How to Plan for the Week Ahead

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We are eight days into the new year and this is a great time to tackle time management. When people often think of time management, they think of jotting down a list of “to-dos” in their calendar. While that is part of it, that’s not all of it. I discussed time management last year, but I want to refresh it because it is something that can really get away from (or out of hand for) the most organized person.  Time management is a skillset that everyone needs to work on, repeatedly. Now, you may be wondering why that is, and I am happy to share. The skill is not in jotting down what needs to be completed. The skill is in making room for emergencies, mishaps, and rest.  Unfortunately, we don’t normally do these things, which leads to exhaustion and delayed task completion.

Case in Point

Let’s take last week. Last week, I had my days planned out and everything was going along smoothly. Thursday came and I was driving home, happy to wrap up the week soon and tackle weekend projects. That’s when I heard what I thought was a plane very close to me and then I saw smoke. Yes, in 40-degree weather at 4:34pm, I had a tire blowout on the highway and I had to pull off onto a grassy area so that my car would not get hit by speeding drivers. Let’s add to this an hour for my family to get me and no car service being available for another few hours and you can guess how my night went.  Next, add a very sore body (I tensed up dramatically as I waited for assistance in the cold) and a runny nose due to the cold, and you have a very good picture of me going into the weekend. Needless to say that my plans were disrupted.

Beaming light

However, there are multiple blessings to this story. I had a clearer head the next day and was able to get the roadside assistance that I needed. The person was calm and so kind, and was able to get our tire changed (the company was shocked to see my tire). My family and I were able to safely get the car home where we could then make an appointment for service for the next day. Because I made plans to complete a lot more work during the early part of the week, I was able to work from home without an overwhelming amount of reports due. Our meals were covered because I had previously meal planned, and thanks to crockpots and Dutch ovens, I did not have to stand in the kitchen with my sore back (neither did my spouse who had managed to do some acrobatic work on the highway ground when we first tried to fix the car). Finally, as of today, no one would even know about my Thursday mishap if I did not tell them. That is how well everything turned out.

Time Management

I attribute the controllable parts of last week to good planning and accounting for mishaps. While I did not know that the mishap would involve my car, life experience told me to make plans for emergencies. That is a huge part of time management and calendar planning. Therefore, let me ask you these questions:

  1. Is your calendar completely packed with activities for the next week?
  2. Is there any room for error on your calendar?
  3. Does looking at your calendar make you tense up because it is so busy?
  4. Are certain duties and responsibilities able to be rearranged?
  5. If you wanted to take a nap every day next week, would you be able to (after looking at your calendar)?

If you answered “no” to most of these questions (except for questions #1 and #3), then you might need a calendar readjustment.

Calendar Readjustment

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A calendar readjustment means redoing your calendar commitments in order to make room for emergencies/mishaps. Making room for these things means that there is at least an hour (aside from lunch) that is free and open for anything to occur. It could be in the morning or afternoon, but it is there. It is an hour where anything can happen. It sort of serves as a Murphy’s law hour. Leaving a space open for this does not ensure that something will happen. It ensures that you will have room to deal with whatever comes your way. You want this opening in your day. Therefore, the first thing that you want to do is rearrange your calendar to account for emergencies/mishaps, which also means that you might have to tell someone “no” or suggest that an activity be moved to another day.  Be sure to make room for free time (30 minutes to an hour each day).

Priorities First

Next, you’ll want to schedule absolute priorities on your calendar. These are non-negotiables. The children must be picked up by X time. In order to arrive home by 6pm, you must leave work by X. This meeting with that important person must take place on this day at such time. You must have lunch and this is when it will occur. Work has to be completed between the hours of X and X. Be sure to write down these moments that cannot be delegated and/or that have to occur no matter what.

All other things

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After priorities and room for emergencies get placed on the calendar, you may now write down everything else. What are those other commitments that should be completed this week?  Plan them out on the days that work best. Is there anything that can be moved to another week? If so, do so. Is there a day this week that you don’t want to have any major requirements? Plan for those.

Managing your time in this way can seem overwhelming at first, but it becomes much easier to plan and manage over the coming weeks. Also, do a mid-week check in just in case you have to redo or rearrange the second half of the week. Don’t forget about Saturday and Sunday. If you do not work on these days, but you have other commitments, plan them out as best as you can. For example, I love to have my Saturday afternoons free to lay around and watch a movie or read a good book. Therefore, I get a lot done in the first half of the day (laundry, park day with kids, visiting parents, running errands, small business emails and promotions, etc.). That way, I can truly relax after 2pm. Regardless of your work shifts (first, second, or third), planning time well and managing it can make life (and mishaps) much easier to handle. If you need a 168-week calendar template, you can get it below:

How do you manage your week? Any tools that you use and love?

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