Create your task list. Estimate your time. Record your appointments. Time-block your tasks. Stay organized. Then start it all over again…
When you’ve reached a groove in your planning routine, the motions can sometimes get stale.
We want to mix it up! What other ways could you approach your Weekly Outlook that afford you new insights on the ways you spend your time?
On days that are more suited to a to-do list than a time block, I’ll often get creative with how I fill out these pages. I’ll split my to-do list into tasks to be accomplished during each part of the day. On days where my schedule is looser, I’ll fill in the sections for morning, midday, and evening with illustrations of how the time will be spent.
What may be my favorite creative use of the Weekly Outlook, though, is to look into the future. Combine loose time-blocking with project planning, prompt lists, and a little creative organization and you can plan a whole month or more of milestones to any goal in your arsenal.
How can you mix it up and get even more out of your Volt Planner Weekly Outlook pages? Read on for detailed how-to strategies for leveraging your weekly plans to make you even more amazing.
Looking backward: what did you do with your time?
I once met a productivity coach whose sole business focus was helping her clients accomplish more. She assisted a friend who’d recently opened a boutique and found herself over-committed and overwhelmed to the point of exhaustion. They both shared with me this strategy, which serves to make clear exactly how your time is spent and how you can create more time.
Try this for one whole day:
- Set a repeating timer for 15 minutes.
- At each point the timer ends, write a few words about what you were doing since the previous alarm.
- At the end of your workday, tally up all that you did and how much time you spent on each activity.
You can imagine how telling it is to see “checked Instagram” show up enough times to equal over an hour during a workday!
You can track your time for the day on the Weekly Outlook page, where the Morning, Noon, and Night blocks will help you keep track of time spent throughout the day. When you look back at the day (or multiple days, if you choose), you can see what activities you spent time on all day.
Even if you’re not struggling with time-usage, taking stock of how you spent each time block within your Volt Planner is an opportunity to reflect on your impact and time-ROI at the end of the day.
As you go about your day, you can also record your accomplishments and steps taken toward your goals. How much concrete, measurable progress did you make each day?
When you look back on your Weekly Outlook, with the benefit of hindsight, you can see how well you plotted out your time and how much you got done. Were you over-ambitious? Did you get way more done during the Morning time blocks? Study your past to learn how to plan your future more effectively.
And make time at the end of each day, each week, and each month to celebrate your efforts, regardless of their outcome.
The present: detailed time block lists
All opinions of to-do lists aside, the time blocks in your weekly spread are prime real estate for detailed lists of activities you need to get done at different points in the day:
- Meal planning during your Sunday Morning time block? In that space you can outline exactly what you intend to do or draw a picture of the meal components you need to pick up at the store. and want a visual representation of the menu you’re making.
- Maybe your kids are a sleepover on during your Friday Night time block and you have a list of activities to keep them busy until bedtime.
- Or perhaps you have a Monday morning off and want to accomplish some necessary projects around the house. What tools do you need? Which rooms do you want to focus on?
Each day, I have a to-do list that’s a sort of mash-up of goals, project steps, meeting times, necessary errands, and reminders to drink more water. Using my Weekly Outlook to catalog my to-do list through each day has helped me to realistically plan my loosely scheduled days and reflect on what I accomplish on a daily basis.
Once lists are created for the day (or the week), it’s important to schedule that time in your digital calendar. If you have a bunch of little to-do tasks to get done during your Noon time block, mark that time as “unavailable” on your calendar so that you don’t get interrupted. If you want to put time limits on your to-do’s, you can make individual appointments or reminders on your calendar to keep you moving.
Over time, you’ll settle into a rhythm of how much you can accomplish in any given amount of time. Understanding your personal rhythm takes practice. Allow yourself grace to learn your limits and capacity, utilizing the Weekly Inspiration pages for journaling and scheduling regular time to assess what worked and what did not work throughout the week.
The future – incorporating your goals into project planning
At the beginning of your week, you establish your goals. These may be incremental investments into larger (monthly, yearly, lifelong) endeavors or they may be one-off have-to-do’s that are just as important.
Utilizing a top-down hierarchy for “project planning” your weekly goals can happen right inside your time blocks and serve as a road map for your week ahead.
- Grab a scrap sheet of paper or a blank journal page.
- Start with your goal written at the top center of the page.
- Moving down one line at a time, begin expanding what individual steps are necessary to complete your goal
For example, a breakdown of a project, starting at the top:
Prepare Campaign for Launch
- Write content for 2-3 weeks of pre-launch emails
- Write content for launch emails
- Interview blog writers
- Send test assignments
- Create list of 20 blog topics
- Write content for landing page
- Create signup form
- Link form to email newsletter
- Send to design team to confirm branding
Once you’ve outlined the steps, add approximate time values to each of your detailed task items. Knowing that one items can be completed in fifteen minutes whereas another may take the whole afternoon gives you the information you need to create time blocks inside of your weekly spread.
For example, the list above could start to break down like this:
Write content for 2-3 weeks of pre-launch emails (Half day)
- Write short teaser pre-launch email (30 minutes)
- Write longer teaser pre-launch email (2 hours)
- Compile testimonials for final pre-launch email (1 hour)
- Write content for 2-3 weeks of pre-launch emails (Half day)
Interview blog writers (1 day)
- Email candidates to schedule interviews (30 minutes)
- Interview candidates (Half day)
- Review top candidates with team (30 minutes)
- Send rejection emails (10 minutes)
- Call new hires with offer and start date (20 minutes)
- Interview blog writers (1 day)
Frame your blocks with anything time-accountable like meetings, appointments, and deadlines. I do this using colors, but you can use your pen, your words, or any number of planner tools like washi tape and sticky notes to show the boundaries.
Once you have clear picture of what your week’s ‘available’ time is, begin integrating the steps to your goal from the bottom up, paying attention to how much time each step is approximated to take.
Tip: In my planner, the morning starts at 8AM and evening starts at 6PM. Knowing the general scope of your time blocks will help you take a realistic approach to checking items off of your list.
How will you reinvent your Weekly Outlook?
Like any skill or activity, mastery takes time. At the beginning of your planner journey, or at the beginning of your journey with a new planner, there will be some overlap of efforts as you find your groove. Consider experimenting a week at a time, seeing how different methods of time tracking, time planning, and time usage impact the greater whole of your life experience.
Look at your planner like a tool, different from your digital calendar which can be more reactive than proactive when it comes to accountability. Your planner serves as your space to organize, arrange, synergize, and develop flow.
How do you develop your personal time practices using your Volt Planner?