Wednesday, February 1, 2023

My New Year's treat: One practice that helps you keep on top of your work.

My new year's advice.

On January 11 - at the right time for new year's resolutions -  I posted this: 

If that advice is enough, stop reading and try it!  If not, read on.

The theory.

Your "to-dos" will always be way more than you can do in a week.

By making a plan you can pick the best things to do.

Want more direction? 

One of my coaching clients contacted me recently with this question:

Hi Susan,

I wanted your advice about creating goals or a schedule for the week, such as what you want to accomplish that week. I've been following Cal Newport since we worked together, and I'm working on my time-blocking for the day.

However, I struggle to get a "big picture" look at the week, or it comes to the end of the week, and I realize I made no progress on something I wanted. I feel like making a weekly plan is something I should do, but I'm unsure where to start. 

Thanks, Steven (NHRN!)

My response:


 The core practices are to review and update your calendar and todo lists (for me, my project and master task lists), and then select some high-priority work to fit into the week.

Here's a checklist to help you get started....


The checklist

The calendar
  • Add any scheduled events that did not get recorded. 
  • Look at each scheduled event, and ask:
    • Do I need to prepare in advance?
    • Do I have all the information I need (meeting location, zoom link, phone phone number, the agenda, the plane tickets)?
  • Add up the unscheduled time during work hours.  Assume that at least half of that time will be needed for routine work and interruptions.  The remaining amount is the most time you will have for project work and other important tasks. 

The project list
  • Read through your project list and pick the ones you want to work on in the coming week. Consider deadlines, importance, and the available time you just estimated.
  • For each selected project, write a few sentences about what you want to accomplish.  I learned this method from Cal Newport, and I find that this narrative format helps my thoughts flow so that end up with a better plan than when I just make bullet points. 
  • For each project, create at least one task and/or schedule a time block.

The task list
  • Read through your task list and adjust as needed: delete completed tasks, revise unclear tasks, and add new tasks that you think of. 
  • Select critical tasks for this week and move them to the top in your list app.  (Or if you're on paper, write a weekly list).  
Feeling some resistance?

You're in good company!  Most everyone does.

Recently, as I was extolling the virtues of the weekly review and plan to a client, she interrupted me to ask:  "How long does this take?  I have so much to do..."

My answer:

"You can do the core process I've described in about 30 minutes, or less.

Do you have 30 minutes sometime between Friday noon and Monday morning?"

But for the real answer, I'll defer to Frank Bettger:

"It is surprising how much I can get done when I take enough time for planning, and it is perfectly amazing how little I get done without it."
----Frank Bettger, How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling, 1947