Last month, I published How I Structure My Day as a Consultant, giving you insight in my day-to-day flow.
Today I'd like to share another one of our core business practices: The Weekly Plan.
Table of Contents:
- Weekly Planning Process
- Anatomy of a Week
- Anatomy of a Day
- Weekly Review
- The Productivity Planner
- Weekly Plan Template
- Further Reading
Weekly Planning Process
We all struggle with productivity and ever-growing tasks lists. Even worse, we are living in a world with an increasing number of interruptions and distractions. In a world where there is always more to be done, how can we stay motivated and focused on the most important tasks?
We've developed and standardized a weekly planning process to help keep our company on track. Our process has three elements:
- Identify weekly objectives
- At the end of each workday, make a plan for the next day based on the list of weekly objectives
- Review the weekly plan on Friday and generate a new plan for the following week
Anatomy of a Week
We keep a master backlog of action items for each of our projects. When we note the need for a new task, it is added to the backlog. At the end of each week we review the backlog and select items to work on the following week. By separating the identification of tasks from their assignment, we prevent ourselves from getting distracted and help ourselves stick to the plan.
For each week, we generate a three separate lists of objectives based on priority:
- Most Important Tasks
- Secondary Tasks
- Bonus Tasks
We select five Most Important tasks for the following week. These tasks should be the focus of your week. If you ONLY accomplished these tasks, your week will be considered a success and you will know you made progress.
We select five Secondary tasks for the week. These tasks are important, but have lower priority compared to the Most Important tasks. If there is a conflict in timing, Most Important wins.
We then select 5-10 Bonus tasks. These tasks are opportunistic, but do not need to get done this week. They are typically used as filler tasks whenever there is a scheduling gap or block of free time.
We also take the time to note down any interesting notes for the week. Are there meetings, calls, due dates, or other items we need to keep in mind? Is one of our clients out of office? Anything that requires a reminder for the week is noted down.
These three task lists feed into our day-to-day planning process. Once our plan weekly plan is set, we try our best to avoid changing it.
Anatomy of a Day
Each day we create a plan with the following formula:
- 1 Most Important Task
- 1-2 Secondary Tasks
- 1-5 Bonus Tasks
We select the tasks from the Weekly Plan. The Most Important Task receives our attention first, and we do not move on to other tasks until it is completed. The Secondary Tasks are accomplished afterward the Most Important Task is completed, and we will typically intersperse bonus tasks as timing allows.
For each day, we keep a log of daily notes including:
- Clients we contacted
- Work done that was not included in the plan
- Items to discuss during the weekly review
Aside from the tasks and daily log, we keep track of a few other daily details:
We keep a checklist of "pre-work activities" which we want to perform every day before beginning starting work. These help us stay on track with our habits, such as working out, reading, and journaling.
For each task, we produce an estimate for the amount of time it will take us. We use the Pomodoro Technique for scheduling, but you can use whatever method you like. As we complete each task, we track the time it takes us and note it down. We log the total estimated time and actual time worked for each day.
At the end of each day, we note down a subjective productivity score (1-10). We use this score to correlate perceived productivity with our accomplishments, pre-work activities, and any daily notes. This score helps us identify whether we are just feeling unproductive, or whether something caused us to become less productive that day.
At the end of each workday, we generate a plan for the following day. This planning process includes selecting tasks to accomplish from the weekly plan and producing initial time estimates for each task. By starting each day with a plan, we can jump right into working on the most important task without distractions.
At the end of each week, I meet with my project manager to review our progress throughout the week. We work through the following list of actions:
- Give a high-level verbal update of work accomplished during the week
- Summarize the status of the weekly plan
- What was not finished?
- If a Most Important Task was not finished, why?
- Walkthrough of each daily plan and discuss/clarify each day
- Discuss the plan for next week
- Review task tracker
- Review meetings on the calendar
- Review exceptional activities planned for the following week (e.g. tax deadlines)
- Review list of people to contact for the following week
After the meeting, we generate the plan for the following week and the cycle continues.
Since we have this meeting every Friday, I generate my plan for the following Monday using the new weekly plan.
The Productivity Planner
The original inspiration for our weekly planning process came from the Productivity Planner, produced by Intelligent Change. We have since outgrown the planner and have integrated the process into our Evernote workflow.
If you prefer to use a paper planner, the Productivity Planner is for you. It's a high-quality, hard-back notebook which will help you stick to a weekly and daily planning process.
If you are interested in purchasing the Productivity Planner you can support Embedded Artistry by using our Amazon affiliate link. We also share our weekly plan template below.