Every Sunday afternoon, I figure out in advance everything that I need to do for the week ahead and create a time blocked plan to work from. Instead of trying to be generally productive or working off a random task list, I thoughtfully organize my work according to what must be done this week, divide my open hours into blocks, and assign specific work to the blocks. This kind of planning takes some time up front (usually sixty to ninety minutes for me), but it returns much greater productivity for the week that follows.
To give you a better idea of what this looks like, I’ll walk you through how I created a recent time blocked weekly plan.
Everything that you need to do in the coming week, including all of the random thoughts and ideas floating around in your head, must be written down and captured. Go through your email (print, if needed to pull out actions), coaching notes, google docs, etc. Also look back at your past week….what needs to be carried over to the coming week? Look ahead…what is coming up that you need to get started on this week? What coaching communication needs to be sent out or completed such as confirming coaching debriefs and updating coaching logs. The more thoroughly you CAPTURE all of these items, the fewer open loops you will have and in turn the less stress you will feel.
Once you’ve thoroughly captured all of your to-dos, you can then start to organize. Sort everything into like groups, and for each task add an estimate for how long you think that task (or group of tasks) will take. This will give you a realistic picture of whether or not everything will “fit” into your coming week. And remember, you’re only focusing on what MUST get done this week. Everything else will need to wait.
Cal Newport (love him!) talks about the importance of controlling your time through daily and weekly plans. I use Google Calendar for all of my time specific meetings and appointments, but for my weekly time blocked plan, I ALWAYS write it out in my Time & ToDo Planner. Pen to paper in this step REALLY helps me visualize all the different parts and pieces of my week.
Once you’ve organized all of your to-dos for the week and assigned time estimates, you can begin to block out chunks of time throughout the week to complete your tasks. Below, I’ll give a further explanation of my common time blocks.
Here’s an overview of my different time blocks for this week:
I begin my weekly plan by time blocking anything on my Google Calendar. I use a green pen and a thicker line to indicate these blocks. With these times blocked off, I can now see what open hours I have to work with for the rest of my plan.
I group all of my email and smaller administrative tasks into a daily morning block, so I can “batch task” these items. I will also block out two additional email blocks each day, so that I’m not working from my inbox all day. This isn’t easy, but I’m getting better.
For projects and deep work, I think about my coachees, grade level planning, PD, or anything else currently on my plate. Right now that includes:
- 5 coachees
- 5th grade
- Friday PD
- CMAS prep
I’ll then figure out what needs to be done for each of the project categories and I’ll block off time accordingly in my weekly plan.
Don’t forget to schedule a lunch break for yourself! My lunch isn’t always at the same time every day, and depending on meetings/coaching, I might not get a lunch break, if I don’t plan it. I like taking 30 minutes to eat some lunch and take a quick walk outside, so I’ll time block it!
The Daily Shutdown Ritual is another tip I picked up from Cal Newport. This is an important piece of his time blocking strategy, and I’ve been working on incorporating it into my own. The idea is that once your daily shutdown is “complete” you can move into the rest of your afternoon or evening free of any worries or stress about what you didn’t get done or what you need to do tomorrow.
I also like to time block and plan personal things like exercise and dinner. Additionally, I’ve been working on reading more, so that is something reflected in this weekly plan.
With a time blocked weekly plan, you’ll head into your week feeling confident and in control.
Yes, unexpected things will come up and you’ll need to stay flexible. But the important thing is that you have a plan, and with a plan you’ll be able to make more informed decisions as to what you’re saying yes or no to. Revisions can then be made fairly stress free.
Thanks for reading, and I will talk to you soon!