Planning your work week in advance saves time, boosts productivity, and helps you minimise stress.

Do you feel as though you never get close to finishing your to-do list? Does your weekly planner need an overhaul? Or are you struggling to stop procrastinating?

There’s nothing worse than having a busy week at work only to feel like you didn’t get much done. But, there is a better way.

Whether you’re working remotely or in the office, understanding how to plan your time effectively is key to achieving your personal and professional goals.

“When you plan your work week effectively, you start with intention, rather than worrying about what you should do,” says Dorothy McDonald, Senior Manager, People & Corporate Support at Brother International Australia.

“This will help you stay organised and in control of your time, eliminate distractions and reduce stress by improving your focus and attention.”

Here are our top tips on how to better plan your work week.

1. Decide what to say yes to

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs once famously said that focus goes beyond saying yes to one key task and that “innovation is saying no to 1,000 things”. A strong believer in the foundation of effective prioritisation, planning should always start with knowing what to focus on and identifying what can wait.

Having clear-cut goals will help you prioritise your most important tasks and manage your workload without feeling overwhelmed.

Whether you want to establish a successful business or be outstanding at sales, for your goals to be effective they need to be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timed – that is, follow the evidence-based “SMART” approach.

Putting it into action: Planning your week in advance gives you a chance to hit the ground running come Monday morning. Start by making a list of everything you want to get done. Then, look at each item and decide on your four or five biggest priorities for the week, ensuring they align with your long-term goals.

Why? Identifying your priorities for the week will clarify the outcomes you want to achieve. This will help you manage your time better and increase your productivity.

2. Theme your days

When Jack Dorsey, co-founder and former CEO of Twitter, was simultaneously acting as CEO for both Twitter and payments company Square, he famously gave each day a theme, so he could manage both businesses without tasks from each overflowing into each other.

By assigning a key result area to each day, like Monday for management, Tuesday for growth, you have the ability to streamline your workflow, group similar tasks and prevent wasted time.

Putting it into action: The easiest way to figure out how to apply this to your work is to adopt the Pareto Principle, which states that to achieve peak efficiency, you should dedicate 80% of your time to high-priority tasks such as business development or product innovation, and 20% of your time to low-priority tasks such as emails.

You can also incorporate simple strategies such as turning off email notifications and creating ‘no meeting’ zones to help you focus on these important tasks. 

Why? Theming your days can stop you procrastinating, keep you task-focused and optimise your time.

3. Create a people management playbook

Uber uses this strategy to allow for rollouts in new cities and it has been credited as the reason why the company has scaled so quickly and effectively.

The Uber playbook details everything that needs to be done for a successful launch in a new market and is designed so it can be picked up and actioned anywhere in the world.

Delegation is an important tool for any business leader or manager, and by having these playbooks on hand, you can be confident that work will be completed to the standards and quality required.

“Delegation is important for both obvious and not-so-obvious reasons,” explains Dorothy McDonald. “On the one hand, sharing workloads can help to reduce stress levels, streamline workflows and prioritise important jobs. However, delegation also provides great opportunities for junior staff to report into senior team members and meet their own career goals. Sharing key tasks with your team instils confidence and empowers them to have a sense of control on certain jobs.”

Putting it into action: Take stock of your workload and identify two to five tasks you could delegate. The sweet spot for this is often what’s not urgent/important. Following this, write a playbook on each task and how to do it. 

Why? Effective delegation can save you time and bring greater collaboration and engagement across a team.

4. Have an inbox strategy

With more than 269 billion emails sent every day, it’s little wonder that email management can be an overwhelming drain of time.

To wrangle an unwieldy inbox, you need to get organised. One way to approach this is filtering emails into folders based on priority, or project, and flag emails that need attention. It’s a tactic Microsoft founder Bill Gates employs, resulting in him receiving only 100 emails a day. 

Putting it into action: Go back to your goals and priorities – what are the most important tasks you have to manage? Once you’ve identified that, work backwards to streamline your inbox by moving emails that don’t need your attention into a dedicated folder.

Why: Gaining control over your email – aka the best thing you can do for your productivity – allows you to keep up with your workload and deadlines.Although not exhaustive, these four strategies are fantastic starting points to planning your work week. However, it’s important to note that each of these should be tailored to your own working style and will likely change over time! Feeling ready to become an expert at time management? Click HERE to download our weekly planner template.

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