As the new year quickly approaches, we hear the annual recommendations for planning our year ahead. Every magazine and blog is running an article about how to plan for 2014. Although stating long term goals and planning for their success is important, I suggest that planning your week, every week, will put you closer to your desired target when this time rolls around again next year.
Monday is the most important day of the week. What we choose to do on this day each week will set up our remaining days for success or doom us to a week of frustration.
Here are seven steps to structure your Monday for a successful work week:
No Monday Meetings
In order to keep my work week productive and manageable, I don’t schedule meetings on Monday. This keeps my day open and my time free to properly manage the remaining days of the work week.
Take 10 Minutes of Quiet
Before I start my day, I close the door to my studio and sit quietly for ten minutes. I don’t surf the net, check email or respond to Twitter mentions. I just sit… quietly.
I use this time as a transition between my morning as Dad, when I make breakfast for my kids and get them all to the bus on time, and my week ahead as Partner in Charge of Operations at Fivecat Studio. These are two very different responsibilities. Having a private studio in my home makes for a very convenient commute, but the abrupt change in roles can be stressful. Ten minutes of uninterrupted quiet lets my mind settle and allows me to slowly transition into work.
Before moving to the new studio, I used my morning drive to the Pleasantville studio as my decompression time. I’d stay off the highway, take the back roads and keep the radio turned off. This quiet time would clear my mind and prepare me for the “chaos” that is running a small firm architecture studio.
Many personal productivity experts will advise you to not review your email first thing in the morning. I understand the intent behind that rule, but in reality… even when we know its best not to, its the first thing we do. (Admit it… it’s the first thing you do.) I find it is also important to stay aware of any potential fires smoldering among our projects. An urgent email sent by an concerned client can quickly ignite into an inferno if not attended to promptly.
I agree though, addressing each of the 100+ emails that arrive during the weekend can take up much of my Monday morning and that time is much better suited to organizing my week ahead. So rather than a complete review first thing in the morning, I will scan the subjects for any potential crises. If nothing calls for my immediate attention, I move on to my weekly review leaving the email for later.
Perform a Weekly Review
The next task on my list is to perform a weekly review. I review each project and identify what needs to be completed, review deadlines and understand priorities for each. I then review my responsibilities as administrator of the firm, as well as my responsibilities as a husband and dad. I identify every item that require my attention during the coming week and add them to my task list.
A terrific tool for this weekly review is Nozbe. I use Nozbe to organize all my tasks and easily review them in separate contexts. It allows me to quickly understand the highest priorities and easily integrate every role of my busy life.
Schedule Project Tasks
With all my known tasks identified during the weekly review, I then schedule the top priorities with dates and times. Nozbe allows me to add dates and deadlines to my tasks, so during my review I can easily see which items require the most attention.
Although Nozbe has the ability to schedule as well, I like to use the iCloud Calendar on my Mac to schedule my weekly tasks. This allows me to see my tasks, color-coded by categories, such as meetings, telephone calls, project tasks, administration and personal. By using iCloud, I can sync my Calendar with Annmarie’s iCloud, keeping us both aware of the other’s schedule. As married partners with three kids, this is critical to the success of our partnership as well as our marriage.
Review Weekend Email
With my week’s tasks reviewed and scheduled, I then direct my attention back to my email. I review and handle each message in one of three ways; I either delete the message (which accounts for about 95% of the messages I receive, even with a full SPAM filter activated), I respond to the email immediately or I tag it for my attention later. Any email tagged for later is listed on my Nozbe or added to my Calendar.
I try to keep my inbox clear of messages and I formally review my email three times per day in a similar way as described above. Though, with my iPhone always in hand, I do scan for urgent messages throughout the day. My top priority is always client satisfaction and a client promptly addressed in a time of crisis or concern is a client who will refer you to their friends when the project is complete.
Review Financial Reports and Manage Payables
The final step of a successful Monday is to review the payables received from the week before (invoices from vendors, utilities or service providers) and add each one to my bookkeeping software. (I use Quickbooks Pro for now… but I’m considering a switch to a cloud-based alternative. I will write about that another day.) I prepare payments once per month, but by keeping my software updated with pending payables, I can always see the current financial status of the firm.
Before I shut down the bookkeeping software, I review my financial statements so I have a clear understanding of our fiscal health. Knowing where we stand allows me to adjust as required and keeps the stress of not knowing to a minimum for the remaining days of the week.
With a properly structured week, organized and managed every Monday, I put my firm in a position to succeed and myself in a position for a happier life… with more money and less stress. How about you? Do you have a specific routine each week? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Have a happy Monday and a fantastic work week!