Many people are great at making a list of goals, they struggle connecting their goals to real time & to make their plan work on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis. Since a strategic plan is unlikely to be useful if it is only a statement of goals that won’t be touched again until the end of the year, you should see the process of creating a strategic plan as one where you identify WHAT your personal & professional goals are, outline HOW they will be accomplished, and commit to WHEN you will do the work. At that point, the real secret to making a strategic plan come to life is to use it on a weekly basis as the foundation for planning out your week (or your month). One of the simplest strategies that people have put into practice is what’s called “The Monday Meeting.” As with all strategies, you may want to try it out first to see if & how it works for YOU. Then you can adapt it to your particular needs, workload & lifestyle.
The ‘Monday Meeting’ is quite simple. All you have to do is devote 30 minutes of time at the beginning of each week to planning the rest of your week. It doesn’t even have to take place on Monday, though many of the people I’ve worked with begin preparations for the week on Monday morning (or even Sunday evening). Regardless of when you do this, it’s important to have your plan in place before your week begins so that you can make sure all the things that contribute to your long-term success get done and that you don’t get distracted by seemingly urgent (but unimportant) tasks throughout the week. During your “weekly meeting time”, try the following five steps:
Step #1: Create Your Skeleton (5 Minutes) Start your weekly meeting by blocking out all of your commitments for the week, including running errands, “me” time, housekeeping, going to the gym, etc. If you haven’t tried it yet, you may want to do this first thing in the morning (before you even turn on the TV or radio). Your commitments form the skeleton of your week because everything else has to be fleshed out on top of them.
Step #2: Brain Dump (10 Minutes) Write out all your to-do items for the week including the short-term tasks you need to get done and the strategic tasks associated with your long-term research agenda. These should already be listed by each week. The purpose of this step is to: 1) reconnect you with your goals on a weekly basis, 2) get everything out of your head and onto paper, and 3) put you in a position to control your week (instead of your week controlling you). The brain dump may cause relief or anxiety but no matter how you feel about it in the moment, don’t stop.
Step #3: Introduce Your Tasks To Your Calendar (15 Minutes) Here’s where it can get ugly! Turn back to your calendar for this week, and assign each of your to-do items to a specific block of time. This will require you to estimate how long your tasks will take, prioritize what’s most important and commit to actually doing specific work at those specific times. Inevitably, you will have the same devastating realization each week — you don’t have enough time to complete all the tasks on your to-do list. But that’s okay! Having more tasks than time is the perfectly normal. No matter how frustrating it is, it’s far better to deal with that reality at the beginning of the week then to walk blindly into that realization at the end of the week.
Step #4: Decide What To Do With Everything That Doesn’t Fit Into Your Schedule After you acknowledge & accept that you have more tasks than time, consciously choose how you will spend your time for this week. You may need to prioritize the tasks on your list. I suggest using the criteria by which you will be evaluated for your next promotion. You can:
- Delegate – you don’t have to do it all yourself
- Compromise your standards (especially for non-critical tasks) – it probably doesn’t have to be perfect
- Renegotiate deadlines – there’s always next week!
- Ask for help – no one knows everything (even if we’d like to think we do)
- Let some things go – the world isn’t going to come to an end because you don’t get something done that week.
Step #5: Commit To Executing The Plan Of course, the best-laid plans can be thrown into disarray by unexpected circumstances & daily chaos but having a clear plan and genuinely committing to its execution are essential to making progress on your long-term goals each week. Your commitment to your plan will also help you to easily say “no” to anything that gets in the way of you getting your tasks done. This way you will be far more productive than you probably ever thought you would be.
I hope this week you are willing to try a “Monday Meeting”, comfort in knowing that you are not alone in having more tasks than time & the creativity to make conscious decisions that are in line with your priorities.