It can be challenging to stay organized and focused when working from home — especially during a pandemic. Constant distractions, inadequate workspaces, and general stress and anxiety mean that learning how to plan your work week is more crucial than ever.
Creating a weekly work plan can help you become more productive, maintain work-life balance, and avoid stress when working from home. Here are some strategic tips from PM methodologies for battling distractions and getting more done. Discover everything you need to know about drafting and scheduling weekly work plans from start to finish.
How to schedule your week for maximum productivity
Weekly work plans help you see the bigger picture. They answer key questions like ‘what important tasks will you have to complete this week?’ ‘Which clients will you need to provide status reports to?’ ‘What are your goals and responsibilities for the next five days?’
Brainstorm all of your to-do list items, no matter how large or small they are. Take stock of what actually needs to be done this week. Cross out anything that can be eliminated, then delegate any remaining tasks, if possible.
Make sure to write due dates next to any tasks that have hard deadlines. Add self-imposed due dates to time-sensitive tasks while you’re at it. Put those on your weekly or monthly calendar to get a bird’s eye view of your priorities.
Next, do a gut check of your remaining items that haven’t been deleted or moved to your calendar. What do you realistically have the time and energy to get done this week? Are you feeling more tired or stressed than usual?
Being honest with yourself at this stage will help keep your goals realistic and set yourself up for long term success. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re already behind before you get started. In fact, that feeling of discouragement is actually proven to kill your productivity, so go easy on yourself and be crystal clear on what is or is not manageable for the next five days.
Create a weekly work plan that works for you
Learning how to plan your work week is about finding a rhythm that works for you. There’s no point pushing yourself over the edge with an unmanageable work from home schedule.
Write down or map your key daily schedule building blocks over the next week. These include: what time you wake up, how long it takes you to get yourself and your family ready for the day, confirmed meetings and digital events, meal times, and what time you plan to end your workday.
Afterward, fill in the gaps with the tasks from your calendar. Calculate approximately how long a task will take you to complete. Again, be realistic. It’s better to do your work and have time left over than cram it all in and not finish your goals for the day. You can choose to place these on your weekly schedule in the form of half-hour to one-hour time blocks or on a simple task list for the day.
Also, plan to take a 10-minute break at least once every hour. You never know when you’ll need to answer a time-sensitive email, take the dog for a walk, or simply rest your eyes. Adding these breaks in now will help keep you on track when these or other unexpected interruptions inevitably come up.
If you have any time left over once that’s all planned out, sprinkle in some of your remaining to-do list items that don’t have specific due dates.
Review and optimize your weekly planning schedule
Use an event or work management tool such as Wrike (or a simple paper agenda) to record your task list and schedule. Make sure that you’ll be able to easily update it if your priorities change.
For example, it’s a lot easier to move a meeting around on a digital schedule than on a schedule written in pen. Make time (10 to 15 minutes is good) at the end of each week to review what worked and what didn’t before making your next weekly work plan.
Top tips for creating the best weekly work plan
Keep these in mind as you draft and execute your schedule.
- Track how long it takes you to do any repeated tasks so you know how much time to allocate to them later on.
- Color code your tasks. Categorize them by type, project, and/or urgency.
- Set a 30-minute task timer no matter what you’re working on. If you get distracted, the timer sound will bring your focus back to your project.
- If any of your tasks rely on other people, make sure you have a clear method for project management so you know when to expect notes, materials, or any other next step necessities.
- Create task phases such as “Working," “In Review," and “Done” to help keep track of to-do list items that have more than one step.
Using Wrike to create the best weekly work plans
Supercharge your schedule with these invaluable features and tips for effective project management.
- Try premade widgets. Widgets are a shortcut button used to filter out tasks within your complex to-do list. The best premade widget options for WFH professionals include “Assigned," which displays tasks given to you from your coworkers or boss, and “My Backlog," which shows tasks without deadlines that you still have left to do.
- Automatically organize your task list. Wrike’s “My to-do” feature helps to separate all assigned and self-made tasks from the rest of your to-do list. Add details to individual tasks with customizable full-page templates, edit groups of tasks at the same time, and display subtasks all in one plain list.
- Effectively label and update list items. Categorize them into groups that make the most sense to you using custom labels. Update individual task statuses as well as big project statuses so you can visualize your own progress at-a-glance.
Now you know how to make a weekly schedule that boosts productivity
An effective weekly work plan is all about getting it out of your head and into a visual format you can easily organize. Give Wrike’s free trial a try and discover all the ways you can conquer your coming week with completely customizable dashboards, task lists, and status updates that help you stay on track no matter what.