In 2023, I tried a new time management method. I owe this to a Malaysian friend who shared her Weekly Planner with me and taught me how to use it effectively. Since I started using this Weekly Planner, I have achieved 90% of my goals set at the beginning of the year, including successfully completing my master’s degree in Australia, landing an analyst and a barista job, continuing to do freelance work, playing volleyball, brewing coffee, expanding my social circle and starting to make YouTube videos.
I have tried various ways to manage my time, from Schedule Book to Calendar App on my phone, but I have never been able to manage my time effectively. It was not until 2023, when I started using my own design of Weekly Planner, that I truly realized its power.
Why is weekly planning important?
Reduced decision fatigue:
As psychotherapist Aliya Levinson mentions in her book “How to Win with Willpower” making decisions wears us out. We should conserve our limited willpower. By planning your day in advance, your brain doesn’t need to repeat this process every day, reducing strain and breaking the cycle of decision fatigue.
Furthermore, our brains naturally dislike activities with delayed rewards, including big goals like building a career. Compared to instant gratifications like browsing your phone or watching YouTube, your brain will likely choose the latter when making spontaneous decisions.
Reduced willpower depletion:
With a Weekly Planner, you pre-plan your daily life, decreasing decision making and consequently saving willpower. This allows for more effective time management, including incorporating important but not necessarily urgent tasks into your schedule.
The book “Super Thinking” introduces the concept of preset commitments. It suggests scheduling deep work or tasks into your calendar as self-promises. This makes you more likely to tackle those tasks when free time arises, since they’re already planned and acknowledged.
How to use a Weekly Planner to achieve your goals?
My Weekly Planner is divided into three main sections: “Role & Goal,” “Priority,” and “Timetable.”
Role & Goal
In the “Role & Goal” section, I will write down one or two personal goals and roles to ensure that I am not just dealing with unimportant and urgent matters (such as responding to emails and meetings) and urgent and important matters, but also paying attention to those important but not urgent matters (Google “The Eisenhower Matrix” if you want to learn more about the urgent-important matrix) that are easily overlooked. I hope you use this planner to rethink your personal goals every week and ultimately achieve some of the goals you really want to achieve.
I will write goals that I can achieve in a week. I suggest writing a maximum of one or two oals.
In the “Priority” section, I will write a to-do list based on the goals I have set, in no particular order. For example, if I want to find more freelance work, I will write the following in the priority section:
- Update my CV
- Update my portfolio
- Apply for jobs
You can also write down other things you need to do, such as tasks for your full-time job. You can also write down habits you want to establish, such as reading or exercising. I will not put unimportant things in the “Priority” section.
The last section is the daily schedule from Monday to Sunday. I have divided each hour into a block. The reason for this design is that Cal Newport, author of “Deep Work” shared the time blocking technique. Time blocking is the process of dividing a day into blocks and assigning tasks to each block. Cal Newport believes that this method can help you stay focused and avoid distractions. If you don’t write down what you need to do in an hour, or if you don’t schedule tasks for yourself in advance, you might spend that hour answering emails or doing something else that comes to mind, which can affect your productivity.
There are always more things to do than we can ever finish. But you can choose what to do first. Should you do things that are important to you, or things that are important to others? You may not have thought about it this way before, because you might think that other people’s things are more urgent, so you just do whatever they ask you to do. But once you have your own schedule, you will remember your goals, and you will realize that there are many things that are important to you that need to be addressed, and they are all equally important!
My personal suggestion is that if you think it will take you an hour to complete a task, then plan for one and a half to two hours. If you put two hours in the planner and only need one hour to complete it, you will feel good about yourself. On the other hand, if you plan for one hour and it takes two hours, your entire schedule will be delayed, and you will be flustered. So I would recommend that everyone plan for a few extra hours as a buffer. You will feel more comfortable, and you will be more motivated to continue using the planner.
Don’t overload yourself. Give yourself some breathing room.
Time management is not about doing as many things as possible, but about focusing on things that are valuable to you, important, but not urgent.