The weekend is buzzing in my bones around 3:30 pm on Friday afternoon.
My mind is seeing images of cozy clothes, slow brewed coffee, maybe even a trip to the farmer’s market. And when Sunday night rolls around, I’m torn between two voices in my head:
Little trickster on my shoulder says, “Watch another episode, grab a bowl of Halo Top…” while the little angel says, “Pour yourself a cup of tea and plan the week ahead.”
After a relaxing weekend, I find Sunday night to be the perfect time to power-plan my week. The house is quiet; there are plenty of ideas, to-do list items, and micro-goals humming in my mind. And don’t forget dread of waking up Monday morning unprepared and for the day’s tasks — that’s pretty good motivation too.
1. Stay on track with your goals by doing a weekly debrief
If you’re a Volt Planner user like myself, you’re well-acquainted with the Reflect + Celebrate section on your weekly planning pages. Make the most of that section on Sunday night by rehashing your week. Pay attention to your successes, where you fell short, what you enjoyed, and what you’d prefer to leave behind.
Then go back to your yearly, monthly, and weekly goals. Where did you make progress? What did you completely forget? Before you get to planning your week, review your big-picture goals and make sure your priorities and activities for the week are fitting.
If you find that you’ve gone off-track from your big-picture goals, try this goal breakdown process to help you refocus:
- Write your goal at the top of a brainstorming page in your planner or on a blank sheet of paper.
- Work backwards from the end result: what steps need to happen in order to make that goal a reality?
- Once you’ve outlined the steps required to reach your goal, circle the first few steps and save them for planning your week ahead.
2. Get clear with what’s on your plate for the upcoming week
As a freelancer, I balance many projects and clients at once. This means that each week is different and there are many spinning plates to keep up in the air! Every Sunday night, I take stock: long-term goals, short-term goals, current projects, necessary chores, appointments, and wish list items.
Quick note on wish list items: In between the work, housekeeping, and general busyness of living, I do have activities and projects I wish to take on that don’t fit neatly in the typical “productive” categories. These often include starting a new book, knitting a scarf, or other hobby-like interests. If I don’t make a note of them, I’ll run myself into the ground with work and let my hobbies fall by the wayside!
No matter your industry, you probably have masses of paperwork or digital notes detailing all that you have and want to do. Bringing them together in one place is a double-whammy: organize and prioritize those tasks AND get them on your calendar for the week.
When you’ve set up your week in advance, you know what you’re capable of and what you’re putting off until next week.
3. Give yourself a clean slate
Nothing grinds my gears like opening my email Monday morning to the tune of 100+ unread emails, many of them newsletters and pointless marketing mumbo-jumbo. I instantly get sucked into deleting, organizing, flagging, and opening too many tabs for articles I will probably never have time to read.
If this sounds like your inbox too, log into Unroll.me and clean up your inbox by unsubscribing from email you never read or that distracts you. It takes less than an hour, and you can even “roll up” emails from senders you DO want to hear from in a single email that only comes once daily. Tip: Schedule your roll up to arrive in the afternoon, so it doesn’t derail your morning productivity.
I go through this process each week because I tend to over-subscribe to newsletters and get bogged down with junk.
In addition to making sure you don’t have any “unread” emails come Monday morning, give your Flagged box a once-over if you’re a chronic over-flagger like me.
You may have to do a Flagged overhaul before this becomes an easy Sunday night routine, but trust me, it’s worth it! Having emails flagged from April of 2016 is not doing you any good. Either save them as a PDF or let them go.
More often than not, I flag emails that I receive after hours, over the weekend, or in relationship to projects I’m not working on at the time. Take thirty minutes and go through your flagged box, unflagging emails that no longer require your attention and crafting thoughtful drafts of emails you can send off on Monday morning.
By writing your emails ahead of time when you’re in the right mindset, you’re less likely to make rushed mistakes. There’s little more impressive than receiving a carefully-crafted reply to an important message first thing Monday morning.
4. Make your space more beautiful (or at least less distracting)
No one wants to wake up on Monday morning to a house that looks like the aftermath of a New Year’s Eve party. Sunday evening is the perfect time to put on some good tunes or a show you can watch passively and get your physical space tidied for the week, to put you in a good headspace while you’re getting ready Monday morning.
- Clean all of your dishes and put them away; don’t leave a full dishwasher for Monday morning
- Make sure all of your laundry is clean and put away, not still wrinkled in the hamper
- Rid your fridge of leftovers you won’t eat, dishes that have gone bad, or packages that have started leaking
- Tidy your surfaces, putting away books, toys, tools, and stray materials from the weekend’s activities
- Straighten your linens and furniture, so your space is harmonious and pleasing upon waking
- Clear out any unnecessary items from your car and handbag
- Make sure you have toiletries and paper products ready for your use in the morning
5. Set yourself up for a successful Monday morning
How long does it take you to get ready in the morning? You have to wash up, choose your outfit, gather the items you’re taking to work or using for the day, possibly preparing meals not just for yourself but for kids and family members. You may have a dog that needs walking, an exercise routine, or school drop-offs to do.
Set as much as you can out the night before, then see how much time you still need to get ready. The more you do now while you’re relaxed, the less you’ll have to do while you’re stressed in the morning (and the less stressed you’ll be!):
- Make sure there is gas in your car or money in your public transit card early in the evening and refill if you don’t have enough to get to-and-from where you’re going.
- Choose your outfit for the next day, making sure to check the weather. Set out any accessories (bag, jewelry, layers) and weather needs (galoshes, umbrella) in a conspicuous place, so you don’t forget them.
- Set out your toiletries and personal products for easy access in the groggy dawn light.
- Pack your lunch the night before. And, if breakfast is a struggle, pre-plan your breakfast or have smoothie ingredients prepped and ready to blend.
- Pack your bag, briefcase, or purse with everything you’ll need for the day. If you find that you’re missing something, put it on a shopping list and purchase it on your next trip to the store.
- Put your essentials in a conspicuous place to grab and go (phone, keys, wallet, etc)
- Charge your devices (phone, laptop, e-reader, extra battery charger) overnight near your bag or your bed.
- Set your alarm with enough ‘snooze’ time baked-in, so you don’t make yourself late first thing.
If you take stock of how long it takes you to get ready, including all of your necessary tasks, you can choose a time to wake up that won’t leave you feeling rushed.
Bonus: Create a morning checklist and put it on your kitchen table
Put everything you need to get done in a morning on the checklist. Going to the gym? Remind yourself on the checklist to grab your gym bag. Need to leave 15 minutes early to take your kid to school? Put it on the checklist!
When you wake in the morning, head to your list and begin checking off what you set up for yourself the night before. A morning checklist is ideal for those looking to implement new habits or routines, if you have a new or one-time task that needs to be done, or if you must prepare something that morning on which your day depends.
Waking up to a clean, prepped, and productivity-supportive space does wonders for my mood AND my creativity come Monday morning. Sunday evenings have become a quiet respite for planning, celebrating the successes, cleansing my space, and cementing my powerful start to a new week.