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I'm Mara — I help creatives create and launch digital courses and profitable products. I love chatting about online marketing, design and goal setting!

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How to Plan Your Week to Maximize Productivity and Minimize Stress

Who else loves productivity tips and weekly planning? In this week’s episode, I’m sharing all about how I plan my week (and how you can plan your week) to maximize productivity and efficiency while minimizing stress, because like you, I don’t like feeling stressed out and overwhelmed every week! Today, I’m going to walk you through my weekly planning routine (that I do every single week to make sure my week runs smoothly!) to make sure I accomplish as much as possible in the hours I have. 

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plan your week journal

The Digital Tools I Use to Plan My Weeks

Before I jump into “how” to plan your week, I quickly want to share a little bit about the tools I use to make it all possible.

First, I use my Google Calendar. I live by my Google Calendar and enter all my appointments and important events, so I never miss a beat. My husband also has access to it, so he can stay updated on my schedule and know when I’m in meetings. I even set reminders for upcoming tasks like client check-ins, invoicing, and other important to-dos. While I don’t put every single task there, I really do love using it as a handy reminder feature.

I also use Asana a lot as a project management tool. It helps me keep track of both client work and personal tasks. For client work, I use Asana to manage long-term and recurring tasks, like monthly or quarterly tasks. I don’t necessarily put every one-time project or quick task I might do for a client in there.

It might surprise you, but I also use Asana in my personal life. My husband and I create projects to manage household tasks, pet care, upcoming subscriptions, and we even had a baby project while I was pregnant. This might sound a little “extra” but it’s been incredibly helpful for us to stay organized, and we’ve been using it together for several years now.

The other tool I use all the time is Dynalist. It’s similar to Evernote and Google Docs but I find it to be more robust. In Dynalist, I have separate lists for long-term and short-term goals, makeup to try, Instagram reel ideas, email concepts, new product ideas for my business, and more. It literally serves as my personal second brain, helping me remember and execute on any idea I have. Nobody but me ever sees my Dynalist!

It’s worth saying too – I use the free version of all the above tools! 

Other Tools I Recommend to Plan Your Week

Then, when it comes to actual planning, I still prefer using paper tools. There’s something so satisfying about checking off tasks on paper compared to using digital tools (in my opinion anyway!). On a day-to-day basis, I find it much more motivating to use a paper list that I can check off and keep on my desk.

One “paper tool” I use is a bullet journal. It’s basically a notebook where I jot down my to-do list. You can find a lot of information about bullet journaling online and different ways to do it but personally, I keep mine very simple. I mainly use it for my weekly to-do list, but sometimes I’ll also add longer lists for long-term goals. 

Then for my daily to-do list, I use the Full Focus Planner. While I could likely write my daily to-do list in my bullet journal, I find that using a pre-printed planner helps me stay more organized and actually use it. I’m right in the middle of using my sixth Full Focus Planner from start to finish and before I found this planner, I’ve never managed to stick to any planner consistently. But something about the Full Focus Planner works perfectly for my brain. I use it every single day, even on weekends. 

Now, let’s dive into exactly how to plan your week.

how to play your week with productivity tips with Mara

1. I Don’t Plan My Week on Sundays on Mondays!

I don’t plan my weeks on Sundays or Mondays like most people do! I used to do it, but I found myself procrastinating and feeling anxious about it, which made Sunday pretty stressful and I’d find myself getting the “Sunday blues”. Instead, I recommend you plan your week on Fridays or sometimes even on Thursday nights.

It might sound strange but planning ahead relieves a lot of stress and allows me to fully enjoy my weekends without worrying about what’s coming on Monday. So, my first step is to pick a time, either Thursday night or around midday Friday, to do my planning. This way, I head into the weekend knowing exactly what’s going on and I don’t worry about it until Monday!

And by the way – when I’m sitting down to plan my week, it takes about 20 to 30 minutes depending on how fast I am that day. Sometimes I get a little distracted while I’m doing this process, but it does not take a long time. I don’t want you to think as you’re reading this that I’m spending hours and hours planning out my week because it’s actually a pretty quick process, and I find this saves me so much time the next week because I know exactly what I need to take action on.

2. I Grab Paper and Check-in with my Google Calendar and Asana

The first thing I do is look at my Google Calendar for the next week and check my appointments and what’s going on. I make a to-do list on a random piece of paper while glancing at my calendar. It helps me remember things like if I have a podcast interview I need to spend a bit of time preparing for a podcast interview, researching the podcast, or listening to an episode. Basically, I look at my calendar and I write it all down.

Then, I go into Asana and review my tasks. I check what’s upcoming, what needs rescheduling, and what I might have forgotten. Sometimes, there are irrelevant tasks in Asana, so I delete them or move them around. Since I’m not consistent with checking Asana daily, I prefer taking notes on paper. I know some people love using digital planners like Asana daily, I personally look at Asana every other day or every three days so writing it all down as I plan my week is incredibly helpful. I recommend you do the same when you plan your week too!

3. I Review My Lists in Dynalist

Then, I move on to Dynalist, where I have a couple of lists that I review every week. These lists help me stay organized and remember what I’m working on and what my goals are and so I like to check in on them at least once a week to remind myself what I’m working towards.

The first list I look at is my goals list which includes both long-term and shorter-term goals. I spend about 20 seconds reviewing this list to keep my goals top of mind. When I say long-term, I mean these could be things that are maybe 5-10 years in the future, but I still like to review them regularly.

Next, I review my “before the end of the year” list. This list is relatively new and has typically contained tasks related to my maternity leave planning. As the year end approaches, it also includes deadlines for bundles, website updates, and even new product releases. I always want to make sure that I am making consistent progress on these tasks so as I review this list, I jot down a few things that I want to accomplish the following week that I want to accomplish before the end of 2023.

Lastly, I always make sure to look at my “Future Projects and Tasks” list. This is where I keep track of things that I don’t need to do immediately but do want to keep in mind for the future. It often consists of boring adult tasks if I’m being honest. For example, right now I have things like adding my husband as an authorized user for a new credit card and reviewing our health insurance plan to make sure it’s still the right fit. Each week, I pick a few items from this list to add to my weekly to-do list too. 

And by the way, if you find yourself struggling with procrastination, same. Make sure to listen to this episode where I share 8 Simple Tricks to Overcome Procrastination and Boost Productivity.

my weekly planning routine

4. Next, I Transfer Everything Into a Weekly To Do List in My Bullet Journal

Then, I start to create my to-do list for the coming week. You might be wondering why I don’t just directly write in my bullet journal as I go through the above steps, and the reason is because I often found what happened was that I would find more things that I needed to do as I went along or I would realize I was writing down WAY too many things to complete in one week. So instead, writing most of it out on a scratch piece of paper helps me prioritize what’s actually going to get done each week before I transfer it into my bullet journal (which I’m then going to reference all week).

Fill in Your Bullet Journal to Plan Your Week

Personally, I use the same format every week in my bullet journal (and keep in mind, it’s not a full-size notebook so I don’t want you to read this thinking that these are GIANT pages). 

On the first page, I write “This Week” at the top. Then, I list 1, 2, 3 for the top three tasks that I want to accomplish during the week. I fill in those tasks at the end, once I’ve planned out everything for the week. I started doing this about six months ago to help me focus on the most important tasks in my business and I’ve found it to be incredibly effective. These are the tasks that, if I didn’t do anything else, would make the biggest impact. 

Below the task numbers, I write the words “Money Makers” as a reminder that I want to prioritize tasks that generate income. I personally always love a reminder to stay focused on what actually makes money in my business and not get distracted by less important tasks and shiny object syndrome. I usually include specific client work, discovery calls, selling products, and affiliate income-related tasks in this section. This all takes up the first page of my weekly planning in my bullet journal.

Then, on the second page, I have the days of the week listed out: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. There’s a line separating them, creating a clear visual overview of the week. I use this layout to jot down appointments and important tasks for specific days. It’s not meant to include every single task I do on a particular day, but rather serves as a visual reminder of what’s happening or needs to be done.

Then, moving on to the next page, every aspect of my life and business gets its own dedicated page. Some may think it’s extreme, but it genuinely works wonders for me. You see, in the past, I would create a to-do list without any extra space on it. Then, I would often get frustrated because unexpected things come up throughout the week – it’s just a part of being a business owner and a human being.

I would come across productivity advice suggesting that I shouldn’t ever have unexpected things arise during the week or rearrange my schedule. But realistically, my week DOES change. Different client work comes up, my schedule shifts and it’s okay. That’s why I allocate a separate page for each area – it provides me with that much-needed white space to accommodate additions as needed!

What I mean when I say I have a page for every area of my life

Let me explain that last step a little bit more. I have a page dedicated to personal tasks – things unrelated to my business, just regular human stuff. Then, I have a page specifically for my business tasks. Additionally, I have separate pages for my long-term clients, both those with bigger retainers and those with one-on-one projects. Each client gets their own page.

Sometimes, I create pages for individual personal projects or when I’m focusing on my podcast for a week. For instance, a couple of weeks ago, I dedicated a page to website tasks. Each of these pages is labeled at the top, indicating the category, and then I list the tasks for that specific week. 

For example, on my personal page, I have “yoga three times a week” as that’s one of my weekly goals lately. I also have items like “Research new budgeting app for personal finances,” “Respond to a few messages,” and “Make frozen puzzle toys for my dogs,” which is a way to keep my border collies entertained. I don’t have anything like this for this week, but I would also add personal tasks to my list like if I need to go shopping, visit the dentist, call an insurance agent, or schedule an oil change.

On the next page, under “My Business,” I have a list of non-client work to-dos, like recording a podcast episode, writing blog posts, and taking care of website tasks. I also want to create new Pinterest pins this week, so you can see that it really is anything related to my business that goes on my business list. 

Then, I Set Up a Page for “Next Week”

Finally, at the end of my bullet journal spread for the week, I have a page labeled “Next Week” where I jot down anything someone tells me or any tasks I think of that need to be done in the upcoming week. As I fill out my client and business tasks for the current week, I review what I wrote under “Next Week” from the previous week and migrate those tasks forward too. This migration process is an important part of the bullet journaling system and it helps me keep track of what needs to be done and ensures nothing falls through the cracks!

5. I Choose My Top 3 Tasks

After spending around 10 minutes transferring tasks from my scratch to-do list and the “next week” section of my bullet journal onto my weekly to-do list, I go back and select the top three priorities for the week. This helps me plan my week efficiently and ensures that I stay focused on the most important tasks. I hope you find that it helps you plan your week too!

Then, when Monday morning arrives (or Sunday night sometimes), I use my Full Focus Planner to outline the specific tasks I need to accomplish for the day. If there are any tasks with deadlines, I make a note of the due date next to them in my bullet journal. For urgent tasks, I might highlight them or put a star next to them as a visual reminder that they require immediate attention. This way, I stay on track and know which tasks need my immediate focus.

plan your week as a CEO

That’s How I Plan My Weeks!

So yeah – that’s my full routine. I don’t know if it sounds labor-intensive or like a lot of work, however, I can tell you that this system works well for me. By the end of the week, I usually check off most (if not all) tasks on my weekly to-do list. As I mentioned earlier, it feels great to check something off on paper.

In addition, I have a few routine activities that I like to do every week in both my personal life and business. For instance, right after completing my weekly planning routine on Fridays, I make it a point to review my business and personal finances. I handle the bookkeeping for my business myself because I find it helps me stay more connected to the financial aspect of my business and makes me a better CEO. 

I use a spreadsheet to manage my bookkeeping, which might sound crazy to some people, but it works perfectly well for me and meets all my needs. Then, I also manage my personal finances, including checking and paying off my credit cards, as well as transferring funds between my personal and business accounts. Generally, I pay myself on Fridays, although I don’t necessarily do it every week. Nevertheless, I find it helpful to have this weekly routine of assessing the balances in my business and personal bank accounts and ensuring that everything is in order, including the payment of credit card balances. 

Lastly, I dedicate some time on Fridays to decluttering my inbox by addressing any lingering emails that don’t require immediate responses but may involve future tasks or decisions.

I Would Love to Hear About YOUR Planning Routine!

How do you plan your week? I would love to learn about your weekly planning routine! Message me on Instagram or leave a comment below. I used to have no routine at all, but now I really feel like I have a consistent and efficient routine for my business. That being said, I’m always looking to improve it, so I enjoy hearing about other people’s ideas on planning, bullet journaling, goal setting, and more. If you have anything to share, I would love to hear it!

In case you are curious – I also have upcoming episodes as we near the end of the year and get closer to 2024 about planning for the coming year and sharing my 2024 goals. Additionally, I’ll be recapping 2023, highlighting what worked well for my business and what didn’t. Make sure to stay tuned and subscribe to the podcast to catch these episodes as soon as they’re released! Thank you!

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