It happens every week like you’re living your own version of Groundhog’s Day. You get started working on Monday morning and you’re already tense because you have no idea where to start. Friday seems so long ago, there are emergencies that need to be dealt with immediately and before you even have a chance to get anything done, you have to run to a meeting. Not to mention, you haven’t had time to even prepare for it. Then you spend the rest of your week in the same endless cycle. By the end of the week, you know you’ve made forward progress, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. You spend most of the week just trying to survive and next week you’ll do it all over again.

Put an end to survival mode and start making some real progress!

More than life-hack, when you make this a habit, you’ll increase your productivity and keep your sanity in the process! Take 15-30 minutes on Sunday night to plan for the week ahead. You’ll be ready to start your week when Monday morning comes, be less stressed and you’ll likely sleep better too.

Sure, you may do other work on the weekend, but this is different. Working during off-hours is often task-focused, but this is a 30,000-foot view of your week ahead. Keep in mind, this is your planning time, you are not doing actual work (kind of like the strategic planning that we should all make more time for… but that’s a topic for another post.) This is time for you to see what is on your agenda, both personal and professional, plan for things that must be done this week, and address things that might need to get bumped to another week or entirely.

1. Check your calendars

Reviewing both your personal and professional calendars can save you from missing important appointments or kids’ events due to double booking yourself. You can also see where there may be gaps that are good for running errands or large blocks of time that can be earmarked for longer tasks like writing blog posts, creative work, or strategic planning.

Check to see if there are any days that require you to start early or stay late. If you’re ambitious, this can help you plan meals too!

2. Check the weather & plan for transportation needs

When there is snow in the forecast, you may need to get up early to shovel. If you are carpooling to a conference, you may want to make sure your car is vacuumed or grab a cooler and ice packs for those high temp days that you hope to pick-up up groceries over your lunch hour. Knowing what to expect and planning for it will be a lifesaver when it’s time to go.

3. Review your bank accounts

Account for transactions from the weekend may not have cleared yet, transfer money for a big purchase, or schedule bills due this week. In any case, it’s good practice to know where your bank account(s) stand so you can go about your week with peace of mind when it comes to your checkbook.

4. Assess your inbox(es)

It’s easy to let your inbox get full, even if you’ve already dealt with most of the messages. Make sure to delete or file emails that have been addressed and make a plan for those that still need to be. If you can’t get to something right away, the rule of thumb is at least reply and acknowledge that you have received the message and will get to the request soon or even give a specific time.

5. Make a task list

It’s human nature to have more on our “to do” lists (written or in our brains) than we can possibly accomplish. Writing it down and planning when to do each task can help set realistic expectations for ourselves. This may include a learning curve as you figure out how long or how little time some tasks actually take.

Inevitably there will be things that come up and need to be dealt with right away. So, we also need to plan on interruptions, be ok when they happen, and adjust.

Other tips to keep you on track throughout the week and help your new habit stick.

Set boundaries. This is especially important when working from home, (but can apply to the office environment too.) It’s easy to feel that you always need to be available or working because you live at your office. The reality is, you need to separate work and home time and tasks. Set boundaries with co-workers who feel that they should be able to have access to you any time day or night, or family and friends who don’t seem to think you actually work because you are at home.

Include relevant details in your calendar events. Learn from my experience. My daughter and I have the same initials so when Alexa showed my events for the day and one was “B haircut” tonight at 4 pm, I panicked. I didn’t know if it was me or her. Now, this may not seem important, but the coordination and amount of time needed are different depending on who it’s for. It caused unnecessary stress that could have been easily avoided, had I included the right details.

Jot. We usually remember things or have the greatest ideas at the most inconvenient times. Trying to remember everything just clutters our brains, but writing things down unclutters our thoughts and makes room for more productive thinking! Use a notes app on your phone or keep a notebook handy.

Clean out your sent folder too. Yes, it’s hard enough to keep your inbox cleared out, but it is helpful. Once an email has been dealt with, go ahead and delete the request you sent. Or file the emails full of information you don’t want to lose or may need to refer to later. When your email folders are cleaned up, it’s much easier and quicker to find what you need.

Starting is the biggest hurdle, but with this checklist, your pre-week planning process will be finely tuned in no time! Your productivity will improve your frame of mind, therefore improving your job performance and this growth mindset is what sets you apart and will propel you forward.

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