“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations if you live near one.”—J.R.R. Tolkien
We live in an increasingly fast-paced world, and as entrepreneurs and business leaders, we find ourselves overwhelmed with a seemingly never-ending to-do list on our plates and just not enough time.
Most of us play a good defense by trying to hold the fort as long as we can by trying to do things faster to accomplish more. Our Western world has taken pride in hustle culture, which, according to a blog from LifeHack Method, is nothing but a “euphemism for simply brute-forcing your way to success by working around the clock.”
Sure, working 80-100 hours a week most likely means you can get more things done, but it isn’t a sustainable way of living or accomplishing our goals. You are sure to burn yourself out, which can even get you physically sick in bed or in the hospital.
There is a more effective and efficient way of winning our week and taking hold of our schedules to accomplish more in less time.
The key is in planning ahead. As Dale Carnegie said, “An hour of planning can save you 10 hours of doing.” Notable leaders from different eras, such as Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, and Sun Tzu, agree that execution gets the job done between planning and execution, but planning is worth twice as much.
When we plan, we give ourselves time to figure out the lay of the land and identify where the fires currently are and which fires will potentially erupt. Then we can come up with more efficient, less time- and energy-consuming strategies to put out those fires in an orderly manner.
It takes away the mental drain of switching tasks and frantically juggling things that need our attention day-to-day. We get a blueprint of how we spend our limited resources and how to allocate them for the highest-yielding bids for our time and energy.
Effort is our responsibility. How we spend our time and energy to leverage all we want to accomplish is our responsibility. Making sure that we work sustainably to achieve success is our responsibility.
A lot of us set goals and jot down appointments in our calendar, but are we maximizing the use of these productivity tools in planning our weeks ahead?
I strongly advise people to set aside time over the weekends to plan their week ahead. I have a PDF of my weekly and daily planning routines that you can download here.
Also, here are some of the most helpful planning tips I’ve compiled from experts who’ve come up with amazing planning systems that will help you get more things done and win the week.
This is a crucial step. What have you accomplished in the last week? What hasn’t? What were some of the “lessons” you’ve learned? How can you do better next week?
Take the time to reflect on how your time is spent, and how you can invest it in better and higher-yielding tasks. Think of time like a currency: You don’t spend dollars arbitrarily buying tools that you might need for your business as you go. You take the time to sit down and create a budget for the equipment and software you need to purchase and how those will be utilized to bring you profit or success.
Time is an even more limited supply than money. And unlike money, once spent, time can’t be taken back. What you do with your limited supply of time is, therefore, more valuable than what you spend money on. So, if you take painstaking care to budget your expenses and to reflect on your spending, why wouldn’t you do that with your time?
Reviewing the week prior also allows you to create a feedback loop. It helps you start your next week with slightly better information and more insights. It also gives you an opportunity to identify what new things you want to try, evaluate your wins and losses, fine-tune your system, and celebrate your small and big wins.
The key is to maintain a consistent yet incremental improvement week by week. That will eventually snowball as you go through the year. But it only works if your improvement is going in the direction that you want it to go.
In order to go in the right direction, you must align your priorities with your goals.
If you have annual goals set at the beginning of the year, you’ve probably broken those big goals into smaller chunks quarterly and monthly. It is best to nest your weekly goals within those monthly goals to drive your success in the direction you’ve set.
Ideally, you should focus on one priority per week, but choosing is difficult. So try to limit it to three or five. Essentially, less is more in setting priorities. That way, you can focus more energy on it, than have yourself spread thin juggling multiple glass balls at once.
Applying the law of supply and demand, your limited supply is your time and your energy. We only have 24 hours a day to allow for everything that needs our attention in our lives. That includes rest, taking care of ourselves, spending time with our loved ones, and investing in our careers or jobs.
Look at your calendar and take inventory of the time already claimed by appointments, commitments, etc. Make sure to log all important appointments that require scheduling and block those off in your calendar.
It is crucial that you and your mind can fully trust what’s on your calendar, so keeping it organized and updated is a must. Otherwise, looking at a cluttered and unreliable calendar would just be anxiety-inducing and a waste of time, and you would eventually stop utilizing that productivity tool effectively.
Another important and limited supply is your energy. All throughout the day, your energy peaks and troughs. And when you are low on energy, it is hard to focus on a task, much less produce an excellent output.
Make sure to schedule breaks into your calendar so you can recharge your physical, mental, emotional, and social batteries. That way, you won’t find yourself running on fumes by the end of the day.
We want to show up at 100% for the things that matter. We can’t do that when we are running on empty ourselves.
If time and energy are the supply, the demand that bids for that limited supply is our to-do list.
To-do lists aren’t just for dumping all the tasks we need to do and storing them there. It is meant to capture all the things we want to accomplish with our time, as well as stuff that others want us to do for them.
Not all tasks are created equal. Some of them will be worth our time, and others we are better off delegating to others, or simply crossing off the list.
Trim down your list and categorize it according to whatever context works for you: Dividing tasks by location they are done (home, in front of your computer, at work, in the mall, etc.), time blocks (morning, afternoon, evening), etc.
A long and uncategorized to-do list can feel overwhelming and anxiety-inducing to look at. Keeping it organized, clear, and simple can help your brain process what these tasks are and why you want to achieve them in the first place.
Schedule your day-specific tasks on your calendar. You can attend to the non-scheduled tasks that are not time-bound when you have free time in between scheduled tasks.
This step involves a lot of negotiation and prioritizing, and it can be quite stressful to make decisions. But this step is crucial to having an organized plan for the week ahead.
Once you’ve laid out the things you will need to focus on in the coming week, you are now better equipped and mentally prepared to start your Monday with a purpose and a mission.
You just have to fine-tune the plan on a daily basis.
Have an awesome plan, and thanks for reading A Brilliant Tribe.