As a tenure-track professor with small children who also teaches Highland dancing, I sometimes find it challenging to fit everything in, especially as there are so many parts to all of these that it’s easy to lose track of. As a professor, I have research, teaching, and service time to fit in, and each of these also has multiple components or projects within it. For example, with teaching I also have to account for prep, grading, meeting with students, curriculum development, and so on. For research and service, I have multiple ongoing projects, that can also require coordination with other people. As a dance teacher, I teach classes and also have to do administrative items like tracking payments, emailing students, planning lessons, and so on on a weekly basis. I also have larger projects, such as volunteering to run several dance competitions a year. Finally, with children, in addition to fun family things, there is a significant amount of chores/paperwork etc to divide up with my husband and do my share of.
While I use my semester plan for the big picture, the key to my current strategy for managing the details is weekly planning and daily adjusting, so I thought I would describe this system in this post. After all, I like to read about other people’s planning systems for ideas, so maybe you’ll want to read about mine?
I make a weekly plan on Friday afternoons (usually) that goes through the following Sunday (weekend planning is probably a post unto itself). On my google calendar, I have two calendars, one that shows my ideal weekly plan and another scheduled events. These never match, so the first step is matching them to come up with a plan that incorporates the events and also has time blocked for everything I need to do. This results in hard decisions, as I always want to do more things than there is actually time for.
Then, I copy the plan into my paper planner (yes, this is redundant, but it help me focus so I keep doing it). This is pictured below for the week of September 10-15. It is also color-coded, which gives me a quick overview of what my week is focusing on. I also try to leave some blank spaces, I never know what will come up, but I know something will! However, you can see I was not especially successful at that in the week below.
However, the real key to my system is thinking of this weekly plan as a compass, rather than a strict map. In nearly three years of following this system, my week has not once followed my actual plan. Perhaps it’s a sick child, or an unexpected meeting, or I’m just too tired to make significant research progress, or on a more positive note something took less time than planned and I have a free afternoon!
This is where the daily adjustments come in. Each day (or better yet, the night before) I make a plan for that day, blocking out time for things with the same color code on the left side of the page. I use the weekly plan to guide my daily plan, but don’t worry about following it exactly. For example, I might refer to a previous day to catch up, a subsequent one to work ahead, or add in something new that has come up. As I go through the day, I also track what I actually did in the right column, and this too doesn’t always match, for the same reasons the weekly doesn’t always match the daily.
For example, on Monday, there is a pretty good match between my weekly plan, daily plan, and what I did (I find this happens more often on Mondays). In contrast, you can see that Thursday doesn’t match quite as well.
And just to keep it real, you can see on Friday I didn’t make the daily plan at all (but did record what I did), and here’s an example from another week where the daily and what I did don’t really match either. Yet because I have the weekly plan, I’m still able to keep on track when my days get off.
At the end of the week (Friday afternoon) I do a weekly review (inspired by various productivity systems, but mostly those from Getting Things Done and Organize 365). This allows me to see how I’m doing overall, and where I need to focus the next week. You can see this recorded at the bottom of my weekly plan.
Do you do weekly planning and daily adjusting? What systems work for you? Let me know!