Benefits of Weekly Planning and Time Boxing
Time boxing is a simple strategic system for planning your weeks in advance. The basic idea is to prioritize all the work activities you’d like to do in the coming week, and then to think through how long each activity will take. Who said great ideas had to be complex?
It usually takes me about 30 minutes every Friday to create a plan, and the return on that time investment is incredible. Not only do I wake up each day with a high level view of what I’m going to be doing, but I also ensure that I don’t overbook myself. Every busy person has had that terrible feeling of seeing the clock strike 8pm and realizing that they still have 5 more things to do. With time boxing, you can reduce stress and improve efficiency by setting reasonable deadlines.
After using time boxing for 6 months, I have seen a dramatic reduction in the number of late nights and stressful morning. If you’re a busy person, it’ll likely have the same effect for you. You can use a pen and paper, but if you’re more digitally minded you can find the exact spreadsheet I use to plan my weeks below.
How to Time Box Your Week
- Open the Weekly Planning with Time Boxing Spreadsheet and click the “Use This Template” button at the top of the page (screenshot) to add it to your Google Drive account. If you don’t have a Google account or would otherwise prefer an excel spreadsheet, enter your email below and I’ll send you a copy.
- As you get started, remember that this is a flexible plan of attack, not a rigid schedule that you are obligated to adhere to. The goal is to clarify your thinking. For an example of a completed weekly planning session, see the second tab, “Example Weekly Planning”.
- Enter how many hours you’d like to work each day in the right hand columns of Row 2. Think through realistic numbers here – if you have a doctor’s appointment on Tuesday, you’ll probably have less working hours to start with.
- Enter how many hours each day you spend responding to emails. For me, this is usually an hour a day, but it might be more or less given how important email is in your job.
- Look through your calendar and add any upcoming meetings or phone calls under the Meetings section. Note: All times are measured in hours, so a half hour meeting would be represented as “.5”, a fifteen minute meeting would be represented as “.25”, etc. I usually like to include travel time to get an accurate sense of how much free time I’ll have during the day, but that’s optional.
- Fill out the Must Do section with work that MUST be done on that day (I’m not super creative when it comes to titles). This might include long standing projects you want to work on, one off actions, or preparation for meetings and phone calls.
- Based on how much free time you have on each day, fill out the Like To Do section with work that you would LIKE to get done on that day. It’s tempting to be overly optimistic here and add a bunch of work, but usually it’s better to be cautious so that you’ll still have free time to deal with the unexpected tasks that land on your plate each day.
- Review the Weekly Plan to get a sense of which days you are most and least busy. As meetings pop up in the following week, schedule them for your least busy days, and if necessary try to reschedule meetings that fall on your busiest days.
- Breathe easier.
That’s all it takes! I usually open my Weekly Plan first thing each morning to get a high level sense of what is on my docket for the day, and it reduces greatly the amount of cognitive overhead that comes with doing multiple things at once.
Want the Weekly Planning Spreadsheet for Excel?
If you’d like an excel version of this spreadsheet instead of the Google Docs version, enter your email address below and I’ll email it to you for free.