The Weekly Planning (and Review) Routine That Puts You in the Driver's Seat - Step-by-Step Guide
We all enter a new week with refreshed optimism and high expectations for what we want to accomplish. That optimism is often short-lived as the reality soon hits, and all sorts of unexpected emails and calls add to the pile of tasks. And in a blink of an eye, it’s Friday again; you wonder how the week went by so quickly, and yet there is still so much left to be done.
You become reactive.
Things start to fall through the crack. You forget all about your goals and get stuck in all sorts of urgent tasks. Maybe you start to get frustrated and burnt out. And you frustrate others too, in the process.
The solution isn’t working overtime or on weekends (bar the odd time); The solution lies in a strategy and a system that you can implement to get focused and take back control of your week.
And one of the most effective strategies you can employ is building a weekly review and planning habit.
It provides an opportunity to reflect on the past week, realign with your goals, and plan for what is to come. Ultimately, it allows you to lead with intention. By learning from your past experiences and planning the upcoming week with your goals in mind, you will ensure that your daily work is more than just firefighting and can help you reach your goals. David Allen, author and creator of the Getting Things Done methodology puts the value of a Weekly Review in great context:
“The Weekly Review will sharpen your intuitive focus on your important projects as you deal with the flood of new input and potential distractions coming at you the rest of the week.” – David Allen, GTD.
In this section, I want to share with you the process we have developed at LynchPyn based on studying the best practices for weekly retrospectives, planning processes, and general human behavior. This is a tested, proven process that helps you do more than just reviewing a list of tasks. You can do this in your preferred medium, be it a notebook or an online platform like LynchPyn.
Everyone has different work routines. Even though we have found that doing your Weekly Review and Planning is most effective when done on Sunday or Monday before you start working, it can be equally effective when done at the end of day Friday. Choose a time that works best for you, clear a block of time and create a repeating schedule to help you build the routine.
Step 1: Grounding
The first and most crucial step is grounding yourself. This is a practice of checking in with yourself, thinking about your Future Self, your core values, and then reviewing your personal and company goals. This is your moment to step back, remind yourself why you are here, where you are going and recalibrate your lens so that you can lead the rest of the Weekly Review ritual with the right intention.
Step 2: Weekly Retrospective
The next step is looking backward. It’s essential to take the time, review the key moments that happened so that you can reflect on them were. It’s easy to forget things as they happen to us, and by being a bystander to our own lives, we lose the opportunity to grow. That’s why we need to take some time for reflection. Here are some of the key questions that you can ask yourself to reflect on the previous week:
- What happened this week?
- Where did I spend the time that wasn’t for my highest good?
- What was my biggest win?
- What was my biggest lesson learned?
- What’s my takeaway from the last three questions, and how can I leverage it moving forward?
- Who had the greatest influence on me this week? How did they influence me?
- What am I most grateful for this week?
You can answer these questions even more effectively by following a daily reflection journal with similar questions and use your daily reflections as a reference. If you use a habit tracker to track your key behaviors, this would be the time to review them and reflect on what behaviors you were most consistent or inconsistent with and why.
Step 3: Goals Review
Review your list of personal and company goals. How are you doing on each one? Identify those that are more important and need attention. Then explore them one by one, capturing what can be done this week to move the needle and progress them. You can capture these to-dos (we call them Pyns) on your productivity tool of choice, be it a piece of paper, a planner, or an online platform.
Step 4: Check your inbox and calendar
We all know that what happens in our inbox and calendar influences what we work on and how we spend our time, as described by Des Traynor’s tweet. By proactively taking charge of that, we can stay ahead of the curve and minimize surprises. Take some time to review your email inbox (or inboxes) and calendar, look for emails that require your action, and identify meetings, appointments, or events that require preparation or can affect your time. Again, capture what needs to get done this week for each item and add it to your list.
Step 5: Check your master list
You know that list or note where you dump everything you don’t want to forget? That’s your master list. Take the next little bit and review your master list and scan for anything that you need to get done this week or if you have an extra opening for something you want to do in your personal life and don’t usually get the chance to. Add the relevant items to your list.
Step 6: Review, reprioritize, and time block
You’re getting closer to the finish line. What you have created so far is a weekly to-do list aligned with your personal and company goals, taking into account what is coming your way, so nothing falls through the cracks, and allows you to be proactive.
You may have some of this information already, but go through each item again and do the following three things for each item:
- Due Date; Is there a due date for this item, or do I want to get it done by a specific date? Define the level of urgency.
- Priority; How important is it? Define the level of priority and importance for each item. I like having three levels of priority (and one ultimate priority): Normal (no priority), Low, High, and Most Important Things (LynchPyn priority)
- Time Blocking; Is it an important item (a LynchPyn priority usually) that absolutely needs to get done, and you want to make sure you allocate sufficient time to get it done? Then schedule time dedicated to the item and time block.
After adding the three attributes to each item, take the time to sort your list. I personally prefer sorting by due date and priority to look at the most urgent AND important things first (AKA what has to get done first), and LynchPyn makes it really easy to do just that.
In finalizing your weekly list, I want you to consider one simple question:
“What can stand in the way?”
Think about your past experiences when interruptions disrupted your plan for the day. What are some of the possible interruptions that may come up throughout the week that can derail your plan? Take them into account and consider taking some items off your weekly list. You can always add more items later.
By being proactive, contingent planning, and acknowledging these interruptions, we become more adept at managing them and become less affected when they occur.
Step 7: Daily Planning
The final step to conclude your weekly planning is to plan for Monday (or whatever your first day of the week is). With the work you’ve done already, this is extremely easy and will be equally as easy for the rest of the week because you’ve adequately prepared yourself for the upcoming week. Look at your weekly list once more and ask yourself the following:
“What are the three things that need to get done and will create the highest impact?”
They most likely are the first three items in your already sorted list. Move those three items over to your Today’s list. Using the rule of 3 (similar to the Ivy Lee method), you remove any distractions so you can do deep work, reduce “decision fatigue,” and force yourself to become focused on the right priorities.
You must be thinking, “I have so many more things to get done than just three things!”. Don’t worry. Once you have completed those three things, you can revisit your weekly list again and add one item at a time to your list. And if you don’t achieve all three items, simply push the remaining item(s) over to tomorrow.
You are probably already doing weekly planning in one way or another. I want to invite you to schedule a dedicated time (even 15-20 minutes) and give this template a try. Make it your own. The most important thing is to have a structured weekly routine that helps you reflect and plan in alignment with your goals.
Having a weekly routine of reflection and planning will sharpen your focus, save you time throughout the week, and helps you move the needle on your goals. And by getting in this rhythm, you give yourself the opportunity to reset, recalibrate, and start fresh each week.
Have different reflection questions that you think should be added to the list? Shoot me an email at [email protected] and tell me about your ideas. At LynchPyn, we are committed to building tools that help individuals (and companies) cut through the noise, get focused on what matters most, and deliver results.