How I Plan My Week (My 5-Step Process + free workbook download)
“There is no excuse for not preparing for something that is inside your control.”
Update: After being asked more times than I can count, today I’m sharing my Full Weekly Planning Process I’ve done religiously for the past 5 years.
This article is meant to be a reference piece. I’ve also included a free Weekly Planning Worksheet download at the bottom, to make sure this stuff is super easy for you to do.
Oh, and keep an eye out next Monday – I’m sharing my favorite tool for finding and deciding on a passion-based career!
For now let’s get into the fun…
“I don’t have enough time.”
Think about that statement for a second. How often do you say it? How many times a week or even each day?
There is no bigger killer of dreams than those five words.
But have you ever noticed that the busiest and most accomplished people never seem to say them?
The CEO always has time for that last minute event. Warren Buffett has a nearly clear calendar. Tony Robbins connects and speaks with tens of thousands of people a year, all over the world, and still manages to launch new ventures non-stop. Or even my biggest mentors, who get 100x more requests for their time than I do, always seem to be free for a last minute call or lunch.
The list goes on.
But what set’s them apart?
They have a strategy. Most of us do not.
There’s only one real reason why the big-time successful people seem to get so many of the important things done – and still have time left over (aside from working out, which we covered in our Richard Branson article last month). It’s not because they were born with something special or only sleep three hours a night.
Stop telling yourself they’re special, because they’re not.
They simply have found a strategy that works. And they execute on it continuously.
Most people go into the week with little idea of how they see their days unfolding. If they do any planning, they write a jumbled list of tasks.
It’s no wonder why much of the world spins their tires on email, Facebook, Twitter and petty tasks and requests, complaining about hating their work and dreaming of a new career, while the Living Legends change the world.
Doing work you love is not easy. In fact, it’s damn hard. Without a process for doing what matters, on a daily and hourly basis, the odds will kill you.
The good news is that with the right process, it’s very possible. Last year I developed Live Off Your Passion to help you create a passionate career. What I didn’t realize is that many of us still don’t think we have the time to give it the attention it deserves.
You can do magnitudes more of what matters than you realize.
But you need a process that gets results.
Nearly every day I get people asking me what my weekly planning process is. So today, I wanted to share it with you.
But I certainly did not invent it. I find very little logic in starting from scratch these days – I prefer to build off of what already works.
About six years ago, I started working with a long-time Tony Robbins coach (likely the best business/life decision I’ve made). They’ve worked together for nearly two decades (like from before most people knew who Tony was). During one of our first sessions she shared Tony’s (and her) weekly planning process.
Whether you like the guy or not, between the 4 million+ people he’s touched in over 100 countries, the best-selling books and the dozens of businesses he’s created, Tony Robbins has a process that works, and it’s allowed him to help more people than most could dream of. I am one them.
It literally changed the game for me.
It’s allowed me to launch serious projects in a matter of weeks and months (like Live Your Legend, Live Off Your Passion and the Should I Quit Test – all while running my investment business). Without this process, each of those could have easily taken a year or more.
I’ve used it religiously every week for the past five years, except when I’m out exploring or vacationing.
Below is the process I go through every Monday morning – I’ve made a couple modifications over the years.
The simple purpose is to connect your dreams, outcomes, and desires to the actions you take on a daily and weekly basis.
This goes hand in hand with my Goal Setting and Action Workbook.
Remember, there’s a free workbook download of the full process at the bottom of this article for you to actually fill out each week.
My 5-Step Weekly Planning Process:
Note: the process is usually 5 steps, but I made it into 8 for explanation purposes…
1. Make Time – Establish a Ritual
The days of diving into Monday morning totally unprepared are over. Reserve a minimum of an hour (maybe 1.5 or 2) each week for your planning process. At first this is as counter-intuitive as working out – but no matter how crazy your schedule is, you will be more effective, confident and calm if you take time before you jump into the storm. Look at your schedule and decide when is your best time at the start of each week. Ideally, make this is the same time every week so you can establish a ritual. For me it’s usually from 8-9:30 on Monday morning. Sometimes it’s Sunday.
Just be sure you do it before you start any of your weekly tasks, and especially before you check email! If this means spending an hour Sunday night, then so be it.
Make it something you look forward to. Put on your favorite relaxing music (mine is usually classical or something meditative). Pour a cup of your favorite tea or coffee. Shut off the Internet. Get away from the world.
Do This: Write down your planning time and schedule it.
2. Connect and Visualize the Big Picture
Time recommended: 2-5 minutes
Take a few deep breaths. Then take some time to look at your big lifetime goals and dreams. What do you want to be remembered for? What do you want your life to be about for the next 3 to 10 years? Look back over your lifetime goals and Areas of Attention from the Goal Setting and Action Workbook process. Starting with the big picture allows us to keep our focus on what really matters (i.e. building a loving family vs. worrying about paying your cable bill).
Do This: We’ll get to the little tasks later, but for now just visualize, feel and connect with the biggest things you want to be a part of your life. No need to write anything down.
3. Celebrate Last Week
Time recommended: 5-10 minutes
This is the most important step of all – I absolutely love it. Write down everything from the past week that you’re proud of. Anything and everything positive goes – having a record sales week, getting a rewarding thank you, having a hot date or sticking to your workout. Running a marathon or walking around the block – it’s all sacred.
We rarely take the time to appreciate the things we’ve accomplished, big and small, before diving into what’s next. This leaves us with a constant feeling of dissatisfaction. I guarantee there are things you did last week that you can be proud of. Recognize them. Bask in them. Celebrate it all. That pride turns into confidence, and that confidence snowballs into the week to come.
A couple of mine from last week include: Being a guest expert for Jonathan Fields’ Good Life Project, making fun plans for my wife’s birthday, having time to spend Friday and Saturday in the sun with close friends, being a part of Simon Sinek’s latest project (more on that soon), sorting out a new healthcare plan and doing an awesome webinar with Corbett Barr. Seriously, anything goes.
Do This: List at least 10 things – but feel free to write down as many more as come to mind. You’ll often find that once you start, it’s hard to stop. Perfect. This will put you in an unbelievably powerful state for tackling what’s to come. Have fun with it.
4. Write Down Major Lessons
Time recommended: 2-5 minutes
We learn new things every day. But an education is worthless if you don’t make the lessons a part of your life. Write down any key learnings from the past week: major lessons, meaningful quotes and things that inspire you. I also keep a list of “dream connections”, which I’ll get to more in the Connect With Anyone course, but this is basically a list of people I’d love to connect with and my progress in making it happen.
A big lesson for me last week was: Digital communication is great for trading information but terrible for emotional discussions – leave those for phone or in person. Simon Sinek made this point on our call and it really stuck, so I took note.
Do This: Look back through your notes and ideas from last week and list all the lessons that come to mind. Give them a chance to become a part of your life.
5. Analyze What Didn’t Happen
Time recommended: 2-5 minutes
Nothing ever goes exactly according to plan. Look back on the important things you wanted to accomplish last week. What didn’t happen? Be totally honest with yourself. List them out. Only list the things that actually mattered. For each one, write down why it didn’t happen. Was it for a good reason (i.e. other more important things happened), or was it for a bad reason (i.e. you got sucked into checking emails for 9 hours straight)? What could you have done to avoid this? How will you improve it going forward?
For me, one of my misses last week was: I didn’t complete the outline for my Connect With Anyone course, but it was because creating content related to last week’s webinar was more important at the time.
Do This: Be honest with yourself and list the big things that didn’t happen and what you can improve for next time.
6. Clarify and Commit to Your Biggest Outcomes
Time recommended: 5-10 minutes
Now that we’ve properly reflected on last week, it’s time to dive into what’s to come. I like to start by quickly reviewing my mission/purpose, values and strengths to get in the right place. I keep a list of all these items on a couple sheets of paper. Now look at each major area in your life and the related goals (in the Goal Setting and Action workbook, we call these Areas of Attention).
Decide on on a maximum of 6 to 7 outcomes you want to accomplish related to the various areas in your life. This could be creating a personal budget, cooking a healthy meal or having a great meeting with a mentor. You get to decide. Just be sure they get you closer to your yearly goals. That’s the key. So “checking Facebook” would not count.
One of my big outcomes for this week is: writing this article and the free workbook to go with it (you can download that at the bottom).
Do This: Pick a total of 6-7 outcomes max and spread them throughout the week.
7. Schedule Everything
Time recommended: 5-15 minutes
This is the missing link for many people. Everything you do takes up time in your day. Yet most of us create lists of tasks with no concept of how long they’ll take. In fact, I bet if you took your current task list and wrote down how long each item would actually take, you’d find you need about 20 hours for today’s tasks. Ever feel like you never get everything done in a day? This is why. We drastically underestimate how long things take. Since everything takes time to do, we need to assign actual time to the things that matter most to us.
Look at your 6 to 7 weekly outcomes and decide what core tasks will need to happen to accomplish these. Now spread these out throughout the week. Most people can’t accomplish more than 1-3 meaningful things in a day, so that’s your limit. Pick 1-3 “most important tasks” (MIT’s) as my buddy Leo likes to call them, and schedule them throughout the week. Keep in mind any meetings you have or calls you need to make.
Now actually reserve the time on your calendar. I mean actually book a meeting with yourself on an actual calendar. You should see my Apple iCal – it looks like someone spilled a pack of Skittles on it with all the self-appointments for each big task related to my Areas of Attention. If I need to do something important, it gets a place on my calendar. Period.
Do This: If you want it to get done, you have to schedule it. Schedule 1-3 important tasks for each weekday. If you don’t have a calendar yet, then get one. I love iCal because it syncs with my iPhone and is visually really fun.
Here’s a taste of what my calendar looks like most weeks…
8. Fill in the Gaps and Housekeeping
Time recommended: 5-10 minutes
Most of us fill our days with the little tasks – the ones that are easy to do, but also that don’t end up getting us any closer to our goals. These need to get done, but not at the expense of the things that help us accomplish what actually matters. Once you’ve scheduled your outcomes and MIT’s, now is where you get to fill in anything else.
Do This: Look at what’s left on your to do list. Now look at your calendar and see when you could fit the little things in. Schedule these as well. By the end of this process you shouldn’t have any stray to-do lists or tasks.
And also, since nothing happens without help, I like to take a minute or two and think about two questions in the context of my week:
- Who can I help this week?
- Who could help me accomplish what I have planned for the week?
And as final housekeeping, I like to review my expenses from the last seven days. I use Mint.com, so this usually takes about 3 minutes to categorize and see if everything looks right. If I put it off until the end of the month, this stuff turns into more of of a mental monster than it needs to be. A few minutes goes a long way.
*A small note on how I track To-Do’s: I use the to-do list program called Things, which has seriously been a lifesaver. I have a version on my MacBook Air, my iPhone and my iPad (yes, I’m part of the cult). They all sync together. I’m able to categorize to-do’s into various projects, easily search them, drag to my calendar, assign dates and keep everything sorted. As soon as I think of an idea throughout the week, I immediately write it down – so I don’t forget it, and so that I don’t have to worry about forgetting it. Don’t estimate how mentally freeing it is to get ideas onto paper. I must have 100 project or lists tracked in Things. Only 5 or 10 are active at once, but everything is recorded in there.
If you don’t have a way to easily keep track of ideas and to-do’s, get one. Things is an excellent option.
How to not fail at weekly planning – a few tips:
So there you have it – the most powerful hour I spend each week.
Once you get a handle on the process, it’s a lot simpler than it looks. But there are a few things that seem to trip people up. Keep these in mind…
- Everything takes longer than we think. If you think it’s going to take an hour to write an article, then schedule an hour and a half. In a worst case scenario, you’ll have some free time.
- Leave windows of “buffer time”. Do not fill in every second of every day. Unexpected things will always come up. Don’t let them snowplow your week. Give yourself time to take care of last-minute stuff that matters, and to be spontaneous with things.
- Know you won’t get it all done. Even with great planning, it seems like we tend to be over ambitious (at least I am ;)). Be okay with leaving a little for next week. It gives you something to look forward to, anyway.
- Schedule the most important things early in the week. Given this process, front-weight your most important tasks so that no matter what comes up, at least a few of them will get done.
Everyone has enough time.
There is a reason why the people who get the most done tend to continue to be able to do more and more of what matters.
Many of them also tend to love the work they do.
None of this is a coincidence.
They traded excuses for a process that gets results.
Whether you use this process or any other – please just use something.
There is no excuse for showing up underprepared.
If it’s in your control, then it’s time to start controlling it.
Trust me, you have enough time to do the things that matter.
We all do.
The only question left is how are you going to spend it?
P.S. I have something really fun to share with you this Monday. It’s one of my favorite tools/processes for finding and choosing a passion and career path. Good luck with your weekly planning and be sure to keep an eye out for this next Monday. I can’t wait to share it with you!
Download the Free Weekly Planning Workbook -
I know these steps can seem like a lot (I promise it’s simple once you get started) – so to make it easy, I want to give you all in the Live Your Legend community a template to walk you through the process. It’s the same one I use every week. It’s totally free and I encourage you to use this as your template to actually fill out each week.
I just added it to the subscriber-only Passionate Career Toolkit, so to get the worksheet download (both in .doc and .pdf format) just enter your email in the form below.
**Some clarity for those of you new to Live Your Legend: Just so you know how things work around here, every couple months I create a massive workbook or tool in the form of a PDF, Word doc or online test to help you further do work you love, and I make it available totally for free as part of the set of tools every email subscriber gets access to (I call it the Passionate Career Toolkit). It’s a way of me saying thanks for your support.
If you are not a subscriber yet, entering your email below will give you immediate access to our full suite of free tools and you’ll get an update every time a new article comes out, as well as some other exclusive subscriber-only content. Thanks for joining the community and being a part of what we’re building!
*Note: If you’re already a subscriber, don’t worry, you will not be double subscribed. You will just be taken straight to the download page. Enjoy!
Download the free workbook here:
I hope this weekly planning process is even half as helpful to you as it has been for me!
Here’s to doing what matters…