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12 Days of Systems Challenge ::
How to get more done this week
(+ a free download)

This post is part of the 12 Days of Systems Challenge hosted by Val Geisler of aspire&grow. If you’re ready to get a handle on your systems and processes in 2015, get signed up for Systems Finishing School. Val is awesome and you’ll love this program. If you want to catch up on the posts you may have missed in this series, sign up here.

How to get more done this week + a free download!

When Val asked me to share one of my favorite systems that has helped streamline my business, I had a hard time picking just one, because systems are SO important and I love them. But, I have to say that next to my design process (which I’ll be sharing all about here), the number one system I use in my business is definitely my planning process.

During my first year in business, I was all over the place. I would wake up in the morning and have no clue what to work on. Because of this, project timelines got extended, products never got launched, blog posts never got written and I was a stressed out mess. NO FUN!

Enter the lovely new time management system I use now that has allowed me the ability to work with over 40 clients over the past 2 years, write and sell 2 eBooks, create and launch 1 course, and then turn that course into a self-study program, along with a few other fun collaborations and projects. And now that I have a baby at home, having this system in place is even more important in order for me to have a productive week.

Okay, so let’s get to it. Here’s how I do my planning each month.

MONTHLY PLANNING

I set aside the first Monday of each month to sit down and revisit my goals and priorities for the month. The monthly plan is meant to be a larger overview and shouldn’t focus so much on the individual tasks. Using a calendar or planner, here’s what I do:

  1. Mark down all of your appointments for the month
  2. Jot down the blog posts you want to publish this month
  3. Write down your goals for this month
  4. Decide what you’ll focus on each week to reach those goals
    Don’t worry about focusing on the individual tasks for each week, but instead more of the larger priorities for each week. Once you reach that specific week, you’ll be able to break it down into individual tasks.
WEEKLY PLANNING

Then, each week on Friday afternoon, Sunday night or Monday morning, set aside time to do your weekly planning.

  1. Do a “braindump” of everything that needs to get done this week
    I call it a braindump for a reason — list everything. Appointments, tasks, etc. Start by reviewing what you didn’t get done last week so that it can be moved over to this week’s list. Then, go through your project management software and jot down all of the tasks that are due this week for clients and for your own projects. And don’t forget to include those individual tasks that move you towards reaching your monthly goals.
  2. Using a weekly calendar or your daily planner, jot down your scheduled appointments for the week
  3. For each day this week, choose the Top Three things from your braindump list you want to get done
    These three things might change, but for now it’s important to have an idea of what you’ll be working on each day. I also recommend creating what I like to call “My Ideal Week” plan, so that you know what kinds of tasks you want to do on certain days (i.e. I write my weekly links post every Thursday morning, and only have client calls scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday afternoons). This makes choosing your daily priorities that much easier. I include a template for creating your Ideal Week in my program, Creative Biz Kickstart, if that’s something you’re interested in using.
  4. Keep a running list of smaller tasks separate from your Top Three list
    If there are other smaller tasks that you think you might be able to get to, or ones that pop up during the day, I like to jot those down on another running to-do list on that day’s page. I use the Day Designer by Whitney English as my monthly/daily planner and use the “Other To-Dos” section for this.
DAILY PLANNING

Each night before you sign off for the day, review your Top Three tasks for the following day. If anything needs to be edited, do that now so you’re ready to begin your work day as soon as you sit down. Typically, if I didn’t get something done that day, it gets moved over to the next day as the highest priority.

And always remember to be realistic with how much you can get done each day. It’s the worst feeling when you feel like you didn’t really accomplish a lot for the day, because you overbooked yourself to begin with.

 

DOWNLOAD THE FREE PLANNING TEMPLATE

Download my free monthly goals planning and weekly braindump templates

To help you out with the monthly and weekly planning, I put together a template of my monthly goals planner sheet and my weekly braindump sheet. I usually just use my notebook, but this template is much prettier, so I’m going to start using these. I recommend printing out enough of these to last a couple months and popping them in a binder. That way, you have a place where you can always check back on your monthly and weekly goals to make sure that what you’re doing each day is inching you closer and closer to reaching those goals.

To download the free template, just enter your name and email address here and you’ll get it sent straight to you:

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TOOLS + RESOURCES I USE AND LOVE:

Kikki K Weekly Planner – This is what I’m currently using to map out my weeks until my Whitney English Day Designer takes it’s place on January 1st!

Whitney English’s Day Designer (the shop is now closed, but I also recommend Emily Ley’s Simplified Planner) – This is what I use to organize my daily priorities, AKA – the Top Three.

Staedtler Pens – My favorite pens to use. They don’t bleed through your paper and they make planning much more fun!

 

TIP: Using this system without a bigger plan in place for your year will get you through the day, but I highly recommend having a 12-Month Action Plan in place, because you’ll be able to achieve so much more each day/week/month/year. For help with creating your 2015 goals and plan, check out these resources:

Lara Casey’s PowerSheets

Leonie Dawson’s Create Your Shining Year Workbook

 

YOUR TURN

What’s the #1 system you’ve set up in your business that keeps your head on straight? What system could you not live without? I geek out over this stuff, so let’s hear it!

WANT TO SHARE?

Here are some done-for-you tweets ready to go.

 

WANT MORE?

For more help on time management and goal setting, check out Creative Biz Kickstart. There is an entire week dedicated just to this topic. Also included with your purchase of CBK is an Ideal Week template and a 12-Month Action Calendar. Want to take CBK for a test drive? Start by downloading a free segment here

  • Renee Shupe

    I have a similar system that I’ve implemented in my business using the Bullet Journal concept. I’ve adapted it to work for me and do a similar monthly process, but I think I’ll tweek my weekly process based on what you shared. Thank you.

    • Amanda Genther

      Oh, I’ve never heard of that before. I’ll have to check that out! Thanks for sharing!

  • Thanks for sharing Amanda, along with the download. I am going to start scheduling certain things for certain days but also work from a bigger yearly/monthly schedule. Its helps to be able to view the bigger picture and see things in context.

    • Amanda Genther

      Yes, try it and let me know how it goes!

  • Thanks Amanda, I’ve just started mapping out my idea week and feel calmer already! I’m with you on the pens – people don’t appreciate the difference!!!

    • Amanda Genther

      So glad this helped!

  • Arianna Taboada

    Love the downloadables!!! Do you keep your monthly “big picture” planning on paper or do you use some kind of online project management tool? I can see how each weekly breakdown of tasks is easily put into something like Asana or Basecamp, but would love to know where you keep the monthly plan so that it stays top of mind and keeps you on track : ) Thanks!

    • Amanda Genther

      I keep most of my big picture stuff on paper. It’s more of the actual tasks for projects that I “digitize”. Keeping the bigger picture stuff on paper allows me to keep it close to me at my desk so I can always reference it. Rather than trying to dig through the many tabs open on my computer at any given moment ;)

  • I’ve been mapping out my days, months and years as of January, 2014. HUGE help in productivity! I can’t wait to get 2015 down on paper! I started with the baby step to productivity of writing down tomorrow’s to-do’s before going to bed. Another great help in eliminating overwhelm. Thank you, Amanda, for these resources and for better tweaking ideas. One never arrives, and there is always room for improvement, always.

    Robin

    • Amanda Genther

      How did this morning go after writing down your to-do’s? Were you able to jump right into your list? Thanks for stopping by!

  • I started using a “default” calendar that divides up my week into category blocks so I can schedule in all the tasks I need to get to in a week. Sounds like it is similar to your “ideal” calendar. Such a huge help in keeping my head on straight!

    • Amanda Genther

      Yes, that’s exactly what I do, too. It’s a separate calendar so you can toggle it on and off. Love that!

  • Barbara Waite

    Thanks for getting me to think outside my box!! I use Google Calendar for my own scheduling and with your blog, I can expand upon what I already do!! :)

    • Amanda Genther

      Yay, so glad this helped you. Thanks for stopping by!

  • I love the idea of choosing 3 main things to focus on each day! I think that I have been putting way too many things on my to-do list and then I get frustrated with myself for not getting it all done. I will have to try out this method. Thanks for the download and resources!

    • Amanda Genther

      I totally hear you! We think we have 30 hours in a day, or we think we can pack 20 hours of work into 8 hour days. Once you get comfortable with how long certain tasks take, it gets so much easier to better plan out your day and not over-schedule yourself!

  • Amy Neuhedel

    Thank you Amanda! My “system” is a whole lot of Evernotes, which was a step up from lots of old envelopes with lists scribbled on the back of them.

    • Amanda Genther

      That IS a big step-up. Thanks for sharing :)

  • CABARRET. FIT.

    Love the idea of monthly and weekly with the daily. I can’t live without my Google Calendar. Color coded!

    • Amanda Genther

      Yes, LOVE google calendar!

  • Great post about prioritizing and making sure that items don’t fall off the do list from day to day. I use this same method in a old school style lined composition book with a great red cover. I can’t tell you the number of times I have been able to quickly refer to handwritten notes during a meeting. Loved your pen recommendation – I love the fine point black Sharpie pens.

    • Amanda Genther

      I love how there are so many ways to go about prioritizing your time!

  • tinyblueorange

    I’m a huge fan of monthly goals broken down into tasks for the week!

    Do you transfer your lists anywhere digital? I’ve been integrating reminders into my workflow to speed up cleaning out my inbox but will always love the satisfaction of physically crossing a to do list item out!

    • Amanda Genther

      As you know, I keep most of my larger to-do’s in Basecamp, but for the smaller tasks, I just write em down. I get so much satisfaction from crossing things off. I tried to do both – digital and paper, but I realized I was doing more work than I needed to. I keep my planner right next to me on my desk so I can see it at all times.

  • Excellent advice and resources. My numero uno system tool is Trello for keeping all of my to-do’s in one place. I love the drag and drop function so I can prfioritize and keep my lists super tidy. I love your suggestion of first Monday of the month to set goals for the month ahead!

    • Amanda Genther

      I’ve heard awesome things about Trello! I’m a Basecamp girl, myself, but I do love Trello’s drag and drop feature.

  • I just love you. This is exactly the system that I use — almost down the the exact products, but things have gotten nutso lately and I haven’t been sticking to it! This is the reminder I needed to get my head on straight and keep my goals in front of me. I think my other problem has been biting off way more than 3 main tasks per day. I try to stuff too much in and as we both know, that doesn’t work — especially with little ones running around!

    Right now, I’ve been tweaking my ideal week/batching tasks to fit better into this season and it’s really helping my brain from flitting from task to task. Now, if I could just delete email from my life, I’d be a happy chick! :)

    • Val Geisler

      Alle – you’re the daily winner on this post! Send an email with your mailing address to support@aspireandgrow.com so we can get you your prize! xo

    • Amanda Genther

      I hear ya! As much as I’d like to pretend that I stick to this week in and week out, that’s just not true. But I do my best, just like you :)

      And YAY! on winning!

  • Rebecca Robinson-Lugo

    Amanda…your planner was awesome. It allowed me to get done in a day, what I have been trying to do all month. I spend more of my day trying to figure out how to map out my day. Your download helped me do that last night and get stuff accomplished today! Thank you