6 Steps to Create a Successful Work Plan
Have you ever considered how many hours of work are wasted on multitasking and refocusing your attention after every email and small task? According to research, it can take up to 23 minutes to refocus on a task after being interrupted. Now, imagine you were distracted about five times each day – resulting in hundreds of wasted hours every year.
Although to-do lists have been hugely popular for years, an increasing number of people have now replaced their lists with more structured weekly plans. Why? The reasons vary but people feel that general to-do lists don’t work for them anymore because:
- They get overwhelmed by looking at all the things they need to do.
- They don’t have a good system on how to prioritize the items on the list.
- They feel that they are continuously adding to their list but not reducing it.
The power of weekly planning, on the other hand, lies in the perspective and control it provides for work. Setting aside around half an hour each week is not that much, but the return on investment is phenomenal. Thus, it might be a good time to switch those to-do lists for a good weekly work plan.
What is a work plan?
A work plan is a visual map of your to-do list that helps you stay much more organized while working on your tasks. It encourages you to think through what you want to achieve and break the week into smaller parts. You can think of it as a game plan in sports, where managers put together a well-thought-out strategy for achieving their objective – in their case winning.
Why do we need a work plan?
A short answer – it gives you more structure. With a good weekly plan, you’re able to use your time more efficiently and spend less time on regaining focus after being distracted. Further, visualizing your whole week at once also enables you to spread out and prioritize work in a manner that significantly increases how much you can accomplish. In all aspects – weekly planning gets you more work done.
“Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution.” – Brian Tracy, Author & Motivational Speaker
Creating a work plan
Now, are you ready to save hundreds of hours and loads of energy by working smarter? Follow these 6 steps to set up your personal weekly time management plan. We’ve done our best to keep it as straightforward and actionable as possible. Naturally, once you have become the master of planning you might feel the need to add steps that best work for you.
1. Choose your planning tool
Everyone has their own preference for what tools to use for work planning. Some still prefer using pencil and paper but more and more people are now looking for digital tools that enable them to access work from anywhere.
With so many different options available, from very simple planning tools to comprehensive all-in-one solutions, everyone can find the best tool for their work. Thus, take some time to test and see what works best for you.
Check out this list of best time management software on the market!
2. Plan your work regularly
Your weekly planning ritual won’t make a difference if you do it once a year, or even once a month. It’s called weekly for a reason and you’ve got to make that a habit to make it work.
First, pick a day that you’ll use to establish your weekly work plan. Friday afternoon is a good day for this – you can review your weekly accomplishments and plan ahead for the next.
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3. Get planning
Start by listing your big-picture goals. Then decide what you need to accomplish next week to meet those goals. Keep in mind that ideally, the tasks you add to your weekly plan should only be the ones that bring you closer to those big-picture goals – anything else is a distraction.
TIP 1. When first starting out with work plans, set aside at least 30 minutes of planning time. It will take time before you get a handle on it. Eventually, it will only take you about 10 minutes every week.
4. Schedule everything
After deciding what you want to accomplish next week, schedule the time you need to carry out those tasks. The best way to make sure you planned a realistic amount of work for the week – add it to your calendar and see if there’s time for everything. If your calendar looks overwhelming, see whether you can schedule some of the lower priority tasks for the following week.
It’s important that you plan time to complete a task, not a project – for instance updating the website is a project, not a task that can be completed in two hours. Make sure you break projects down into smaller tasks such as “writing a blog post” or “finding new photos and artwork” and then schedule blocks of time to do each.
TIP 2. Be careful not to over-schedule your time – leave at least 10% of your calendar open for unexpected meetings and activities, as well as for time to reflect and think, or just to have a break. The scheduled breaks also leave a buffer zone between tasks, so it’s okay if you cross the planned time frame a little.
5. Stick to the plan
All of this planning goes to waste if you don’t follow your plan – thus eliminate distractions and stick to the plan. Of course, sometimes even the best-laid plans need adjusting and that’s where daily planning comes in.
Every morning, before getting to work, go over your daily plan and make adjustments if needed – when a meeting gets canceled or there were tasks left uncompleted from the day before. This way you will always have a clear understanding of your daily priorities.
TIP 3. To make sure nothing important falls through the cracks, immediately reschedule the tasks that weren’t completed. If you see that the same tasks are rescheduled week after week, delegate the task to someone else.
6. Reflect and repeat
At the end of each week, take a look at your weekly plan. Feel the rewarding sense of accomplishment when looking at all the ticked boxes in front of the tasks.
Were there any tasks left uncompleted or meetings that were canceled? Reflect on why did that happen – did you underestimate the amount of time needed to complete a task or did just the unexpected happen? Based on these reflections it’s easier to plan for the following weeks.
Planning your weekly work is an ongoing process of learning. The longer you do it the better you get at predicting your energy levels, following productivity tips, and planning accordingly. Along the way, you will also learn to let go of inefficient tasks and projects.
Once you get into the habit of weekly work planning, it becomes something you enjoy and look forward to. As you consistently plan out your week, you’ll find yourself with more motivation, direction, and productive time.