How to use the monthly planner:
How to use the weekly planner:
I got the inspiration for planning my weeks this way in the most random of places: meal planning. I’ve fallen off the wagon a bit, but I used to be super on it when it came to planning my meals and groceries. (I know, I’m a regular party animal. Please, try to restrain your horror at my wild ways.)
Most of the meal planners I’d found (as in, the printable worksheets) didn’t take into account pre-making or pre-assembling food, they just have a spot for ingredients and a list of the days of the week. Which is all good and well, but not super helpful. I wanted a much more in depth planner, with spots for staple ingredients, leftovers, and more.
That’s when I realized that there were some striking similarities with how people plan their work. Most planners are very similar to the blank-sheet meal planners I referenced – they give you a way to write down what you’re doing each day, but no structure for coming up with the “ingredients” for every day, or actually putting those into the week in the way that makes the most sense. I wondered, “What if a concept like what I want out of a meal planner, was applied to a weekly work planner?”
Hence, the way these planners are set up. They’re designed to not just give you the ingredients that you need for the week, but show you how you can best put them together to help you be the most productive in the most meaningful ways. After all, you’re not just doing things for the sake of doing them – you have places to go!
Definitions of terms used on the planners:
Appointments: Fairly self explanatory, I think! 😉
Tasks that relate to bigger goals: Also fairly self explanatory. Every week, you want to be moving towards a bigger vision and making progress on the goals/projects that come along with that big picture view. All too often, we come up with a “to do list” without having any perspective as to what the list is actually helping us accomplish – this part of the toolkit is designed to make sure you don’t find that happening. (The bigger goals that the tasks relate to can be drawn from yearly goals, or from the three monthly goals you’ve written down.)
One-off tasks: These are tasks that don’t relate to a bigger goal but are still necessary. An example of a one-off task could be creating buttons for your sidebar that link to your most popular posts or your shop page. One-off tasks and tiny tasks are often the same, but not always.
Tiny tasks: This is how I refer to those tasks that don’t relate to a bigger project, don’t require a lot of creative firepower, and they aren’t exactly fun to do. They’re the kind of thing you would probably hand off to a VA, if you had one. An example of a tiny task might be going through your blog archive and checking for dead links (or using a WordPress plugin to help you do so), then fixing them afterwards. The good thing about tiny tasks is that since they aren’t flow-state activities (activities that require a lot of creativity, concentration, and are best worked on for 60+ minutes at a time), you can squeeze them in places where you couldn’t do anything else. That way, you can get a lot done in a short amount of time.
“Staple” tasks: These are tasks that we know should be done week after week, but we often forget because we just don’t schedule them in. Tasks like marketing and PR efforts, business development, website maintenance, content creation, and social media go here. Some examples might be writing a blog post, replying to three HARO queries a week, or pitching at least one new article idea per week. You get the idea.
How to actually plan your week once you have all of the “ingredients”
You want to plan your week so that you’re making sure to get your actual priorities – the things that are the most important to you & hold the most value for you – in first. If we do it the other way around (which often happens, intentionally or not), then we can spend weeks at a time without working on anything that actually matters to us and our business, which can lead to a whole host of issues.
After you fill out the first two pages for each week, you’ll have all of your ingredients for the week. You know what needs to be done and hopefully what your highest priority items are (hint: they’re probably the ones moving you forward on your goals). The next step is to actually arrange those ingredients – deciding what days they’ll be done and mapping out your week.
On each day, there’s space for three priorities (as some productivity guru or another – probably more than one – said, if you have more than three priorities, you don’t have any priorities at all!), the tiny or one-off tasks for the day, and appointments. You won’t have all three columns full on every day. What you get done and how you arrange things is going to depend on what else is going on that day – for example, if you have a day full of back-to-back appointments, that probably won’t be a day that you make much forward progress on your goals. But you can squeeze in tiny tasks between those appointments and still get a lot done. Conversely, on a day when you have no appointments at all and wide open swaths of time, that’s probably a great day to get some work done on your bigger goals and projects.
Fill in your plans for the week, in this order:
- Appointments. Gotta put these first, because they require you being in a specific place at a specific time.
- Tasks that relate to bigger goals. With these, you’ll have more important tasks and less important tasks. The more important tasks are higher priority and should be written in first – taking in to consideration the time you’ll have after you’re done with the appointments for the day (if any). If there are days when you won’t have the time or energy to work on these, that’s fine! Just put them on a different day.
- “Staple” tasks. These are important or they wouldn’t be staple tasks, and the whole point of having them in the planning process is to make sure you actually do them.
- Client work. Because, of course, otherwise you don’t get paid. The reason client work is listed last is because freelancers always get their client work done. The freelancers who regularly neglect client work don’t last very long. But we do often neglect the other tasks that keep our business running (and running well). This process trains you to put those things first, and make sure they actually get done.
Now, look at the spaces you have left. It’s likely that there will be some days that have a lot of one thing and not so much of others – this is fine. You can experiment as you go along and see what works for you. I like to put all of my appointments on one or two days of the week, so that I have three or four other days to work on my bigger goals, and on the staple tasks. And I usually have one or two days focused on staple tasks (I have an admin day and a business development day, for example).
With the space that you have left in the week, now you’ll put in the tiny tasks and the one-off tasks, in order of importance. Ask yourself what of these tasks needs to get done this week, and start there. If you can, batch them together – come up with a list of 5 or so things that you can get done in an hour or two, and that way you can knock it out between appointments and feel uber-productive.
Have leftovers? That’s okay. It happens sometimes. The good news is, if you go through the process this way, the reason that they’re leftovers is because they’re the lowest priority items you have. If you go two or three weeks with these items on your to do list but can’t actually fit them in your week, you have two options:
- Throw them out and forget about them
- Hire someone else to do it for you
Sometimes we have things that are necessary but that would honestly be a waste of our time, energy, and attention, when these highly limited resources can be put somewhere else that is much more useful and productive. If that’s the case, find someone else to do it for you. And sometimes, we just feel like we “should” do something because someone told us to, but it’s not actually that important – these are the things that should just get thrown out.
Okay! That’s the gist of the planners. Any questions? Hit me up at michelle (at) bombchelle.com. Thanks for being a customer!