|Organize for Success® Turns 10|
Even if you are not a natural planner, it's vital to enter a new week with a game plan so you attack your goals proactively rather than reacting to what's asked of you. In addition to what you currently enjoy over your weekends, I encourage you to invest a little bit of time each Sunday to lay the foundation for a more productive week ahead. Here are my favorite steps to prepare for a better week:
10. Write out your goals for the week ahead. Earlier this week, when sharing my Top Ten Favorite Mantras, I explained how "Our brains are meant for thinking, not remembering, so document what you need to recall." Therefore, it's important to document what you need to recall later. It doesn't matter if this is on paper or in an electronic tool; the important thing is to get it out of your head. Make sure every task and time commitment from your calendar, on your running to-do list and floating around in your mind gets added to the list. All of those things that we tell ourselves "I'm gonna remember this"? Yes, they all need to be documented. As you are doing this, keep in mind that each day offers us only 1,440 minutes; that's 24 hours a day or 168 hours each week. Within that time, we have to sleep, eat, exercise, bathe and make time for achieving all our big, hairy, audacious goals. Yes, that seems nearly impossible; yet, when you start the plan for your week by allocating time for what's most important, you can fill the lesser important items in the spaces around your highest priorities. As you create this list, the data dump of all your goals for the week, think about what are your rocks (most important tasks), pebbles (those tasks falling in the middle of your priorities) and sand (least important tasks). Those priorities will guide your upcoming actions.
9. Evaluate which of those priorities you've listed need your attention in the week ahead. You are one person, and you can be in only one place at any given time. Yes, you can be the person that has it all, but I've not found a way to have it all at one time. I believe wholeheartedly in the research of the Wharton Work / Life Integration Project, which examines the four elements of our lives: work, home, community or society as well as our minds, bodies and spirits. Many people talk about work-life balance, but, in my mind, that conjures up a seesaw where one element of life must suffer in order for another to succeed. In my life and the lives of my clients, I see how success in each element can complement success in other elements; the emphasis on each element fluctuates as our priorities change and our solutions must be fluid to keep up, but our success in one area can fuel greater success in another area, not so much competing with one another. Knowing what's most important from one week or day to another is vital for knowing what earns an investment of your most limited resource, which is that limited time I mentioned before. I encourage you to use the Eisenhower Matrix for that list of goals you created. In utilizing this tool, review each task and time commitment you listed in your data dump. Determine each item's urgency and importance; then, walk through these questions to figure out what's next: Does this need to be done now? If so, do I need to do it or delegate it? If it does not need to be done now, can I delete or delay it? Delegate, delete and delay are three of the most powerful words for helping figure out how to align your actions with what matters most so you can invest your 1,440 minutes daily in fueling the results you desire. For each of the items remaining that need to be done by you, assign a specific date and time for completion; I've not yet found a calendar that includes "someday" so saying I'll get to something when I have free time means it shifts from a goal to a dream and may never get done. If I set aside a specific date and time for it to get completed, that goal is more likely to be achieved.
8. Practice saying no for what does not earn an investment of your time. Saying yes to something inherently means saying no to anything else filling that time. Therefore, it can be extremely empowering to decline a request for your time, knowing that saying no to that means you've opened time for saying yes to something else. It's always a good idea to reserve your limited time for actions that most efficiently and effectively move you towards the results you want as well as put you in the vicinity of those who support who you are, what you want and your priorities. Plus, I recommend blocking off your most productive time for your highest priority tasks, staying firm in your boundaries and not bending when others want to take that time from you.
7. Make time for refueling. If you are an extravert, you need time with those who matter most to you, people who make you feel good or reinforce what makes you wonderful; that time might be in-person, over the phone, via a video conference or online, like with social media; it's important to connect with others however you prefer. Outreach on social media to share content that might be of value to a friend, congratulate someone for a big accomplishment or say hey to a contact that you've been missing. Sometimes, for me, it's as simple as sending a text to share an article that made me think of that person and let him or her know I'm thinking of them. Better yet, you could get together for brunch or go for a walk in the park. Do whatever works for you to refuel your soul and re-enforce your identity! Alternatively, if you are an introvert, you need time alone to rebuild your energy reserves so schedule time to do the solo activities you prefer. Maybe it's diving into a really good book, playing solitaire, watching a movie or adding to your Pinterest board. There's not a right or wrong way to refuel; the mistake comes in not making it a priority at all. When we don't continually refill our energy reserves, we will eventually reach the point where we have nothing left to give others, and that leads to burnout, which is a horrible issue. We need to sleep, eat well and get moving every day, but Sundays are a great time to do something special to really support ourselves. Make this a priority each and every week for exponentially greater results.
6. Catch up on loose ends from the week ending. If you record a weekly television show, failing to watch that recording sometime during the week can create a backlog of recordings; therefore, which of the prior week's recordings can you catch up on each weekend? Is the weekend a good time to bring in someone to clean your home or do you want to make sure there is time in your weekend schedule for getting your home fully cleaned? Are there things that happened in the week ending for which you need to write a thank you note, getting it ready to mail tomorrow? Which of your unfinished tasks needs to be completed on Sunday so you have fewer items to carryover into the new week ahead?
5. Get a head start on routine tasks. For many leaders in the workplace, once the workweek starts, everything moves at a fast pace, and we are being pulled in 100 different directions. Everyone needs something, and we can't figure out how to be in more than one place at the same time. Sunday is your last chance to plan for that hectivity and get ahead of the craziness. Look at all 4 elements of your life. Are there steps you can take now to be ahead of the game with work items due in the week ahead? If you do your own marketing, can you draft, edit or add photos to what blog posts will go live? Can you schedule some of the content to be posted on your social media channels? Or, if you have an ad agency, are there items awaiting your approval that you can wrap up now instead of waiting until the workweek? If you have networking events to attend, can you check out the registration lists to see with whom you need to connect? Can you prepare agendas for team meetings in the week to come? I could go on and on... The key is to take action now to double-check what's coming up so you can do some things ahead of time instead of worrying later about what might've fallen through the cracks in the midst of the madness. Then, for your home, consider all the loose ends you can tie up now for a smoother week ahead: does the dishwasher need emptying, are there clean clothes in the dryer, how's your email inbox looking and much more. Finally, make sure you talk through logistics with your household; since we all wear many hats, working through commitments with your spouse, kids or roommates will make sure folks get where they need to go with what is needed while minimizing how much stress is experienced. We don't want preschool calling in a panic because someone got left behind or your kid not being able to start the next game because she missed practice so make sure everyone is on the same page for whatever is coming up in the week ahead.
4. Plan from where your meals will come. We each need to eat regularly to stay alive, but waiting until we are hungry to figure out what we'll eat can be a recipe for disaster, leading to expensive or unhealthy eating. Instead of waiting until the last minute to throw something together, run through a drive-through or order in, I encourage you to take time on Sunday to plan your meals. Maybe not all of them, but, at least, give yourself a skeleton from which to work so you aren't scrambling. Incorporate options for using a slow-cooker, cook mass amounts over the weekend for meals throughout the week, think through ways in which the same elements can be reused in different ways and start pre-packing lunches. Consider time-saving solutions for each breakfast, lunch and dinner. Assuming you eat 3 meals each day, there are 21 opportunities for creatively streamlining. What food prep can be done now? What supplies do you need to buy? Like you did for tasks and time commitments, map out a plan and, then, take steps to alleviate work throughout the week. Since we all have to eat in order to survive, anything we can do over the weekend to make eating easier will create a more solid foundation for success.
3. Lay out each day's outfit for the week ahead. Check the forecast; see what temperatures and precipitation are expected. Look at your calendar to see what highlights need to be accounted for in what you'll wear. Then, pick out each detail of what will be necessary so you aren't scrambling each morning. This should include what purse to carry, what jewelry to wear and what undergarments are needed. I actually have a section of my closet partitioned off for hanging the upcoming week's outfits; this means I can grab and go each morning without thinking, eliminates the second-guessing I used to do when I had to scramble for what to wear each day and is perfect for those that aren't morning people. If you have outfits you really like, you can keep photos in your smartphone of each outfit, including all its details, and, then, when layout out the week's outfits, you can simply flip through the photos for inspiration. For women, dresses can be a preferred option as there are fewer details to consider, but keep in mind the value of a jacket or cardigan to polish off the finished look. Plus, I find this is an excellent opportunity to make sure everything in my closet is hung where it is supposed to be; an organized closet makes it so much easier to find what's needed for that perfect outfit you'll need at this week's big presentation. As you're planning out your week's outfits, consider what actions you have planned in addition to the weather, and, if anything needs to be ironed or steamed, take care of that over the weekend instead of waiting.
2. Take steps towards long-range planning. Weekends (especially Sundays) are an ideal time for a little bit of day-dreaming. Find a few minutes to envision what your ideal week will look like as well as how you hope each day pans out. Then, think through where you want to be further down the road and what you need to accomplish in the foreseeable future in order to reach those longer term goals. Do you need to incorporate some personal or professional development in the week to come?
1. Prepare your surroundings to better focus on your highest priorities. Although parts of this might need to be done on Friday as you're leaving the office instead of sometime over the weekend, follow the naval expression and make sure you "clear the decks". Before the busyness of business gets started, make sure your workspace offers a blank slate for whatever you need to accomplish in the week ahead. Return to their homes any items left out from the week ending. Finish opening your snail mail and put away what items are to be kept. Instead of keeping slips of paper out, add those tasks to your to-do list or keep action items in vertical files atop your desk. Many of my clients like to have folders for To RSVP, To Pay, To Deposit and such. Clear what clutter you can from each room of your home, and include others from your household in this process. Finally, start the week off with the pure joy of jumping into a bed with clean sheets and make sure you have clean towels to start things off right for Monday morning. I read last year about the power of clean towels and clean sheets to start off each week, and I can attest to the wonderfulness of this habit; it's like a fresh start to each week!