Episode 45: Planning Your Ideal Week

Effective planning comes from a highly individualized process. I'm sharing my strategy for planning my week and I hope you'll find it helpful and inspirational. Feel free to modify it to make it your own!

45: Planning Your Ideal Week

In last week's episode, we got really clear on how to plan your ideal year in line with your vision, mission, and values. This week, I thought it would be fun to bring it from the long-term into the short-term and look at how we can plan our ideal week.

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Show Notes

In last week's episode, we got really clear on how to plan your ideal year in line with your vision, mission, and values. This week, I thought it would be fun to bring it from the long-term into the short-term and look at how we can plan our ideal week.

By taking the goals you've set for yourself down to the weekly level, we'll create the structure that allows you to implement your vision.

Effective planning comes from a highly individualized process. So for this episode, I will be walking you through the process I use to plan my week and I encourage you to take what works and release what doesn't. I'll also share questions you can ask yourself to make sure that your planning strategy works for your business and your lifestyle.

When we can bring the energy of flexibility, curiosity, and openness to our work, then we have a better outcome.

Topics covered

  • Why planning should be a highly individualized process
  • My planning fails in the past
  • The problem with extremely detailed and extremely loose weekly plans
  • Why a running to-do list might increase your anxiety
  • Finding the time to plan your week
  • Honoring your body's natural energy cycle
  • Why it's important to give yourself the gift of white space
  • Figuring out your non-negotiables
  • Creating and assigning your time blocks
  • Connecting your week to your overall vision, mission, and values

Resources mentioned

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Well, hello, my friend, and welcome to the Coach with Clarity podcast. My name is Lee Chaix McDonough, and if you are listening to this episode right when it drops, then this is the first Monday of 2021. So allow me to wish you a Happy New Year. And if you're listening to this at some point in the future, well, I hope you are having a wonderful year, no matter when it is. I don't know about you, I was certainly ready to bid adieu to 2020, and I am so excited for what 2021 holds in my business, in my life, and I hope that you also have that same level of excitement and anticipation. And I am so excited to support you in your journey as a coach and as a business owner in 2021, and in fact, within the Coach with Clarity Membership, we have a ton of exciting trainings and opportunities available to members to help them grow and even scale their coaching practices. So, if you are looking for a way to get your coaching practice off on the right foot for 2021, definitely check out the Coach with Clarity Membership, you can learn more at CoachwithClarity.com/membership

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Today, I thought it would be kind of fun to look at how we can plan our ideal week, and if you listen to last week's episode, then you know we spent some time really getting clear on how to plan your ideal year. So while you don't need to have listened to that episode in order to make the most of today's episode, you may find it helpful to do some of that yearly planning work if you haven't already, because creating a vision for your year and understanding what you are working towards quarter by quarter, month by month, will help you when it comes to planning your ideal week. So if you want to hop back one episode and check that out, you certainly can, but today we are going to explore what it looks like to take that vision and those goals that you've created for yourself and bring them down to the week by week level so that we know how to implement these high-level goals that we've created ourselves throughout the year. So I'm going to walk you through the process I use to plan my week. And I encourage you to take what works and release what doesn't, and that's the thing about planning is that when it's done well, it is a highly individualized process. I want to make sure that this works for you, for your business, for your lifestyle, and so what I am proposing today is that you listen to this episode as a suggestion of options that you have available to you as you plan your week. And feel free to modify it for whatever is going to work best for you. So these are guidelines, these are suggestions, they are not rules. And in fact, I think that when we can bring the energy of flexibility and curiosity and openness to our work, whether it's client work, admin work, or yes, planning our week, then we are going to have a better outcome. So I'm very excited to share with you my process, I hope you find it helpful and inspirational, and that you feel free to modify and make it your own. 
Before I get into the “what” and “how” of how I plan my week, I thought I would share some things I've tried in the past that have not worked as well for me. So if we're going to talk about how to plan your ideal week, these are non-ideal ways that I've tried. And first, I've tried just kind of not planning at all just going with the flow and seeing what the week has in store, and I will tell you that when I have approached my weeks without some sense of plan or structure, I have felt all over the place. And it's been more difficult for me to take action from a place of intention and purpose, and I have felt really unmoored, unanchored. When I approach my week that way, and it's interesting because during the holiday weeks when I took some time off, I intentionally did not have a super structured schedule, I wanted to give myself some freedom to relax and enjoy myself, and yet I found myself missing that sense of structure and knowing what came next. And that was actually a very important insight I had about myself that even when I am taking time off and focusing on self care and restoration, I really miss having that plan, that structure. So little insight into me and and how I like to approach the world, but certainly when I am in work mode, I find that when I just kind of go into things with a, “let's see what happens” attitude, it keeps me from really diving into my values and taking actions that are aligned with my purpose and with my overall plan. So not planning at all certainly is not a strategy that has worked for me in the past, and then the opposite of planning everything down to the very last hour, even to the very last minute, that has not worked for me either. 
What I find is that when I get that detailed with my schedule, I leave no room for well, first off, emergencies if things come up, and we need to be flexible, but also, there's no room for any sort of minor changes, or no opportunity for me to follow my own energy, to follow my intuition, and to respond to what I need in the moment. And when I have scheduled myself a down to the minute, I find that at the end of the day, I am exhausted, I am completely and totally spent. And sometimes, you know, it's in a good way, because I feel like, “Wow, I've really taken full advantage of my time and I've gotten so much done, and I was so productive”, etc, etc, but whew, I'm exhausted. And other days, I would be exhausted, and I wouldn't really feel like I got anything done even though my schedule was packed. So I have found that the two ends of the spectrum, the not planning at all, and the planning everything down to the minute, don't work well for me, I don't do well with extremes. And so as I build my schedule, I have found a way to kind of find that happy medium spot where I do have structure, I have some organization, but it's not so finely detailed that I don't have room to move. 
Now there's a third way that I've tried, that hasn't worked for me, and I've actually wound up modifying it so that now it is a part of my ideal plan but initially, what I tried to do was have time blocks, where okay, let's say Monday morning, I would be doing admin work or Tuesday morning would be on client work. And then I would have this running to-do list kind of on the side, and so whenever I had a time block where maybe I could do some admin work or do some content creation, I would just pull something off my to-do list and get it done there. And what I found was that I felt this constant anxiety about, “Oh, am I going to get everything done on my to-do list? And when am I going to do that? And what is it going to look like? And will I have enough time?”. And so having this running to-do list of things to do without a set time to actually get it done, increased my overall anxiety level, and that didn't work for me. Now, time blocking does work for me, and I will talk a little bit more about that later. But having that running to-do list with no assigned time to each task does not work for me at all. So that was something that was helpful for me to notice. And I would ask you too if you are a list maker, if you have a to-do list, and that list does not have a day or time associated with that task, how do you feel about it? Is that list serving you? Does it help you? Knowing what you have to do? Or does it actually add to your sense of dread or anxiety, knowing that you have all of these things to do and you're not sure when you're going to get it done? Again, this is going to be something that will vary person to person. Some people do very well with kind of a running to-do list and just trusting that they're going to find time to do it, and if that works for you keep doing it. But what I found is that it didn't work for me, and I needed to be much more specific about my to-dos and where they would fall on my calendar. And that is partially what inspired the way that I currently approach planning my week. So that's what we're gonna hop into now, now that I've shared some ways that haven't worked for me, and how it led to the way I structure my week. Now, I'm really excited to share it with you and I can't wait to hear what you think.
I start by scheduling a time to plan my week, and oftentimes, I will do this on a Sunday and so I'm looking at my week ahead. Sometimes I will even do it on the Friday before, so as I'm wrapping up one week, I am planning for the next. And let's be honest, sometimes I either have a really full weekend or I've been procrastinating and Monday morning rolls around, and I realized, “Ek, I haven't planned my week yet”. So sometimes this even happens on a Monday morning, and that's okay, but I would encourage you to take a look at kind of how your week tends to go and find a time that makes the most sense to carve out 15, 30 minutes to plan the upcoming week. Again, I find Friday afternoons or Sunday afternoons to be the best time for me, and it doesn't have to take that long. Really, I've gotten to the point now where I can do it in about 15 to 20 minutes. Although sometimes I do like to give myself more time so that I can really connect what I'm doing in the week with some of my larger goals. But, first step is to find a time where you can pull out your calendar, your planner, whatever works for you and really get intentional about how you want the next week to go. 
Once you've done that, we're going to take kind of a high-level look at your week, before we get into the specifics. And to start, I am going to invite you to do a brief energy assessment for yourself. So thinking about a given workday, what do you notice about your energy level? When do you feel like you have a lot of energy and you're highly focused and you're able to knock tasks out pretty quickly? And then when during the day are your lower energy periods? where you feel a little tired, a little sluggish, maybe you're not at your peak performance level. When possible, I would encourage you to plan your work around your natural energy ebbs and flows, because we all have them. And when we go against our natural energy cycles, and we try to do really focused, really intense work, when we are feeling low energy, it makes it much more difficult. So when possible, and I recognize, especially if you are still working traditional nine to five job, if you have children, if there are other things in your life that kind of plan your time for you, it may be difficult to do this, and I do recognize that. But when possible, try to plan your schedule in such a way that it honors your body's natural rhythms and that it honors your energy cycle. For me, I know that I tend to kind of start off slow, it takes me a little time to warm up in the morning, but then my morning hours are pretty productive. I tend to be pretty high energy between, say 9:30 am and about 2 pm. I'm pretty good there, but then I do notice that my energy level definitely dips in the afternoon hours. So between two and five, I'm kind of low energy for the most part, then every now and then I have a little resurgence of energy in the evening hours, and then I start winding down for bed. And that's kind of how my energy cycle looks on a given day, takes me a while to warm up but then I'm pretty good. I've got a good chunk of time there in the morning into the early afternoon, before I had kind of an afternoon slump, I have a little resurgence around dinnertime and then get ready for bed. 
So knowing that I have tried to plan my day to honor my energy cycles. We're going to get there in a second, but before we do, I also want us to think about not just our energy for a given day, but our energy for the week as a whole. And are there certain days of the week, where you feel more focused or even more motivated? Because not only can we look at planning our individual day, but we can also look at the week as a whole and maybe even incorporate some themed days or themed half days. So for example, in my business, my client-facing days where I am seeing my private clients, my Coach with Clarity Members, or I'm working with my certification program students, those days are Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. I know that those are the days where I do my best work with my clients, and so that's when I tend to schedule them. Wednesdays are really interesting for me, I hit kind of a midweek…I wouldn't say slump, but my energy level kind of drags a little bit on Wednesdays. So knowing that I decided to make Wednesdays focused on content creation, and on my personal education. So Wednesdays are typically the days that I plan and even record my podcasts. In fact, I'm recording today's podcast on a Wednesday, and I also do any sort of continuing education, or my own learning and development on Wednesdays, that tends to work really well with my energy cycle for the week. It also gives me a little break in my client-facing activities, and it really energizes me so that I can finish the week on Thursday and Friday really strong with my clients. So Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays are client days, Wednesdays are content creation and educational days, and then Mondays are my CEO days. So Mondays are the days where I get to plan, I get to check in with my key metrics and just kind of get a general sense of how my business is doing. If I need to hold any meetings with my team members, I try to schedule those for Mondays when possible. Sometimes it's not and that's something that I can also do on a Wednesday. And then also if I need some time off, Monday is a great day to do that. That's where I can give myself the luxury of a three day weekend. Or if I've got some personal things I need to take care of like doctor's appointments, I try to do those on Mondays as well. That gives me kind of a nice slow ease into the week and prepares me so that I'm really ready to hit the ground running on Tuesday when I'm working with my members and with my students. So I have a very specific purpose for each day of the week. And then within that day, I know how my energy flows so that I can schedule my work accordingly. So I'm going to ask you to kind of start by doing the same, what days of the week, and what times of day tend to be your higher energy or your peak performance times because if we can recognize that and ensure that we are scheduling your work, so that it matches your energy, you're going to be more productive, you're going to be more efficient, and you're going to feel better about the work that you do. So we're going to start by taking that high-level view of your energy, and we're going to sync that up, possibly with some themed days, and certainly with how we schedule clients and work into your calendar. And based on that assessment, the very first thing I want you to do is to schedule in some whitespace in your calendar. It is so important to give ourselves time to restore, to take a breath, to eat, to relax. And this was my greatest lesson from when I packed my schedule full and I was scheduled down to the minute. I didn't schedule any time for me, and so now before I even look at, when am I going to work on my podcast? When am I going to see this client? What am I going to prep for my program? Before I even schedule that in, I am scheduling in whitespace on my calendar, so that I know I will have time to eat lunch, to talk to my mom, to do the things that make me feel good in a given day. So please schedule in some whitespace, and let's treat that as non-negotiable. That is your appointment with yourself, and you can spend that time however you choose, but please give yourself the gift of some whitespace before we get into scheduling all of your other non-negotiables because that's the next step is blocking off time for your non-negotiables. 
So we have a general idea of how we want our week to flow and our day to flow based on our energy, we've blocked off some whitespace for us. Now it's time to mark in our non-negotiables for the week. And again, that's going to look different person to person, if you've got a doctor's appointment, then that's going to be a non-negotiable that goes on your calendar. For me, one of my primary non-negotiables is taking my children to school and picking them up in the afternoon, I've got to do that. So I know that 7:45 to 8:15 in the morning, that gets blocked off for taking my kids to school, and then at the end of the day from about 2:30 to 2:45 until 3:15 that is pickup and carpool. Those are non-negotiables for me. So those go into my calendar and everything that I schedule in my business has to work with the fact that I'm a working mom, I've got kids in school, and I need to attend to their needs as well. So I'm going to ask you to think about what your non-negotiables are on a day-to-day basis, on a weekly basis, and go ahead and put those in your calendar. So we've got your whitespace scheduled and we've got your non-negotiables scheduled. Once those are in the calendar, then we can start creating time blocks for the other work that you do. For me, I think about things in terms of client-facing work, admin work, and content creation. And I also know that I need a little time in the morning to warm up after I take my kids to school. And I need to make sure that I'm wrapping things up in time to pick them up in the afternoon. So I carve out some time in the morning for me time, and that might look like working out or meditation or just getting ready for the day, and then I know that my client-facing work is going to start after that. So around 9:30, sometimes 10 am on the days when I'm not seeing clients, so Mondays and Wednesdays, that is my time for admin work content creation, education, and the like. But on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, I know that from 9:30 to 2:30, that's when I'm going to be working with clients. Although yes, I have scheduled out some time for lunch, so I've got some whitespace in there. Then after I get my kids, I know that that's also when my energy level tends to dive a little bit, so that afternoon time, not the best time for me to be doing client-facing work. So that's when I will get my kids set up with snacks and homework, and we will work side by side together. They're working on their homework, I'm doing admin work, like responding to emails, maybe working on my website, if there's anything I need to do for post-production for this podcast. That's a great time for me to do it. 
So I've gone ahead and created time blocks on my calendar. So I know Tuesday, Thursday, Friday mornings and early afternoons are for clients. Monday is CEO Day, Wednesday is content creation and education. Okay, so we have these time blocks. It's very general. I haven't actually put anything in them yet because then my next step is to do a brain release of all of the things that I want to get done in that week. So I will give myself maybe five minutes, sometimes ten, and I will just write out everything that I want to get done. I do set a timer, and I go into this thinking, if this were the perfect week where everything worked as planned, what would I want to get done? And I understand that not everything on that list is necessarily going to get done this week. So once I have that list, then I can prioritize it. So my client appointments, my teaching, my membership, that gets high priority, that gets put in my calendar first. I know that the Coach with Clarity Membership meets pretty much every Tuesday at 12 ET, so I am blocking out at least 90 minutes from 12 to 1:30 every Tuesday for the membership, that's a high priority activity for me. Likewise, my certification program, when that is in session, those times? High priority. They get blocked out as well, and then I'm able to prioritize all of the other things on my list and find space for them in my time blocks. So if I've got clients that I want to see, they get put in client time, if I want to write outlines for future podcast episodes, that gets timed on a Wednesday, because that's my content creation day. If I want to go back and look at some of my key performance indicators to see how things are going in my business, if I want to revise any of my quarterly goals, I try to do that on a Monday because that's my CEO day. So I have this list of things that I want to get accomplished, and now I am putting those things on my calendar. So I am creating specific times to address each one of those tasks, and that's what I didn't do before. So earlier, when I was talking about things that didn't work for me, it was having this running to-do list with no specified time on my calendar to get them done. So now I still have this to-do list but each task gets matched with a time on my calendar, where I'm going to get it done. And because I've already scheduled in whitespace, I know that I'm not going to overbook myself, that I am following my energy, that I'm giving myself some space and time to breathe, and that also shows me what I can realistically accomplish in a given week. So if not everything on that list is able to get scheduled, that's okay, and I recognize that some of those things may shift to next week, and maybe some of those things don't have to happen at all. So that's why prioritizing that list and then moving to your calendar is so important. We want to make sure that we are starting with what matters most and what's going to really move the needle in your business, and just the act of prioritizing can show us what things need to happen this week, and what things can wait or maybe not happen at all. 
So just to recap, this is what we've done. So far, we've done a brief energy assessment to notice where our energy tends to fall on a given day, and for a given time of day, we have allowed that energy to dictate what and when we are going to accomplish specific tasks in our business. And perhaps we've even carved out days or half days for those specific purposes. Whether it's client work, admin work, content creation, that's how I view things in my business, I would encourage you to think about what your main themes or topics are in your business, and allow that to inform your work as well. We've started by scheduling in whitespace in our calendar so that we have time to relax and reflect and restore. In a given day, we've blocked off our non-negotiables, so the things that must get done on a given day, and then we've created time blocks that connect with the themes in our business. We've created a list of things that we want to get accomplished in a given week, we've prioritized that list, and then we have found time in our calendar to make those things happen. So now when we take a step back, we have our week planned, we know what we're doing, when we're doing it, i's consistent with our energy, and with how we want to approach our week. 
So the last step then, is to connect this overall week with the bigger picture. I want you to assess the extent to which your week supports your vision, your mission, and your values. So when you think about what you want to accomplish in your business from a big picture vision piece, and also in terms of how you want to create that vision – is your week supporting your vision and your mission? Is it connecting with your annual objective and your quarterly goals and again, we talked about that a bit In Episode 44, last week's episode about planning your ideal year, so this is a good time to make sure that this weekly plan that you've created is consistent with what you want to create in a given month, quarter, or year. I also want you to spend some time making sure that your week reflects your values because the key piece about values – yes, we want to know what matters most to us – but we also want to make sure that we are taking action in a way that is consistent with our values. So when you look at your calendar, are the actions that you are taking, and the events that you have planned, consistent with how you want to live your life? Would someone be able to look at your calendar and know what your values are? If the answer is yes, then you are in a wonderful position, and now you are ready to take action on your week. If the answer is, “um, no, not really”, or, “it is, but I could be doing a little better”, well first, let's pause and let's take a look at this holistically. Because we're all going to have days or weeks where maybe we have a lot of non-negotiables or things that we have to get done, and if that is the exception to the rule, then maybe we need to just create space to have a week like that and have faith that next week, we're going to return to our typical value driven way of operating our businesses. But if you're finding that more weeks, than not feel out of sync with your values, that may be a signal that it's time to reevaluate how you're showing up in your business, how you're prioritizing your work, and whether your business is an accurate reflection of who you are and how you want to live your life. Again, there's no judgment here. This is simply data. This is information that you're using to help you refine your process and decide how you want to be showing up in your business. Because the actions we take day to day and week to week add up, and that's how we achieve our goals, and that's how we create lives that represent who we are and how we want to show up in the world.
All right, my friend, we have covered a lot, and now I think it's time for this week's Clarity in Action Moment. For this week's Clarity in Action Moment, it will probably come as no surprise that I am going to challenge you to create your ideal week, and that starts with carving out time to plan your week. So that's step one, I want you to decide when you are going to plan out your week. If this week is already set, no problem. Let's start this for next week. So find some time on your calendar, whether it's Friday or Sunday, whatever day is going to work for you, but give yourself, let's start with 30 minutes, and commit to making those 30 minutes work for you. As you plan your week coming up, then you are going to be able to create your own approach to planning your week. And hopefully the steps that I've walked you through today will inspire you and support you in doing so. And just to recap, those steps are starting with an energy assessment. So noticing which days of the week and which times of the day are your higher energy, or your lower energy times. Consider the themes in your business, again, mine are client work, admin work, and content creation, and see if you can link those themes to a given day or given time of day. Then I want you to schedule in some whitespace in your calendar so that you have time to take a breath to reflect and to take care of yourself. Once that whitespace is scheduled, then we're scheduling in the non-negotiables, and these can include regularly scheduled appointments as well as any special or one-off appointments that you have any given week, but we're going to get your non-negotiables in. So once we have whitespace and non-negotiables set, then we are creating time blocks in which you can address the themes of your business. So at what points in the day, and on what days are you going to tackle the things that are important in your business? Ideally, these time blocks are going to correspond with your high energy and your low energy times of day. Once we have these time blocks set, then it's time to do a brain release of all of the things that you want to achieve this week. Once you have it down on paper, then we are going to prioritize that list based on your personal priorities. And then we are going to schedule in time in your calendar to accomplish those tasks. So we're going to fill in the time blocks with the things that you most want to accomplish, and we're going to understand that there may not be room in your calendar for every single thing on that list. That is okay, some of those can shift to future weeks and some of them may drop off as not being high priority. Once you have everything scheduled on your calendar, then you're going to zoom back out, and you're going to look at how your week connects with your mission, your vision, and your values to ensure that the steps you're taking are perfectly in alignment with what you want to create for the month, the quarter, and the year, and that it's reflective of who you are and how you want to show up in the world. 
So that is the process that I do every week to plan my week. I hope you find it helpful and inspiring and I would love to hear how it works for you. So the best way to connect with me is over on Instagram. I'm @CoachwithClarity, you are welcome to send me a DM and let me know how this process works for you. So that brings us to the end of the very first podcast episode for 2021. I hope you are having a wonderful start to your year. I hope today's episode helps you continue to have a strong and intentional year, and I look forward to connecting with you next week for another episode of the Coach with Clarity podcast. Until then, my name is Lee Chaix McDonough reminding you to get out there and show the world what it means to be a Coach with Clarity.

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