks, such as the Eisenhower matrix, MoScoW analysis method and others.
With your priorities in order, you can set deadlines for each of your tasks, small or big.
Step 5: Block off time for yourself
Things like meetings can be a major time drain for anyone so make sure to block time in your schedule for urgent tasks or unpredicted events. Otherwise, anyone can book themselves with you, especially if you use a meeting tool such as Calendly.
Also, be aware that you won’t be fully productive at all times. You’re human, after all, and you won’t be at your 100% in terms of productivity and focus every day of the week. Leave some spare room for those occasions when you’re not feeling all that well.
Step 6: Leave some room for flexibility
A weekly plan is a promise to yourself to take care of certain tasks within a given time frame. But even the best plans can go south due to factors out of our control. Be prepared that you’ll have to make some adaptations and changes to your plans as you go.
If you use a combination of the apps mentioned above, you can easily shuffle around meetings, tasks, and priorities in a visually appealing way.
Start by measuring the time you spend on certain tasks (e.g. it takes me an average of 4 hours to write a blog post) so you can accurately predict where most of your time will go in a week. For the remainder of your workload, you can be flexible.
A weekly plan may sound like one of those things where you have put in extra effort without any visible gains. However, planning your week ahead can help you become more productive, manage your workload better, and in general, have more time for the things that matter.