‘Tech 4’ planning and time management: Week Plan
2013 has been the year of discovery, and among many other things in personal and professional life I discovered the real importance of planning. I discovered many different applications and systems to help me achieve my goals, and most importantly I learned how to adapt, re-plan and improve.
This journey has a been a long one, testing diaries, iPhone and web apps. I really like this constant testing and changing things. The same wall colours and furniture easily make me bored after a while. The same way I get bored with unchanged pages and systems.
In one of these searches for the new perfect tool I came across Week Plan and for around six months I have been using this web app. In the meantime I have tried others, but the way this application has been improving has hooked me to it. Not to mention I haven’t found any other as good as this one for my purposes.
Week Plan is based on the book The 7 habits of highly effective people by Stephen Covey. It is a planner, where you see all your week in a single screen or you can enlarge a specific day. What is great about this system is that you can add everything you have to do during the day and assign it to roles you have in your life (work, family, friend, self, etc.). The app then generates charts that allow the assessment of how balanced our lives are, especially regarding work and personal life. Ok, ok, you might think “I don’t even want to know” or “I don’t have time to waste with planning”, but my personal experience is that after I started planning I have much more free time, and by this I mean real-mind-and-guilt-free time.
So in a single screen you can see the seven days of the week, your goals for that week and a list of pending tasks. In an extra screen there is a ‘a parking lot’ area, where lists of things you will do in the future but still have no date, can be added. And in a third screen you can access the journal where reflections on the daily achievements and lessons can be recorded.
Week Plan also allows assigning time for developing tasks and tracking the time these tasks actually took. Below I listed how I use the application, the reasons why I love it and some points where I think there is space for improvement.
- I plan the whole week (usually) on Sunday evening.
- I plan everything, including time for exercise, lunch, dinner and for not doing anything every now and then.
- I have a list of pending things to do that I can see in the same screen as my week, so when I have some free time I move tasks from the pending list to fit into the gap between tasks.
- My ‘parking lot’ is a bit different. I created lists of books I want to read – a list for professional books and a list for holiday reading – and I also have a list of documents I need to collect, write or have signed by somebody.
- Currently my main job is to write my thesis and that is what I do most of the time. But tasks such as ‘write chapter 2’ wouldn’t work because they take too long to be completed (by too long I mean more than I can handle before crossing things from a to-do list!), so I break the tasks into smaller ones (write chapter 2.1, for example).
- In some cases, however, the smaller task can still take a few days. My solution for that is breaking them again into even smaller pieces. This way I never assign tasks that take longer than 2 hours (4 pomodoros). As a result if I was going to write Chapter 2.1 for 6 hours in a single day, I would have 3 ‘rounds’ of doing it, and it will show up on my Week Plan as Chapter 2.1 (1), Chapter 2.1 (2), Chapter 2.1 (3). The reason for doing this is to be able to cross things from the list and achieve more frequently that great feeling of accomplishment.
- I plan rewards (and guilt-free leisure time!) for days when I kept up with the goals and planned hour of work. These days I don’t work during the evening.
What I love about it
- I can see all the week.
- I can set up goals for the week.
- Allows me to planning ahead – both for the current week and the following ones – which is more than writing tasks down in a calendar.
- Allows to really realise the progress throughout the day/week.
- It is a ‘fluid calendar’ as described on their website, so easily adaptive.
- If tasks for the day are not finished, they are automatically allocated on the next day (with a little arrow to remind you that you have procrastinated!).
- The guys that developed and keep improving his app (@WeekPlan) are very kind and accessible. I do like the way they care and work hard to improve their project. Their dedication and passion make me a proud user as well.
Space for improvement
- Sometimes when I opened the app in the morning some of the tasks were reorganized in a strange order. It didn’t work for me because I like to see the tasks in the order I will complete them during the day. The way I found around it is to put a number in front of each of them, so they keep in the ‘right’ order. It is not ideal, but is working!
- The version of the iPhone app I have is still a bit hard to work with.
Besides Week Plan I still have my physical diary. Partly because I like the paper version and partly because I like to take notes along the day. Writing on the dairy I reflect on the tasks throughout the day and this must be the reason why I don’t use the Week Plan journal so frequently.
As I have said in earlier posts, I like trying new things and I have tried other tools after I started using Week Plan. But truth has to be said, this is the one that works best for me.
How do you plan your tasks? Have you tried Week Plan or is there any other application/system you make use of?