How to design your dream week

In productivity, getting things done by neville

Have you ever thought of what a dream week would look like? One where you not only get all your work done, but you’ve also spent time with the family, friends and even had time for yourself? A week where you not only got your chores done, but you knocked off some of those long-standing items on the to-do list that’s been sitting there forever? And when you look back you know that was an awesome week.

We’re so busy that a dream week seems like something we can aspire to but never reach. But here’s a dirty little secret:

If you don’t plan your week (or day or year) it will happen to you anyway. You’ve just given up the ability to have some control over how it unfolds.

We can’t control everything. Chaos is going to happen, emergencies will pop up and force us to drop everything and deal with them. But we can even plan for chaos – and when we do that, we can get closer to having a dream week.

There’s a methodology for designing a dream week – and getting close to living it every week. But it requires a couple of hacks to make it work.

Let’s start with the methodology.

Grab your tools

You’re going to need:

  • a sheet of paper, or
  • a blank spreadsheet (any flavour will do).

You’ll want the days of the week across the top (of course). I start my week with Monday so that weekend days fall together at the end.

Below the days of the week reserve one row for your “Focus Priority” (we’ll get to that in a bit). Then label the rest of the rows with the time of day. Start as early as you normally get up and use 30-minute or 1-hour increments until the time you should be going to bed.

Here’s what the top of my dream week looks like before I’ve started filling it in:

Set your focus priority for the day

Your focus priority is the main theme for the day. Some days are just work, other days may be focused on admin, and others on personal.

Your focus priority is the stuff you have to finish before you can work on other stuff.

So, for example, I can set the focus priority for the day to be admin. That means I have to complete my admin work before I do anything else, even if it takes just a few minutes or a couple of hours.

To keep things simple, I’m going to use Monday through Friday for work and weekends for personal. Here’s what it looks like:

I also like using colours to show what the time is going to be used for. I use the following 4 colours:

  • Yellow: personal time
  • Red: admin
  • Blue: strategy & planning
  • Green: revenue engine

(If you’re not familiar with the idea of a revenue engine, watch the 3-minute video here).

Because weekends are personal time, I just block off the whole day by colouring it yellow. Here’s what it looks like:

Now block out your time

The next step is to block out your time. Keep in mind that this is a dream week – not every week will turn out to be a dream week, so you’re not trying to get super accurate. You just want an indication of how you’re going to use your time.

Here’s what my dream week looks like:

My morning routine usually runs from about 5:00 am. By 6:30 am I’m working on my daily article – there’s one each weekday.

Monday mornings I have an additional hour scheduled to prepare my weekly newsletter, and Fridays there is an hour for a review of the week and planning the next week, followed by an hour for marketing for the next week.

Manage your energy

You will notice a couple of things in my dream week:

  • Email is strictly reserved for certain time slots. In fact I don’t even have my email running when I’m not working on it. Your work may not allow you to do this, but this is a major productivity hack if you can do it.
  • Mornings are the preferred time for heads-down work and client workshops. This is when my energy is highest (for heads-down work), and from experience I’ve learnt that client workshops are most productive in the morning when everyone’s energy levels are still high.
  • Afternoons my energy is usually lower so I try to slot in meetings or shallower work in the afternoon.

The way I’ve structured my dream week is based on how I know I will get the most done. Few of my weeks are a perfect dream week, but knowing that I prefer to have meetings in the afternoon allows me to suggest afternoons as a first option. I will even flex my early morning routine and daily articles if necessary, knowing that I’m making an exception.

Productivity hacks

Now that you know what your dream week looks like, you can schedule your activities in your calendar using the dream week as a guideline.

Here are some productivity hacks that will help you get closer to that dream week:

  • It’s a journey. Don’t try to boil the ocean and change everything you’re doing so you can have a dream week next week. It’s going to take time to get there, and even when you’re close things will change to throw it out. But once you have your dream week designed you can get closer and closer to it.
  • Minimise distractions. When you have time blocked out for something, minimise all distractions. That includes all notifications on your phone and computer. The only notifications you should allow are for meetings. Close down your email program (leave the calendar running if you need to so you can get notifications).
  • Close down your email when you’re not in email time. When you consistently see someone responding to emails within minutes, they are probably spending most of their time in reactive mode. The only people that really have an excuse for this are in customer service.
  • Make room for chaos. Never book out 100% of your calendar. Even if you are super-human and your time estimates are spot on, chaos will happen and throw your carefully crafted plans out the window. I recommend leaving 6-8 hours per week unallocated so you have time to deal with chaos.

The promise of the dream week

It’s all about getting stuff done. When you get stuff done you move forward, you’re making progress and – most importantly – you feel good.

It takes time to get into the rhythm of a dream week, and every now and then there is something that throws everything into disarray. But as you practice getting closer to your dream week you will find that you get better at it, you get more done and it’s easier to switch off when you need to.

Have a great week – every week!