I’m a busy lady — I’m running a business (that has both a client services agency side and a training side), have this website as a side hustle, have two small kids (and they eat, like, every day) and a husband who works unpredictable shiftwork hours — and still I need time for myself.
It took me a long time to find a time management tool that actually worked for my life. First I tried time blocking in Google calendar (creating an “ideal week” in a separate calendar, then lining it up with my actual calendar) but then when I would work through a time block or skip a task, it would just sit there making me feel guilty.
And I tried to plan using a project management tool (I’ve tried Asana, Trello & Clickup), or a to-do list (Wunderlist, To-doist, Google Tasks)… but all of them resulted in a backlog of recurring tasks that never got checked off, and again I’d feel that guilt of not accomplishing the tasks I’d assigned myself.
I also have a bit of a rebellious streak, even against myself … so even if I decide on Monday that Tuesday will be “content creation day,” I might wake up and think “but I don’t wannnaaaaa!” So I needed to find a time management tool with both accountability and flexibility.
WeekPlan: a Priority Planner for Highly Effective People.
WeekPlan is structured so that you determine your overall goals (annual, quarterly, weekly, etc) to determine your priorities, then create tasks that will move towards your goals and schedule them into time blocks.
Creating my weekly agenda
Here’s how I use it:
- I’ve set up 7 different areas where I can spend my time (in alpha order): business development, client projects, content creation, family, internal projects (team/admin/personal development), launch, membership, and self-care. Each of them is color coded.
- My WeekPlan automatically integrates with my Google calendar, pulling all the activities from specific calendars into my schedule, and I’ve set up any recurring tasks to automatically repeat.
- On Friday afternoons, I sit down and come up with the “high impact tasks” that I need to get done the following week or two. I try to keep this to 1-2 tasks/category. (If you’ve heard of the rocks/stones/sand method, the high impact tasks are the rocks.)
- I schedule my high impact tasks into white space around my appointments. Once those are blocked, I can think through the rest of my tasks and figure out where they can fit in. These are the “stones” that can fit in between the larger tasks.
- I try to leave 30-60 minutes of white space every day for the little things that pop up — phone calls from the kids school, a check-in with my husband, an urgent email reply, etc. These are the “sand” that can fill up my entire day if I’m not careful.
Once i have my plan, I take a look at my colors to see if anything is looking too heavy. Some weeks can skew really far in a certain category (during product launches I expect 75% of the week to be purple) and some weeks can feel really unpredictable (like every day has every color), but for the most part I’ve established a bit of a pattern (Mondays are membership & content, Wednesday afternoons are family, Fridays are client days).
How I use time blocking to for realistic productivity
I find that if I’m not proactive about how I want to spend my day, I’ll spend the entire day in reactive mode: answering emails, replying to social media DMs, and generally fighting fires for whatever is trying to get my attention.
But after reading two productivity books — Deep Work by Cal Newport and The One Thing by Gary Keller & Jay Papasan — I realized how much this firefighting approach to running a business was holding me back. I started setting aside “client work time” every week (I started with Tuesday & Thursday afternoons) when I could pause email, turn on DND mode on my phone, and spend focused time on client design project … and I realized that I got more done in those two 3-hour time blocks than in the other 20 hours of the week!
SO I started applying time blocking to all my actions — blocking out time for specific clients, content creation, finances, etc — so that no one task ever took over and left my other responsibilities forgotten.
Daily time management & accountability
All that ?? sounds well and good … but I’ve definitely had experiences before where I make a perfect weekly plan, then sit down on Monday morning and throw it out the window. “I’m the boss, I do what I waaaant” my ego yells.
But the cool thing about WeekPlan is that whatever I don’t check off as complete automatically rolls over to the next day. So I can’t just ignore the plan, or pretend it doesn’t matter just because I don’t feel like it. If I don’t get it done on the assigned day, I have to find time later in the week to fill it in.
This means that sometimes I’ll have a rough night of sleep and need an easier day than I assigned myself, so I’ll look at the rest of the week and pull a task from another day that I can swap. I still have the option to be flexible in the moment, but none of the important tasks get dropped or forgotten about.
Plus? There’s a happy “ding” that goes off when you finish a task that provides a satisfying little dopamine rush.
Integrations & usability
Sometimes an urgent email pops up & I know I need to find time in my calendar for it; I can simply forward the email to [email protected] and it’ll copy the email into a task, which I can then shift into my week at a time that makes sense.
I also have two-way integration set up with my Google calendar (and this also works for Outlook), so that WeekPlan pulls everything scheduled on my primary calendar into my WeekPlan, and every task that I add to WeekPlan, it pushes onto a “time block” calendar in my Google calendar.
If I shift something in Google calendar — either my main calendar or my WeekPlan time block calendar — that task will automatically update in WeekPlan. It makes it easy to swap back and forth between the two services without losing track of multiple events.
Desktop & mobile apps
When I first started using WeekPlan back in 2015, you could only access it on their website, but now it’s moved to having both mobile & desktop apps. These all sync seamlessly across all platforms I’ve tried (I swap regularly between my PC Desktop, iPhone and MacBook Air.)
Time tracking methods
Pomodoro focus timer
Time blocking & Pomodoros go together like spaghetti & meatballs … which is appropriate, because they both involve tomatoes. ???
The Pomodoro method was started in Italy, with one of those cute kitchen tomato timers (Pomodoro is Italian for tomato). It’s a time blocking method where you focus on one task for a limited amount of time, with a built-in break at the end. Typically people start with 15-25 minute tasks, and then 5-10 minute breaks. You can stack multiple Pomodoros back-to-back, so you’d work 25 minutes then take a 5-min break repeatedly: 25-5-25-5-25.
WeekPlan has a built-in Pomodoro-style “focus timer,” where you can actually track your time on your task, and after you’ve worked for 25 minutes it’ll give you another satisfying little “ding” to let you know that you can take a break.
I love using the WeekPlan focus timer, not only to maximize productivity on my specific task, but also so that I know in the future exactly how long projects take me to accomplish.
(Note: Once I started hiring a team, I switched all my time tracking into a tool called Toggl; I’ll share a post soon about how we use it for overall project tracking.)
Built-in GTD Eisenhower matrix
The Eisenhower Matrix is a way of prioritizing your tasks by deciding what’s urgent (needs to be done right now) and/or important (needs to be done by you) and placing it into it’s corresponding quadrant.
The Eisenhower matrix:
- Urgent AND important tasks should be done right away.
- Urgent but not important can be delegated.
- Important but not urgent tasks can be scheduled.
- And tasks that are neither urgent nor important can be eliminated.
WeekPlan allows you to place all your tasks into a quadrant, and will automatically change the typography of the text (red is urgent, bold is important) to easily distinguish the top priorities at a glance.
WeekPlan is $104 annually. Totally worth the $2/week to have all my tasks — both in my personal life & professional requirements — organized and prioritized in one place!