Have you ever felt overwhelmed, or “task saturated,” with phone calls, emails, interruptions, or competing responsibilities? How many of us spend our days frantically trying to get through our to-do lists but still never find time to do what really matters most? If this sounds all too familiar, you are not alone.
What if I could share a process and tool that could help eliminate those feelings and replace them with a sense of peace, happiness, and accomplishment? These tools will allow you to shift your focus from inaction to action and to significantly increase your productivity while minimizing your stress; you will be able to take control of your life by doing what matters most instead of just coming up with another busy to-do list.
Let’s get started.
Take Control of Your Life through Pre-Week Planning
Pre-week planning is a time management tool designed to help you accomplish things you may never thought possible, by focusing on what matters most this week in the key areas of your life. Just like a pilot does “pre-flight planning” before a flight, we invite you to do “pre-week planning” before jumping into your week. We can break it into 5 steps:
1. Review your vision and your annual goals
This helps you put your week in the proper prospective. As you plan your week, you can think about what you should do this week to accomplish your bigger goals.
2. Look ahead one to three months, or even further out, in your master calendar
Is there anything you can do this week to prepare for something that is still a couple of months away? Remember, action today will prevent a crisis tomorrow.
3. Enter all of your meetings and other scheduled events for the week into your calendar
These are the things you have already committed to.
4. Set goals through roles
This is the most powerful step, and the one that’s a game changer! This is when you stop reacting to what’s happening to you and start creating time to do what matters most in each role of your life. First, identify the key roles in your life. Your roles are your key responsibilities and relationships (parent, spouse, employee, CEO, friend, athlete, volunteer etc).
Next, determine what matters most this week for each of your roles. For example, a manager may decide these tasks matter most this week under their “Business Manager” role:
1. Send a thank you note to five of my employees.
2. Finish quarterly plan and review it with the team.
3. Call two key clients to wish them a great week.
Come up with one to five things you can do this week in each role, giving priority to what is most important. When you set goals through roles, it is purposeful planning rather than reactive planning. You will approach your week thinking about what you can do this week rather than what you have to do. When you do what matters most, you will almost certainly find increased joy, happiness, and satisfaction!
5. When will you do it?
This is where the rubber meets the road and where you become empowered to take action on the things that matter most in your life. This is the difference between a vague New Years Resolution and an actionable plan.
For example, if taking your spouse on a date is what you’ll do this week in the role of spouse, then figure out the day and time when you’ll do it. You may need to coordinate a babysitter, so now you can plan when you’ll do that as well. Do you see how things that matter most won’t slip through the cracks anymore?
Let me share two real life examples that illustrate the impact this process can have on your life and the lives of those you care about.
One lady we were working with told us that she wanted to have a special “Mommy – Daughter date” with her 11 year-old daughter to celebrate her birthday, which had been in the fall. She was telling us this story in March! Even though she had good intentions, it kept slipping through the cracks because she was “too busy”.
Of course, she knew this wasn’t right and she was searching for something that would help her take control of her life so her busy schedule didn’t dictate her priorities. She decided to give pre-week planning a try. After just a couple of weeks she took her daughter on that long-anticipated date and her life underwent a major transformation.
She sent me this message, “I love this! For the first time I don’t feel stressed, and I am accomplishing more than I ever thought possible. It’s relatively easy, and it has made a huge difference. Thank you, thank you!”
During a corporate seminar, I was teaching the executives of one of the largest soft drink distributors in the world how to use pre-week planning to prioritize their time. One of the executives caught my attention.
In the Roles and Goals™ section of his planner, he wrote that his goal that week in the role of “father” was to call his son. When we discussed this further he shared that he and his adult son hadn’t talked for seven years because of a long-standing argument. He decided that what mattered most to him in the role of father that week was reconnecting with his son.
I returned to that same company six months later for a follow up seminar and when I checked in with him, he reported that he made the call and it went very well. He and his son now speak at least once a week and they are best friends.
“I am so glad,” he continued, “that you helped me look at what was truly important in my life… I found that having a strong relationship with my son flowed over into making me a better leader and employee. It has impacted every area of my life and I am a much more productive person now that I don’t have that weight constantly in the back of my mind. This tool has changed my life. Thank you!”
That is pre-week planning at its best. If you prioritize your time doing what matters most in each area of life, you can feel an incredible sense of peace, joy and accomplishment. You will find a sense of balance and control and a decrease in stress. You will be more productive but also more purposeful and happier.
Why wait? I invite you to take 20 minutes this weekend to try pre-week planning and see how it works for you. Imagine the effect it might have if everyone on your team approached each week this way! Imagine the effect it might have on your personal life and family! You have nothing to lose by trying this experiment and everything to gain.