Plan with efficiency for a year is one of my favourite subjects. We all try to be organized so that we can do everything that is important in a day and thus live a life with intention and that is what we are going to see today.
Let’s get right to it.
What is planning for?
it allows you to replace the frustration of not having time for anything with a certain sense of accomplishment. I hear a lot
“my days are so full that I don’t have time to think”
Or“when the middle of the afternoon arrives and I see all I have left to do on my to-do and I know I’m leaving in two hours to pick up the kids, it’s the worst time of the day”
These are the things that you may still say to yourself quite regularly and that is why planning is very important. Because it will help you set a target and keep it in sight to have much more clarity throughout your year. And also to keep control of your calendar, that is to say, to limit as much as possible the unexpected entries in your diary made by your colleagues. And to keep control of your days, over your weeks and not to undergo but to really DRIVE your weeks, your months, your years and so to be able to achieve your goals much more easily
Thanks to that we will also be able to plan time to think about going out for a walk for a few minutes, to take a break, to go have a coffee or chat with someone because we often forget. It’s all work especially when you are a mother who has children so you hurry you work, you work, you work, sometimes without any breaks, that are still important.
This technique applies to everyone whether you are a business owner or a stay at home parent. it also applies whether you use a paper diary or a digital diary or use a mix of both. For “the paper mode”, that will take a little more time and effort to set up and you will immediately understand why.
1 / Collect :
A bit like the GTD method, where we start by collecting information, tasks, etc., here you will collect all the predictable and planned elements for your year:
- Birthdays of loved ones
- family events
- school events
- Daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly meetings etc … and you will also persuade those who organize recurring events to communicate the dates to you at the beginning of the year. Try : “I need to know the dates in advance to guarantee my presence at each meeting.”
- The planned vacation
- The planned/desired weekends
2/ Setup :
Here we are talking about equipment and implementation. Paper, digital, a mix of the two. It’s up to you to decide according to your habits and what you like. There is no “one fits all” method, here you tailor it if you want the habit to remain in use over time. You do not try to force yourself to use this or that tool.
I have found it very convenient, based on my personal practice, to assign colours to different types of events. All calendar managers offer this feature or coloured crayons for paper. The advantage is that usually, a glance at a single week’s page will immediately tell you what’s happening, without asking you to go through each entry. I am suggesting the following categories, you are free to take what suits you and add others. Do not create too many if you do not want to get lost.
- personal time (lunch, meditation for example)
- work alone/deep work
- physical meetings
- trips (eg: daily trips, trips to get to the station, to the airport) you are not available for work
- travel (trains, planes), you can perform certain tasks.
- sport / activities
- personal routines (morning/evening)
- family time
- weekly date time
- free time (optional or empty)
If you are using a paper diary, you can also use colours either to write down the events and also to hatch the periods. It’s a little less convenient if you want to move an event later.
3 / Fill in the agenda:
We put everything we have as planned and predictable elements, with the right colours and for those who use a digital diary, consider using the repetitions functions.
For recurring meetings:
Plan in advance some blocks of time to prepare for them. As they are repetitive, you should already know how long it takes you to prepare for them, depending on the availability of items for example. Use a “work alone” colour for example and plan to prepare for these meetings, even if it is 30 min. Ditto if you are responsible for debriefing, you will need to allow time to do so if you do not do it directly during the meeting.
For commute time :
I made a distinction between travel times and commute time. For me, during the commute time I am not available, I am not on the phone while driving, we do not make phone calls in the tube. So you plan this time in our calendar. There is nothing more annoying than the person who is unable to manage his agenda and who participates in a video, only by phone because he is in the car, with the problems of noise, cuts, which you do not understand one word in two … in short, I’m sure you have all experienced this kind of situation. Not to mention the risk the person takes. So you are not available and you put it in his diary.
Why? It is always the same problem. These days most of us are forced to share our calendar entries with some or all of the members of our organization. As a result, colleagues use the tools that allow them to find the ideal slot for everyone, which is particularly convenient. anyway, as long as you do not have a numbskull in the group, who does not use its calendar, locks it all year round, or does not indicate the periods when it is not available. Let’s move on …
One point of clarification, when you enter the various items , do not forget to specify that you are not available. Use the function in your digital calendar that allows you to define if a lack is considered as available for others or not.
You are also going to create blocks of deep work. Those are blocks of time during which you do not wish to be disturbed and during which you will work on the subject of the moment.
4/ The Ideal Week
You do not need to know in advance precisely what you are going to work on, you just plan a block of time, of at least 2 hours, which will allow you when the time comes to be completely free for taking charge of a study entrusted by your “beloved” boss at the last minute. ample. You can say that on Monday morning, you reserve it for your weekly review (we will talk about that later), and then Monday afternoon, is dedicated to the creation of content/promotions.
The Ideal Week for self-employed and Business Owner
For the self-employed, you can allocate these blocks of time to specific tasks, while at the same time creating your ideal week.
For example, one block of time for administrative purposes, another for communication and marketing, several large blocks that you will devote to your clients, for example. And the next morning, it’s prospecting. On Friday, the review of the weekly indicators, administrative, another block for strategic vision and development of the offer for example.
The idea is not to put aside tasks that we don’t necessarily like, but still have to be done and not to spend all the time on tasks that we like to do, but which could be done faster. It also allows you to set deadlines yourself and fight effectively against your perfectionism. By telling yourself that you are working on your customer offers for 1 hour and that’s okay. I let you personalize and apply those suggestions right away.
This ideal week option can also apply when you are an employee, depending on your degree of autonomy.
This ideal week is ideal, it does not mean that every week will be a copy/paste of this week, but you will try to refer to it. We should agree, if you have a prospect who is only available on Mondays at 2:00 PM, you are not going to miss a sale because it’s your marketing time! You can also have several ideal weeks. In some functions, there are very strong recurrences, and therefore it is possible to create ideal weeks, practically for every week of a month. It’s up to you to see what suits you best.
Plan for the unexpected
You will also provide free time in your days to deal with the unforeseen and give you flexibility in case of delay, a meeting that goes on forever etc. I recommend at least 1 hour a day, to be adjusted according to your work. Here again, there may be an issue of seasonality to take into account.
For example, in industries where the end of month or quarter are particularly intense, you may make more time available for emergencies, and we may be removing the time block on the strategic vision.
Do not forget to plan breaks, several times a day, to breathe, move, change the environment for a few minutes. This is essential for your well-being.
The available time slots will allow others to use them for their meeting invitations, and also for you to handle any urgent requests that cannot be covered otherwise.
This method, which at first glance will give you the impression of having a packed agenda, will really allow you to control your time and how you allocate it, for the tasks that matter most, to achieve your goals and give time to your colleagues.
5/ The weekly review
This can be done on Friday afternoon, Sunday evening, Monday morning at your convenience. It takes one to two hours depending on your experience and your speed of execution.
Review what you didn’t do in the week before. Ask yourself if this is still relevant and if not, delete the task concerned. If not, postpone it in your tasks manager for the coming week.
Take the new tasks that arrived during the week and position them in your task manager for the current week or the following one. (this process may be a little different than if you are using a task or project manager or a manual list).
Depending on your organization, the new tasks are either in your project/task management tool, in your emails, on manual lists. The idea, however, is not to put every little task on your calendar. You will use your time blocks and then define using your to-do list or your task manager what you are going to do during these time blocks. I don’t recommend postponing every task as it takes a long time and is not useful if your tasks are already saved in your system.
Personally, I recommend planning at least two weeks ahead . But if you have received a request for a task to be completed in 6 weeks, nothing prevents you from planning the time when you will work on it, and at least, a first brainstorming session to define all the subtasks related to the main one. So you can organize the preparation more easily.
This is something you absolutely must do every week so that you don’t lose track and get overwhelmed. The speed of the first results depends on the number of tasks you have pending today and also on the current filling rate of your calendar. Even if during the first few weeks it seems a bit wobbly to you, persist. Little by little you will gain greater visibility on your agenda and on what you do with your time.
6 / Notify those around you
Another tip is to inform your colleagues about your working method and especially that you do not want to be disturbed during your periods of intense work.
Finally, hold on to your organization. If you spend time setting up this organization and anyone can change your mind and change your schedule, then why did you start planning in the first place? It is important to hold the bar, even if at first it may seem rigid to you. Remember that it is this framework that will then allow you to respond favourably even to unexpected requests, which will also allow you to meet the announced deadlines with great reliability.
Your interlocutors may be a little surprised at the beginning that you do not follow through immediately, even if it means abandoning your own planned work item. But when you tell them that it will be ready on this day at this time and that you will respect this commitment, they will gain confidence and above all will also develop the habit of asking you things with a reasonable response time. It is important to somehow “educate” the applicants, at least those who may be. And it also works very well when it comes to clients or your line manager.
So, we’ve seen here the steps to put in place the framework of your year. You can start the setup only for a quarter at first, and then adjust your organizations based on the findings on the first attempt. And then it is only a repetition of the main steps of the technique :
- Fill In
Now you have the complete technique to optimize your agenda, take and keep control over your days. Enjoy!
7/ Impacts as a manager
As a manager using this technique to optimize your weeks, you are a role model for your team! Telling them how to use the technique, how to be more efficient is a part of your job. But it means also if some members of your team are starting applying the principles, that you need to respect their agenda as well. For all matters that are under your control, you absolutely need to anticipate, take into consideration the personal organization of your team, and avoiding showing up every day with last minutes emergencies.
I found it useful to try as much as possible to align my agenda with the agendas of my team’s members. For instance defining a “no meeting” day, where all of us can stay focus on the most important tasks. Or being aware of their “deep work” block of time and avoid disturbing them at that very moment. This is not always easy, and we may have to fight with the old habit of spreading “emergencies” here and there. But it worth the trial, and I encourage you to do so. Recently, one of my former colleague thanks me for having taught her this technique. She’s working in another company right now, and she is also the one who is teaching others to be more efficient and feel less stress on their workdays! So don’t break the chain and spread the good words !
If you’re having trouble applying the principles described here, feel free to contact me. I am offering 1-2-1 support, team coaching, professional coaching and business support. I am here for you if needed. Choose a convenient time and day to discuss with me using this link :