Key Learning Outcomes
- Learn that an ideal week maps out the activities you need to focus on with time allocated to each one, but at the same time acknowledging that not every week will go 100% to plan.
- Identify the benefits you will experience if you operate with an ideal week, such as building momentum, controlling the work rather than letting it control you and increasing effectiveness.
- Understand the six steps you need to follow in order to create an effective ideal week.
- Compose an ideal week using our worksheet as a guide.
Creating an ideal week is something that can transform both your time management effectiveness and your productivity. However, it is important to remember that unless you are operating your life and business without people, clients and communication devices, it is unlikely that any ideal week is going to go 100 per cent to plan. Regardless of this fact, there are still a number of key benefits to developing an ideal week that will not only increase your effectiveness and productivity, but will also aid in providing a better work/life balance.
What is an ideal week? Essentially it is a map of your week that sets out blocks of time to focus on certain activities. For example, if you have paperwork that needs to be done on a weekly basis, you block out the time in your diary as an appointment so that you allocate time to this specific task. The following outlines some of the key benefits you will experience when working with an ideal week:
- Grouping similar tasks together into blocks of time will allow you to benefit from momentum. For example, if you make all client follow-up calls in one block, you can maximise your time efficiency and effectiveness.
- By planning certain activities on particular days you can control your work rather than let it control you. For example, if your business requires you to go out to visit clients on occasion, try making all appointments in two or three blocks during the week. This allows you to link appointments together and to minimise lost time through travel.
- The ideal week allows you to make sure that the important things are locked into your week, so you don’t get to the end of the week and find that you have been busy but not effective.
Following are the key steps that you need to follow to ensure that your ideal week will work for you and that it is not doomed to failure.[wlm_ismember]
Step 1: Activity log
If you really want to set up your ideal week and improve your time management, the first thing to do is work out where you are actually spending your time. Most of us think we know; however, if you complete the log for just one week you will see just how much of your week is wasted or is being used ineffectively. You need to try and allocate every 30 minutes of time. If there are blocks that you cannot allocate to a task, it is likely that the time was spent doing something non-work related or non-productive. For this activity log to be effective you have to be honest with yourself. For example, that half-hour surfing the net in search of the perfect holiday destination was not research but leisure. It is worthwhile doing this exercise a few times a year just to keep on track and make sure bad habits do not creep back in.
Step 2: Analyse the activity log
You are looking for:
- Similar tasks that can be grouped together.
- Wasted productivity time, perhaps travel to and from the office for several appointments on the same day, or time spent talking to that friend on the phone while waiting for a client.
- Time spent on tasks that could or should have been done by someone else.
- Tasks that took much longer than they should have. For example, a report you were completing took two hours due to distractions and interruptions when it was only really a one-hour job.
- Also look for trends or patterns. Are there times of the day you are more efficient? For example, you may be more productive in the mornings than the afternoons. Everyone is different but there are not many people who can work 100% effectively all day. The better you understand how you work, the better you will become at scheduling your important tasks or meetings at the right time of the day.
Step 3: Group tasks
Looking at your average week and write a list of all the tasks that you do more than once. A one-off meeting does not have to be added to an ideal week, unlike a regular weekly meeting. You need to group similar activities into blocks. It is also good to colour-code your ideal week, for example internal meetings are all red, client meetings are blue and paperwork is yellow. See below for an example of an ideal week.
Step 4: Fill your week
The template provided is for a seven-day week and the times run from 6am to 6pm. Depending on your business, you may need to change these to suit your individual situation. Firstly, block out any time that you are not working – so if Wednesday is your day off, block it out. Next, put in any weekly meetings or events that have to be carried out at a certain time. For example, a sales meeting at 8am to 9am every Friday morning needs to be added. It is very important that you factor in some slack time between each activity block. This allows you to deal with anything unexpected that has come up that you had not allocated time for.
We also suggest you put things into your ideal week to assist with your work/life balance. For example, if you are finding it hard to get to the gym or spend time with a loved one, you can block out time in your ideal week.
Step 5: Print and share it
You need to print out your ideal week and make sure you keep it somewhere handy to help you stay on track during the week. If you are the boss, there is no point implementing your ideal week unless you share it with your team. If you are clear about the blocks in the week when you need to work on the business or on a particular activity uninterrupted, it is more likely that your ideal week will be a success. Many business owners and managers work with an “open door” policy which can be a great environment to work in. However, it may be worthwhile to introduce a rule that when the door is closed it is because you are working on something important.
Step 6: Review and refine
At the end of every week for at least a month you should review how closely you were able to stick to the ideal week. After week 1, it might be obvious that something is in the wrong spot, or too much or too little time is allocated to a task. Make notes and keep copies of each week. By the end of the month you should have a good idea of what your ideal week should look like. Your ideal week should be reviewed every quarter to ensure maximum effectiveness.[/wlm_ismember]
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