Recently, I have been coaching a number of people in the areas of leadership and personal effectiveness. We’ve discussed a number of areas that they want to improve in and inevitably some element of personal planning and time management comes up. As I inquire with them about their challenges, I always ask the following question:
“If I were to look at your calendar right now, would I find a consistent weekly block of time specifically dedicated to planning your week?”
Nearly 100% of the time the answer I receive is, “No.”
It’s usually followed by a number of additional comments depending on the individual: “I used to but fell out of the habit”, “I forgot about that”, “I hadn’t thought about that”, “I know that’s important but I have never put it in my calendar”, “I try to do that sometimes”, along with various other iterations.
My response back to them is gentle but firm. The most important 30 minutes of planning you will ever do is the 30 minutes you take at the start of each week to actually plan your week. Depending on the individual and the week, this planning time might take a bit more or a bit less than 30 minutes (in fact, I usually give myself an hour). But the main point is that in order to be an effective person, one must have a regular time at the start of each week where we plan our week.
And this isn’t just a time to only plan our work commitments. It’s a time to look at all aspects of our lives – work and personal – and block out time in our calendars to dedicate to the things that are important to us that week.
So my foundational recommendation is to choose a time every week that you will dedicate to weekly planning. In general, it might be Sunday night or early Monday morning. A person needs to decide when is best for them and then schedule it into their calendar as a recurring weekly appointment. Forever. Life circumstances may change, but it will always be necessary and important to have a time each week to plan your week. Even on vacation, you need to decide if you will do nothing all week or perhaps schedule some events or outings, etc.
Following this scheduling of weekly planning time, there are two common questions that I receive:
- What happens if something comes up which conflicts with the time I scheduled for my weekly planning time?
When this occurs you can first ask the question, “Is this event or activity more important than my weekly planning time?” If it isn’t, then keep your scheduled time. If it is more important, then simply move your planning time to the next available time. Don’t delete your planning time. Just move it. If you find that these conflicts happen often, you might wish to choose a different time for your regular weekly planning time. But the bottom line remains the same: It is critical that you take weekly planning time.
- What do I do in my weekly planning time?
Umm… plan your week? Of course that isn’t always easy and doesn’t come naturally to everyone. So I would recommend finding some type of weekly planning guide or structured system that helps you think about your commitments and what’s important to you in all areas of your life, and then prompts you to block out your time accordingly. For help getting started on this, I have created a simple weekly planning guide with questions (click here). You just answer these questions each week during your weekly planning time.
Time is one of the most precious resources we have. Each and every person has an equal 168 hours in every week. How we use that time ultimately determines the difference between those who are effective and those who are not.
Taking time every week to plan one’s week is an exercise in the virtue of prudence. Prudence, in essence, is good and wise judgment applied to action. It involves both deliberation and decision. If there is any area in our lives where we should look to engage prudence, it’s in the planning of and the use of our time. Therefore, the most important 30 minutes of planning you will ever do is the time you take at the start of every week to actually plan your week.
Have you scheduled this time into your calendar?