I have somehow developed a Weekly planning guide that really works for me. It’s simple, quick, and yet holistic. In short, it’s much more than a list of tasks to do, and has been a boon and a comfort to me in difficult times recently.
It evolved from a need to get a lot done, but also from a need to make sure what I was doing mattered.
Because being busy isn’t the point of life. I’m not 100% sure there is any point in life beyond the meaning we give it, and I certainly didn’t want my life’s meaning to amount to a bunch of balled up to do lists, or my kids to remember me after I’m gone as merely an efficient taskmaster.
And there’s also how I wanted to feel whilst living my life. I’m the one who has to live it, so I better make sure it feels good to me. And what feels good can vary from week to week: sometimes I crave silence, stillness, peace, and other times I want fun and joy and excitement.
So here’s the template:
What matters to you, right now, that represents the wider values in your life?
These often don’t change, but I still find it useful to tap into these when planning my week. Examples of some of the values I’ve held up as part of this process includes love, kindness/compassion, simplicity, family, integrity.
These form the foundation for your week, the canvas for your painting, the backdrop for your week.
What am I going to do?
This is very top line, but helps me pick out the big themes of my week.
For example, my “what to do” this week is:
- Raise happy family
- Take care of myself
- Keep clean, pleasant, orderly house
Again, keep this really top line. Coach Jennifer Louden sometimes uses an analogy I like about pots on a stove. You are a human and you live a human scaled life, which has limited number of burners and limited flames. So you have to choose which pots to put on your stove. You can’t magic yourself an industrial kitchen, with endless pots simmering away.
This section is not unlike the pots on the stove. What areas of your life are important (or just necessary!) to do this week?
How do I want to feel?
This is not about outputs but how you want to feel during your week. It’s been hectic and crazy at work and at home lately, so one that comes up for me is ‘calm’. I want to feel calm. I’m still doing most of the same crazy, hectic stuff I was doing last week, but this week, I want to feel calm doing it.
Other feelings include appreciative, energised, happy, peaceful, grateful.
Some weeks I want to feel more restful and restorative, and others I want to feel more energised and inspired. It’s only for a week, so you can refocus how you want to feel based on what you need right now.
Goals for the week
Here’s where we start to get more into traditional planning mode, getting into more detail about what we want to achieve by the end of the week, within those broader categories of ‘what am I going to do?’/
So I have written ‘Work’ under ‘what am I going to do’ column, so here I might say, “Finish and submit the reforecast” or “hold appraisal meetings with team”.
This is also a good time to check that you have a goal for each of the broad areas of what you need to do. I often find I may have loads of goals for work, but nothing for family. Or lots of goals for everyone else but nothing for me. This is a good point in the process to sense-check if your goals reflect what you want to emphasise this week.
That is not to say the goals always need to balance. Some weeks might be much more work-focused and others much more family-focused or household/admin-focused.
What matters here, though, is that any imbalance between your ‘what to do’ pots is intentional.
And if it isn’t, you may want to notice that now and rejig some things.
Lastly, it’s the time to look at simple steps. What are the things you can do to reach those goals.
So using that example from work, I have a goal to finish and submit a reforecast. My simple steps might be (1) to block out time to work on it; (2) check outstanding invoices on the system; (3) pull the reports I need to help forecast.
I’ve also used the simple steps stage to work out specifically what my goal might look like when it’s a less tangible goal, like savouring time with my five-year-old. I translated that into a simple step of making sure to have him read to me nightly as part of his homework. Linking his homework to the goal to savour time with him and how I want to feel (‘appreciative’, ‘calm’, ‘loving’) means the times he reads to me to practice his reading are now special windows of my day. This is my time with him. With that intention in my mind, the moment we sit down together I think, “Savour this time with him; he won’t be five forever.”
There are times when the different columns don’t agree – and it’s better to notice that now, at the start of the week, than look back at the end of the week wondering what went wrong.
So if you want to feel calm but have given yourself an unreasonable number of difficult-to-achieve goals, you may want to challenge one of those parts of your weekly plan. Do you need to scale back your goals so they are more achievable to do and still feel calm? Or actually, do you want to feel energised and productive more than you want to feel calm?
There isn’t a single right answer.
But all too often, I’ve seen myself have goals that don’t align to my values, or a to do list that doesn’t match how I want to feel. This discord can feel really icky when you’re the one living it.
And it can feel like a personal failure rather than merely a planning one. Like if all week I feel absorbed in work, but my value of love and my focus on family feel unmet, I assume it’s a personal failing, that I’m not a loving or good enough mother.
Actually, my attention drifts to what demands it most in that moment.
By planning my week and sense-checking that there’s some continuity between what’s important to me, what I want to do in my life this week, how I want to fee doing it, and then practically breaking this down into goals and simple steps, I’ve found I feel more balanced and truer to myself and the kind of life I want to live. I also have felt more in control and more productive.
I’ve done the important things I wanted to do at work, and still been able to ensure I’m savouring my 16-month-old and 5-year-old, connecting with my husband, writing and maintaining Happy Parent UK, and staying connected with myself.
And that is no small thing.
So I hope you find this template useful. I’d love to hear how you get on with it, or if you tweak it or have your own ways to plan your week or set intentions for your goals. As always, you can contact me here or via the facebook page.