This article answers three common questions about pre-week planning:
- How does pre-week planning differ from keeping a to-do list?
- What if I’m “not very good” or very consistent at pre-week planning?
- How do I pre-week plan with an uncertain schedule? Or, when “stuff” comes up all the time?
What is Pre-Week Planning (Review)
Pre-week planning is a simple four-step process to prepare for the upcoming week, schedule your priorities first, take your goals into your daily schedule, and do what matters most. If you’d like to review the four steps to pre-week planning, they are detailed in this article (with images and examples).
How does pre-week planning differ from a "to do" list?
Pre-week planning and keeping a “to do” list are both useful tools for managing your time and productivity, and we encourage the use of both, but there are some key differences between the two.
Pre-week planning involves taking a proactive approach to your schedule. This involves reviewing your vision and goals, identifying your top 1-5 priorities for each life role, and allocating time for those specific tasks or activities before other tasks. This is scheduling priorities first to ensure you do what matters most. This leads to the highly intentional use of your time, better self-care, better life-balance, and hyper focus on your goals and vision.
Keeping a “to do” list, on the other hand, is a more reactive approach to task management. This involves writing down a list of tasks you need to complete and crossing them off as you go. “To do” lists will also include more menial and granular tasks and can be long. It does not involve as much deliberate planning or goal-setting as pre-week planning. A “to do” list by itself – without pre-week planning – can contribute to burnout, task overload, and work-life imbalance.
Together, they compliment each other and help you to do what matters most and keep track of your tasks.
What if I’m "not very good" or very consistent at pre-week planning?
That’s okay! Celebrate every week you pre-week plan and every task completed, and don’t worry about what’s missed. It’s human to miss a week or start late in a week. Just pick back up and keep going, recognizing that you’re a top performer and high achiever every week you do pre-week planning.
Do set times to consistently pre-week plan, and give yourself reminders, but just jump back into it when you miss.
Also, it’s okay to not complete every task; in fact, it’s expected because life happens and other stuff comes up. If you’re pre-week planning, celebrate the fact that you’re scheduling your priorities first, living intentionally, and doing what matters most!
Keep in mind that in our studies of pre-week planning, those who complete 50-75% of their tasks were those who were achieving 30-50% more on a weekly basis, so it’s okay to miss tasks. Each week is a new beginning and opportunity to plan ahead, so you can try again with any unfinished tasks.
What if my schedule is highly uncertain and constantly changing?
This is very common. We offer two recommendations.
First, plan for the uncertain. If your schedule is uncertain and constantly changing, don’t try to plan out every minute of the day. You’d be setting yourself up for frustration. Instead, determine through trial and error how much “flexibility” you need in your schedule and plan for it. Schedule “gaps” into your calendar that allow for and give you flexibility for the unexpected. What does this look like? You may plan 30-minute, 1-hour, or 2-hour gaps between scheduled priorities and events.
Second, do you have flexibility with certain tasks? Meaning, do you have tasks that don’t need a fixed time, so long as they get done at some point? You can place these “floating tasks” in your calendar on the day or days you’d like to have them done, but with a loose time, and then these tasks can fill in openings in your schedule. If they get done, great! If they don’t, then you likely had something more important you had to do and you were doing what matters most. Exercise, budgeting, calling family, managing investments, working on individual projects, these are all tasks that can possibly “float” in your calendar.
Pre-week planning is the #1 skill of skills to do more with less, and you can develop a sustainable pre-week planning habit that helps you achieve your goals and priorities! It’s okay to do it imperfectly, you’ll sometimes miss, but keep at it, and you’ll live an intentional life by design!
“There are dreamers and there are planners; the planners make their dreams come true.” – Edwin Louis Cole
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