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. There's not necessarily any right answer, but rather a host of different approaches to maximum productivity and, hopefully, maximum revenue and growth in the process.
Regardless of which school of productivity thought you belong to, however, chances are you'll use “the week” as a unit of measure. Sprints are often defined in one-week or multi-week terms, and a week is inherently the way work is organized in most people's brains. You come in Monday and you grind until Friday. What happens in that span of time will vary, but the idea of “the week” remains constant.
Here at Range we created Check-ins—a tool for planning each day—because the day is a granular unit of the workweek. But if you’re thinking about a maximum weekly work plan, well, how does one tackle that?
The importance of a weekly work plan
This doesn’t need to be belabored. You need a way to focus and organize what’s getting done, by who, and when. Making this a routine makes work flow better and more efficiently. Days and weeks are the essential units of that planning at work, and the end goal is productivity with no burnout. Just by having this routine focus on planning, you’re already ahead of a lot of organizations, where “planning” is haphazard and feels closer to a buzzword.
At the individual level, what should a weekly work plan template look like?
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 you’re encouraged to start the week with low-demand tasks on your to-do list, including:
- Setting goals and objectives
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:
- Solving actual problems
- Scheduling your “Make Time”—This is when you do work, as opposed to talking about work; i.e., meetings and emails.
Note: This is when you should be sitting 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:
- Planning sessions for what’s on the docket next week
Friday—This is your lowest energy level, and many people barely take this seriously as a work day. With this in mind, when factoring Friday into your weekly work planning consider:
- Doing open-ended work
- Looking at long-term planning
- Focusing on people and relationship building
5 big ideas to take away from that weekly work plan
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 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. 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.Read our Ultimate Guide to Team Effectiveness
What about tools for a weekly work plan?
This is a big deal in modern business. We have an entire ecosystem of work productivity tools, including ours—which, again, is designed more as a daily tool, but certainly a way to broadly organize your week.
The actual 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, we know of organizations where everything is managed with Google, Slack, and Trello. And it works!
There are also organizations in the same vertical and industry—essentially a competitor—where everything is rooted in Microsoft, Facebook for Work, and Asana. And that works too! You need to navigate towards what’s best for your team. What is their need for flow, their cadence, their responsibilities, their desire to check-in and keep others updated?
Although we don’t often frame the argument in this way, a leading cause of burnout is the tool selection process going awry. You’ve probably had jobs where you need to check 15 things just to get a single task done because some people leave updates in Google Docs, some leave necessary items in email, some in Asana, some in Slack, and some in a pigeon farm in western Tennessee.
Those jobs are exhausting, and it feels like pushing a boulder up a mountain just to knock down one deliverable. That’s what happens when you are all over the map with tool selection, and not defining what’s important and what goes where for your team. Those jobs stress people out and the best, most intelligent people never stay at places like that. So finding the right blend of tools for creating a weekly work plan is crucial.