I don’t get it why so many busy business people in their work environment don’t have a cadence of a weekly plan. It’s not like they don’t have the time to do it (although that’s the usual excuse) because it can be as simple as a 10 – 15 minute activity. It has to be more fundamental that they either don’t see the value in it, have the discipline to do it each week or have the confidence to plan and execute it.
While tasks, work in general, meetings etc are continually being scheduled, rescheduled and actioned each day, how do you get alignment towards bigger picture goals amongst the helter-skelter of a busy day? That’s where the weekly plan can help.
If you’re not convinced, then let’s ignore work for a moment and consider how you shop and eat. My wife and I are parents to 3 kids who have varying degrees of busy school, sport and social commitments. This equates to us being at multiple activities each day so we need to plan our meals and who’s cooking around our busy schedule. As such, we have a weekly food shopping list which we try to purchase at some stage over the weekend. During the week we might need to purchase the occasional individual item which we hadn’t thought about or we ran out of, however we can generally plan what to buy for the week ahead. It’s part of our weekly planning process and we’d be in chaos if we didn’t do it.
A lot of people in their work environment schedule their week via their email calendar. That’s great and I fully support this approach. However, the flexibility of the calendar makes it so easy to reschedule. And if we’re constantly rescheduling then we run the risk of being somewhat reactive and being less strategic with our time by not focussing on the high impact important work.
This is where the weekly plan helps to tie in the criteria I’m sure you know you need to do to be successful with what you’ll be working on. There’s often a discrepancy between the 2 which identifies problems and reinforces the importance of the process.
Six benefits of a weekly plan are:
- Targeted outcomes – align activity to delivering outcomes on the high impact important work. It’s amazing how unplanned weeks can see us being busy but not delivering the key outcomes
- Managing hours and expectations – by considering everything for the week ahead and planning it accordingly you’ll be positioned to deliver on time instead of over promising and under delivering. This is a bit like something I once heard in a sales meeting about there’s no point being a hero on a forecast and then not reaching the sales targets
- Manage hours worked – if you’re like me you probably have enough to do to work 24/7 if you wanted to. However, this isn’t sustainable in the long run. For the week ahead you can decide the intended hours you plan to work
- Enjoy the weekend – do your weekly (not daily) review and preview each Friday. That way next week’s plan in place and you don’t have to even think about it on the weekend. For many people this has provided such a relief by not cutting short their weekend by having to plan for the week ahead on a Sunday night
- Team meetings – provides a consistent way to communicate priorities in team meetings. Is there load balancing across the team or will parts of the team be held up waiting for pieces of work to be completed?
- 1 on 1 meetings – for the manager and the individual it provides a consistent way to reconcile the upcoming priorities, challenges and expected outcomes. Part of the job of a manager is to remove roadblocks for their team and to do this there needs to be unemotional conversations based on factual information
When people start doing a weekly plan they sometimes find it’s not perfect because it’s difficult to estimate how long activities will take. That’s perfectly normal and not a reason to not do the plan. If this happens to you then persevere with it as most people soon get better at planning, prioritising and executing. And that in itself is a great reason to build the cadence of a weekly plan into the rhythm of how you work.