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Plan your week, not your day

Bastiaan Terhorst, 21/2 '20

How do you make sure you spend time on what matters to you, instead of on the things that scream at you the loudest? The obvious answer is planning ahead. In absence of a plan, it is impossible to give in to a seemingly urgent demand, since you have nothing to compare it against. Is that urgent thing more important than… the nothing you had planned? Of course it is.

This is why planning makes sense.

But where most people go wrong, is that they try to plan their days. While that may sound like a good idea, I believe it is not.

Because this means you need to make a new plan every day. It means you need to spend precious time evaluating your priorities every day. And it means that when something seemingly urgent comes up, you consider it within the scope of your current plan: within the scope of a day. And then you promise to do it tomorrow. Do that for a while and you find yourself with a schedule that consists mostly of what other people want you to do, not what you find important.

I believe there is a better way: planning your week. First thing Monday morning, take 15 minutes to identify the 4 or 5 things that are important to you, that you want to get done this week. Then schedule them in your calendar. That last bit is key because things that are important but not urgent are the first to get postponed. And don’t take on too much – you want to make sure you have time around these important things to do the urgent things that come up.

When urgent things do come up, let them come. But follow your schedule (unless, of course, things are truly burning). This will require discipline, and it won’t always work out. That’s ok. I aim for 70%.

Your plans for the short term will be a lot better if you are clear on your long term goals. In order to know what to plan in your week, it helps if you have a rough idea of what you want to get done in a quarter. And to set those goals it helps to know where you want to be in a few years. In other words, what your broader vision and strategy is. And to set these, it helps to know what your personal values are. And to realise that all of these are constantly changing and evolving.

I did not invent any of this. I’m just bending and moulding techniques invented by others long ago and making them my own. I encourage you to do the same.