Beyond the Day by Day: Five Tips Toward Taking Your Productivity Weekly

“All you need is the plan, the roadmap, and the courage to press on to your destination. —Earl Nightingale, motivational writer and speaker.

One of the first things most productive people learn to do is plan their work, usually by tracking daily tasks on a to-do list. I think of this as a “HIT list,” as it should consist mostly of the High-Impact Tasks that yield your greatest productivity. Most individuals and teams also develop “NOT to-do” lists: collections of tasks we refuse to waste our time on. Not to-do lists can be taught, but more often derive from personal experience. While “NOT to-dos” can be annoying and seem like a total, infuriating waste of time when they occur, the time you lose initially is more than made up for when you refuse to do ever doing those things again.

Once we understand prioritization and what not to do, we instinctively place the urgent and profitable on our daily to-do lists, with the “want to dos” on a separate list we draw from whenever our other duties allow. People who don’t figure this out don’t last long in business. Beyond that, a good deal (but not all) of time management involves revising and refining your list of priorities as you job evolves or you move up the corporate ladder, and learning how to effectively do more in less time, as you become an expert organizer and scheduler.

One step that comes late in the game for some of us is weekly scheduling, if we ever there. With experience comes the knowledge of how to break down and delegate the pieces of a new task or project, but often a true weekly perspective slips by us. This isn’t uncommon in busy “Just In Time” environments, which even white collar office sometimes become. Be that as it may, weekly planning can be immensely helpful, especially when things are moving fast and you’re not quite sure what’s going to happen next.

These simple tips will show you how weekly planning can help you.

  1. Start with a time journal. While this isn’t strictly necessary, I suggest you do it anyway. Write down everything you do every day for a week, and how long you do it. Make it as fine-grained as possible; if you spend five minutes talking to a subordinate, document it. Maintain the journal through the weekend, especially if you work those days; and then, late Sunday, review it. Determine how much time you’ve spent on each task, and whether it’s been worthwhile. You may find some things you can trim or completely cut. This is important for the next step.

  2. Define your goals. Look closely at what you want to get done and what you need to get done the next week, then define the tasks needed to complete your goals. Get those goals and the associated tasks on paper so they become more tangible. For example, if you’re having an upcoming customer event in a month, your goal may be to register 10 prospective guests per week.

  3. Plan your next week. Sketch a general plan for your next week. It needn’t be detailed; that’s what your daily to-do list is for. Plot out your main projects and tasks, noting what not to do any longer. Once you have it on paper—and it shouldn’t take long—visualize exactly what you want to accomplish, emphasizing what you must finish. Focus on any obstacles in the path way. Think it all through, but don’t obsess over it. When you’re done, put it aside and forget about it until the weekend’s over. For example, how many contacts do you need to connect with on LinkedIn to secure those 10 prospective guests?

  4. Work the plan. When carefully executed and implemented, planning does more than just get things done: it reduces stress, prepares you to meet and overcome obstacles, provides an easy measure of your progress, and familiarizes you with things you might want to do to scale up your efforts. For example, you can use a tool like to find email addresses from LinkedIn contacts and start an email sequence.

  5. Review. Once the work-week has passed, look back and review what you accomplished—and what you didn’t. Friday evening is a great time for this. What could you have done better? What could you have avoided? Do you need to restructure your weekly plan to better meet your needs? Whatever you decide, include what you’ve learned in the plan for the following week.

An Exacting Standard

While it may be difficult to break out of your old habits and start actively planning for a week at a time, once you’ve established the new rhythm, it gets easier. At some point, weekly planning may become automatic, such that you find yourself reviewing the past week and planning the next without having to remind yourself. Like all productive routines, weekly planning then becomes an important and effective part of doing more in less time.

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

© 2019 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on employee and team productivity. She is the president of The Productivity Pro, Inc., a company dedicated to helping leaders increase workplace performance in high-stress environments. Stack has authored eight books, including FASTER TOGETHER: Accelerating Your Team’s Productivity (Berrett-Koehler 2018). She is a past president of the National Speakers Association, and a member of its exclusive Speaker Hall of Fame (with fewer than 175 members worldwide). Stack’s clients include Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, and Bank of America, and she has been featured on the CBS Early Show and CNN, and in the New York Times. To have Laura Stack speak at an upcoming meeting or event, call 303-471-7401 or contact us online.

Here’s what others are saying:

“What I enjoyed most about your presentation was that it was not only engaging but also practical in application. I’ve read everything from Covey’s system to “Getting Things Done,” and you presented time management in a way that is the easiest I’ve seen to digest and apply. Thank you for helping our system today!”
—John-Reed McDonald, SVP, Field Operations, Pridestaff

“Laura is an incredible speaker who takes practical information to improve productivity and efficiency and makes it interesting and fun! She has a great sense of humor and completely engaged our corporate and sales team. Laura motivated everyone to take steps to make their lives more productive and efficient.
—Molly Johnson, Vice President Domestic Sales, Episciences, Inc.

“Ms. Laura Stack’s program received the highest scores in the 13-year history of the Institute for Management Studies (IMS) in Cleveland! From the 83 participants, the workshop received a perfect 7.0 for “Effectiveness of the Speaker” and 6.8 for “Value of the Content.” Managers especially valued learning about task management, how to minimize interruptions, organizing with Outlook, prioritizing, effectively saying ‘no,’ how to set boundaries, and recognizing self-imposed challenges to time management.”
—Don Gorning, Chair, Institute for Management Studies Cleveland