How do you achieve your goals at work? How do you make sure you're on track with what needs to be done and adjusting when new priorities arise?
There are hundreds of thousands of answers to these questions in different organizations around the world. But regardless of which school of productivity thought you belong to, chances are you use “the week” as a unit of measure. Typical workweeks last Monday through Friday, and sprints are often defined in one-week or multi-week terms.
Here at Range, we think a lot about the role of routines in driving team effectiveness over time. We even created a tool called Check-ins to help team members get into the habit of planning and sharing their work on a regular basis. In this article, we’ll walk through the importance of weekly planning, and we’ll share a template and best practices to help you plan your next week of work.
Across all kinds of industries and contexts, workers need a way to focus and organize what’s getting done, when, and by whom. (If you can remind key stakeholders of goals and timelines, even better!)
Establishing meaningful routines around planning and checking in can help work flow better and more efficiently over time. Days and weeks are the essential units of planning at work, and finding the right cadence can help you and your team stay productive while avoiding burnout. Just by having a routine focus on planning, you’ll already be ahead of a lot of organizations, where “planning” is haphazard and feels closer to a buzzword.
A few years ago, an email sent by a Google staffer went semi-viral around the idea of weekly planning. The employee broke down by day in terms of where people’s energies should reside, and it’s a helpful way of looking at a weekly schedule or work plan at the employee level. Here’s some of what the full email shared.
Monday — Energy levels increase as the week builds, so start the week with low-demand tasks on your to-do list, including:
Tuesday and Wednesday — This is when you’re most likely to have our peak energy levels, so you should tackle your most difficult problems, including:
Note: This is when you should have the fewest number of meetings in your weekly schedule.
Thursday — By Thursday, energy begins to ebb (It’s almost the weekend! 🙌🏾) So, you should schedule most of your meetings here with an eye towards:
Friday — This is your energy levels will be at their lowest, and many people barely take this seriously as a workday. With this in mind, when factoring Friday into your weekly work planning consider:
If nothing else, here are five things you absolutely must do in order to become a successful weekly planner.
1. Make time for planning the next week: The ideal time for this is usually late Thursday or sometime on Friday. If you wait until Monday and attempt to plan that week once it’s already begun — plus the crush of Monday emails, which is a very real thing in many offices — it’s probably too late.
Many organizations do have a Monday morning meeting or standup, and those can certainly be effective. But they’re more effective when project plans ad weekly planning has already been done during the previous week.
2. Block everything on a calendar: This includes all meetings and calls, which would logically already be on your calendar. But also block chunks of work time to actually get stuff done (key tasks, action items, real-time collaboration, etc). The first advantage to that is that people often won’t schedule over a block on your calendar, so now you have some uninterrupted flow time. The second advantage? Doing work instead of talking about it.
3. Plan buffer times: Work is often about those little 15- or 20-minute pockets in between meetings, calls, and lunches. These can be really powerful for productivity and an essential element of your weekly planning.
Pro tip: In the Monday 7:00AM slot of your calendar, create your task list — small, but necessary items — that you need to get done that week. When those 15-minute windows pop up, just hit the Monday 7:00AM item and start working through them. Maybe you needed to clean the house email list, or maybe you needed to order something for a co-worker’s birthday? You’ve got 15 minutes starting at 11:30AM on Wednesday. Now those small tasks won’t seem to pile up because you’re using your gap times more productively.
4. Have a big three: What are the three important tasks you absolutely need to get done, as an individual or a team, in a given week? Start all planning efforts from there. You should be able to get to the end of the week and be supremely confident that you completed those three big items. If you do that 50 weeks a year, chances are your business is heading in the right direction.
5. Consider a focus day: This is one day — Wednesday is a good candidate — where you just focus on one project, one set of tasks, etc. Don’t even accept any meetings unless they’re urgent.
At Range, pre-pandemic, we actually made Wednesday a work-from-home day for everyone, which allowed for a break from the office and increased focus and clarity on one set of deliverables away from the requests and distractions that inevitably arise when people are sitting near each other co-located.
Interested in learning more about the habits and practices that make teams successful? Read our Ultimate Guide to Team Effectiveness.
The reality of selecting a tool for a weekly work plan is that, well, there’s no tool that rules them all. Every team, and organization, is a mish-mash of different tools, processes, and approaches that works for them. For example, while some organizations may manage everything with Google, Slack, and Trello, others may turn to Microsoft, Facebook for Work, and Asana. Teams need to navigate towards what’s best for them.
Some questions that may help you in your search for weekly planning tools are:
At Range, we've built a product to help teams find a rhythm for planning work and checking in on what and how people are doing. As teams (and their tools) become more distributed and complex, Range connects the dots to help people stay productive and in sync.
Try Range Check-ins to stay in touch with what and how your team is doing. With Check-ins, you and your team can share recurring updates on your work alongside answers to mood-sharing and icebreaker prompts, helping you strengthen culture and work better together.