We often see Fridays as a gateway to the weekend, a time for well-deserved relaxation and leisure. But what if I told you that Fridays may hold the key to unlocking your productivity? By making a slight shift in your approach to planning, you could transform your entire week. Planning on Friday might be the secret weapon you have been looking for. In this article, we will explore the art of planning on Friday, and as a bonus, you can download a free guide to get you started on your journey right away! So, let’s jump right into it.
What does it mean to plan on Fridays?
Abraham Lincoln once said: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” The iconic president of the United States understood the importance of preparation. But why should we plan? Isn’t life too unpredictable, and most of our plans fail anyway?
When we don’t plan, we spend time on irrelevant matters, we get lost in our duties, and frozen by unexpected problems. We focus on the immediate and disregard the big picture. As Laura Vanderkam, the author of Tranquility by Tuesday, who inspired this post, puts it: “Time is constantly slipping away, but we can choose how we use it, even if we only have little time.”
Planning on Fridays means taking 20 minutes of our time on Friday to plan our next week, so we can bring calm and tranquility into our lives and handle the challenges and unpredictability of life more purposefully by taking the time for the things that matter.
Planning on Fridays is not just about goals and deadlines.
Imagine this scenario: You have an important deadline on Thursday, and you’ve already made significant plans with your partner on Wednesday. You might also have some routines for your health and productivity, like a workout or meditation practice. With life being as it is, some unexpected issues will pop up. Some tasks will take longer than anticipated, and hiccups will arise throughout the day. If you allow these unplanned events to consume your time and attention, you’ll fall short of completing your work for the deadline, and panic and frustration will ensue. You will carry the burden of stress on Wednesday, ruining your day and the time you had planned with your partner.
By planning your week in advance, you can anticipate obstacles and ensure that everything is ready for the deadline. This approach safeguards your relationship time with your partner, ensures the completion of important tasks, and allows you to wrap up your projects on time without unnecessary stress. So, can you afford not to plan?
What if you don’t have time to plan?
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail
Everything we choose in life has a price – a cost we have to pay. And perhaps the most precious currency of all is time. Whether it’s working on your professional aspirations, investing in your relationships, spending more time with your loved ones, or working on yourself. Everything we value requires time, and time is constantly slipping away. We can choose to look the other way, to be willfully blind, and convince ourselves that we have more time. But the truth of the matter is, we don’t. Not as much as we think, at least.
If you believe you don’t have the time to plan, then planning is exactly what you need. I know you have a lot on your plate, the stress is building up, and you feel planning would be a waste of time. But consider how many hours you wasted on meaningless activities because you just got caught up in them. And think about the toll that stress and worries take on you. Planning is the best way to regain control of your time and to live it serenely. Even when the plan fails.
“Plans are worthless, but planning is everything” (D. D. Eisenhower)
Although individual plans may fail due to the unpredictability of life, the act of planning itself is extremely valuable. It is not the plan that matters but the understanding of what is important. Having the calm and focus to choose what is worth your time and what is not when you are in the midst of chaos is the cornerstone of time management. As Vanderkam coins it, you must switch from “what is happening” to “what is important.” But how can you do that?
You will find included in this post a free guide for planning on Fridays. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you will discern what is truly important and establish the foundations for a fulfilling week.
A week is a fundamental building block in our schedules. It is long enough to involve actions beyond your immediate crises but short enough for you to commit to times and actions with reasonable certainty. By planning in weeks, you can approach your schedule more holistically.
Planning in weeks allows you to:
- Address significant issues proactively, spending time to resolve them before they escalate into catastrophes.
- Break down large goals into small, manageable steps.
- Consider what truly matters to you, and focus on the more essential aspects of your life.
- Think about your desires and devise ways to communicate with your future self.
- Cultivate a greater sense of control, purpose, and fulfillment.
Maybe you are thinking: “This is all well and good, but why should I do it on Fridays?” Fridays have advantages over other days in the week.
First of all, what do you really do on Friday afternoons? Friday is not the time to start a new project or focus on difficult tasks. So, instead of wasting time till the end of the workday, set aside 20 minutes to plan your next week.
Secondly, planning on Friday removes the “Sunday scaries.” Sunday can be ruined by the knowledge of the problems that await you next week. By defining your tasks and laying out a plan for next week, you can enjoy your weekends and relax, knowing exactly what you will do next week.
Thirdly, planning on Fridays makes your Mondays more productive. You can wake up on Monday and jump right into your projects because you already know what to do.
Finally, planning on Friday makes your weekends more enjoyable if you use the Friday planning slot to prepare for the upcoming weekend. You can get those movie tickets on time, make a dinner reservation at that restaurant that is always booked, or make plans for trips you and your partner always talk about. Instead of trying to make plans on Saturday morning when no one feels like doing anything anyway, you can be one step ahead and use your free time to the max.
Focus on Aspirations
Now let’s get down to the technicalities. What should you consider when planning? Everyone has a different idea of their ideal week, depending on their life circumstances. Putting a fixed structure on everyone’s life is impossible, but some guidelines are universal. When thinking about your upcoming week, I want you to be led with one question: What would make this week wonderful?
Ponder this question for a moment: What kind of week would make me feel proud and fulfilled? This kind of thinking pushes you to identify the important factors in your life. It might be family, career, or something else you have going on. It doesn’t matter. Search your aspirations and try to come up with a plan that will fit your vision.
How and what to plan?
Planning will look different for everybody, but here are some basic concepts to help you plan your week better.
The definition of priority is: “a thing that is regarded as more important than others.” If you have a list of 10 items, all considered equally important, they cease to be priorities and cannot be distinguished from one another. Focus on things that bring you the most results. In fact, it is advisable to limit your priorities to no more than 3-5, and even that number may be stretching it.
Setting goals requires a fine balance between feasibility and challenge. If you find yourself achieving your goals too effortlessly, you need to reevaluate them and raise your aspirations. Conversely, if you struggle to manage your priorities, consider reducing their number to one or two or breaking them down into smaller, manageable tasks.
P.S. – It can be helpful to set one goal for each area of your life. Vanderkam recommends identifying your main goal for your 1) Career, 2) Relationships, and 3) Self, but these categories are not written in stone. Discover your style and find the priorities for each category that resonate with your values and aspirations.
2. Identify obstacles
As we mentioned in the beginning, plans are worthless.; something always pops up and derails us. To be ready for such hindrances, we need to think in advance. What kind of obstacles might stop me from reaching this goal?
Obstacles might be outside factors, such as your supervisor who drags to revise your article, your computer crashing, or the university where you work being the target of a cyber attack (that happened to us two months ago🤦). Obstacles can also be internal, such as procrastination, insecurities, or fears. It is essential to know what you are dealing with and what can go wrong. By recognizing the obstacles, you can prepare for them.
3. Plan for less
Psychology studies show that we are over-optimistic when we plan. When planning, we often think of ourselves as machines that will do as they are told. In addition, we tend to envision the best possible scenario in which all our planned actions happen exactly as we want them to. So, plan for less than you might feel you can do. Having 10 things to do on a certain day is hardly realistic, but 5 can be managed. The good thing is that if you finish everything on time, you can still add on something extra.
4. Be consistent
Like with everything else, consistency is key. With every week that you plan, you gain confidence and experience. You can better asses how much time you need for certain tasks, and your plans become more efficient and realistic. With time and patience, you can see further down the road and make the necessary adjustment when big projects come and when catastrophes hit.
6. Review and revise your plan
At the end of every work week, you can review what you did right and what you can do better. Take a few moments out of your 20 min planning on Friday slot to think about what you are proud of and what you can improve for next week.
Make time for what matters the most.
Time is a finite resource. It’s too precious to waste it on meaningless activities just because one gets caught up in them. Planning on Fridays is a powerful time management tool that can help you make time for what matters most. And it only takes 20 minutes every week.
To help you get started, we have created a FREE GUIDE AND TEMPLATE, which you can use every Friday to prioritize, identify obstacles, and stay consistent with your planning. Make sure you give it a try!