The Best Week Ever – The Practice of Personal Productivity

Ken Haigh  —  October 6, 2011 — 4 Comments

Recall the last work week where you felt good about your week. What made the week so good? Likely, you felt a sense of accomplishment and were able to complete a number of significant tasks. Wouldn’t it be great to end each week with a sense of accomplishment?

Maybe your answer is that you never have a good week or you believe that a week is not long enough to complete anything worthwhile or significant. Well, I am here to tell you that you can indeed accomplish much in a given week.

The Best Week Ever

In this post, I will give an overview of the process I use to make each week count by applying the principles we discussed previously.

We will follow a top down approach during this series and start with the three critical planning sessions I use during the week to set the right weekly outcomes, execute against those outcomes, and reflect on how to improve. For me, consistently following these three sessions makes the difference between accomplishing much or little during the week.

The Weekly Planning Session
(When: Monday AM, Duration: 1 hour)

  1. Empty inbox and create action items – My inbox contains all the stuff in my life I need to remember or take action on. If I think of something, I send myself an email. Each morning I process my inbox using the “delete, delegate, defer, and do” methodology. I avoid trying to read an email more than once. In some cases, I don’t read emails due to inbox rules I have created to automatically remove and file messages.
  2. Review lessons learned – I review last week’s lessons learned from uncompleted outcomes and tasks and seek to improve in those areas.
  3. Review and update backlog – A backlog is a prioritized list of things that need to be done. The backlog is in rank order. I move any action items created from my inbox into a backlog that I keep.
  4. Review calendar for key events over next 3 weeks – I scan my calendar for important meetings over the next few weeks and look for tasks I sent to my “future” self. The purpose is to re-prioritize backlog items that are time sensitive as well as determine how much time I have to complete my weekly outcomes.
  5. Set weekly outcomes (3-5 items) – Instead of just grabbing an item off my backlog, I use outcome visioning – viewing what wild success would look like if I completed that backlog item. David Allen, the GTD guru, states that you won’t see how to do it until you see yourself doing it, and his advice is to view the project from beyond the completion date.
  6. Set daily tasks for Monday (3-5 items) – I determine what is the next action in achieving one or more of the weekly outcomes and set goals to accomplish those tasks for that day.
  7. Block calendar – I block off time on my calendar for the day and week to reserve adequate capacity to complete my daily tasks.

The Daily Planning Session
(When: Tuesday-Friday AM, Duration: 30 minutes)

  1. Empty inbox and create action items – See above.
  2. Record yesterday’s results – Capture whether or not I completed yesterday’s daily tasks and record any lessons learned if I did not complete a task.
  3. Review weekly outcomes – I review my weekly outcomes and mark off any completed outcomes in order to help me focus on what I need to accomplish.
  4. Review previous day lessons learned – Since I will likely carryover uncompleted tasks from the day before, I review yesterday’s lessons learned to avoid making the same mistake twice.
  5. Set daily tasks (3-5 items) – I determine what is the next action in achieving one or more of the remaining outcomes and set goals to accomplish those tasks for that day.

The Weekly Review
(When: Friday PM, Duration: 30 minutes)

  1. Review lessons learned from daily tasks and weekly outcomes – I make sure I have captured lessons learned from any uncompleted tasks or outcomes and look for trends across weeks.
  2. Analyze metrics – Since I am capturing my backlog, daily tasks and status, weekly outcomes and status in a spreadsheet, I am automatically capturing metrics through a set of pivot tables to help me understand how I am doing. For example, I capture my backlog management index, my weekly outcome % complete (this week, last week, total), my daily task % complete (this week, last week, total), my velocity (# outcomes per week or tasks per day), unplanned work, and my power days.
  3. Capture what went went well for week – I find it important to remember what went well so I can repeat it next week.
  4. Capture what needs to improve for week – I seek to improve in my ability to complete items as well as make any process tweaks to increase my capacity / eliminate waste.
  5. Review backlog – I review my backlog, mark completed items, and remove items no longer relevant.

View the interactive weekly flow!

Question for you: Do you make a point to plan each week? What keeps you from spending time each to plan?