Tag Archives: Productivity

Launching a New Week, Part Two

My last post discussed how I use a “Weekly Launch” routine to prepare for a new week. Most of what I wrote yesterday wasn’t specific to my Filofax. Today, I will share how I sit down to set up my planner for the week.

I have three paper calendars or agendas, in addition to the dry erase weekly calendar I shared yesterday. Each serves a distinct purpose.

  1. Stapled monthly calendar – This calendar holds every event I need to track for our family. It’s thin, so I can carry it with me easily. Since this is the family calendar, the large size of each calendar square works perfectly for me. I use color to distinguish who does what…
  2. My A5 “Week on 2 Pages” layout – The WO2P tracks my personal schedule for each day. It gives me a chronological plan, and I omit activities that don’t impact what I’m doing or where I need to be. For example, if my husband is taking my daughter to swimming, I don’t include it in my personal schedule; it goes on the family calendar, though. I also include time-specific tasks. In between the two-page spread, I use a piece of lined paper for tasks that can be done at any time during the week. For 2014, I’m trying the layout with boxes, rather than the vertical lined days. Fingers crossed!
  3. My A5 “Month on 2 Pages” layout – I use the MO2P calendar to track my writing tasks for each day. I’m basically my own boss when it comes to working on my dissertation proposal, which is good, but I tend to run into trouble staying on track if I haven’t identified a purpose for my writing sessions. On Sunday, I set different goals for each day of the week to ensure I keep forward momentum. I wrote about this in detail in an earlier post.
  4. The weekly dry erase calendar – This calendar is not really for planning. It’s a communication tool. My husband, kids, and sitter refer to it to see what the day looks like for everyone. While my Filofax and calendar are personal, this is for the family. Plus, when I fill it out with my husband, we note scheduling conflicts and resolve them on Sunday by adjusting plans as needed. There are no unfortunate surprises like me having a late meeting and my husband being at the dentist when one of us needs to take our son to soccer, only to realize it the day of…

On Sunday, I manually “sync” them before I coordinate schedules with my husband or meal plan. It’s important to have a sense of the week before meal planning, because some days are more hectic than others. I plan the easiest meals for those days. Also, if we’ll be out for the evening, I know I don’t need to have food prepared that night.

I begin by making a cup of Jasmine Silver Needle white tea and laying out everything I need. This week, I have to mail a birthday card , so I pulled out my greeting card organizer and stamps as well.

Getting settled

My monthly calendar, A5 Malden, card organizer with stamps and Washi tape, laptop, paper supplies, and tea

Once I’ve hunkered down, I refer to my monthly calendar so I can complete my WO2P personal schedule for the week. I pull out events that need to be done each morning and afternoon/evening. Then I generate a list of tasks for the week that can be done at anytime. I also check my e-mail for any follow-up tasks that I should put on my calendar or task list.

Each night, I review my schedule before bed, making any changes as needed…including tasks that pop into my head. That’s my final “brain dump” (or in GTD terms: “mind sweep”) for the day. Establishing this routine helped eliminate my insomnia, because I no longer have a mental list scrolling through my head once I turn the lights out. I can rest easy because I’ve written down what needs to be done, and I can let it go until tomorrow. I put my Malden on my nightstand and refer to it every morning before I’m even out of bed.

I should mention that this week is pretty light for me since the children and my university are still on break. My son, however, has several projects that are due when he returns next Monday, so I added a Post-It to remind myself to nag him a bit 🙂 In the “this week” section, I’ve also added a few personal goals I’d like to keep front and center.

Once I finish with my daily schedule, I move to planning my academic writing on my MO2P. I don’t have a sitter this week, so it won’t be as productive as when my children are in school.

Jan1 writing

My writing schedule…I only plan one week ahead for this calendar. This allows me to be flexible.

Once I’m done scheduling my week, I’m ready to plan meals and coordinate schedules on the weekly white board I described in Pt. 1). If I am very concerned about remembering an appointment, I may add a reminder into my phone.

All told, this process takes me about an hour. I consider it an investment in the week ahead. It’s not just an exercise on paper; I’m mentally rehearsing for the week ahead. The Sunday routine allows me to strategize how to make the most of my time, and I no longer forget appointments or tasks.

What about you? Do you have a Weekly Review or Routine?

Using My Filofax to Create My Academic Writing Schedule

I keep my writing schedule on a separate "Month on Two Pages" calendar. The only things on the calendar are my writing goals and any significant events that might mean I won't have time to write that day.

I keep my writing schedule on a separate “Month on Two Pages” calendar. The only things on the calendar are my writing goals and any significant events that might mean I won’t have time to write that day.

I use a planner because my life has a lot of moving pieces right now, and it helps me make the best use of my time. A few years ago, I left my job as an elementary school teacher and entered graduate school. I have completed my coursework, and it’s now time to write my dissertation proposal and prepare for my qualifying exams.

When I was a teacher, my day was very structured. My day was dictated by a bell schedule and lesson plans. As a graduate student, I work the same number of hours, but there is no bell to tell me when to sit at the computer. No curriculum dictates how I move forward…My first two years, I struggled to use that flexibility wisely. Somehow, I conflated “more flexibility” with “more time to do other things.”

I know. Trust me, I know. It was a naïve mistake. I have done well in school, but I would have liked to have started my dissertation by now. Something had to change, and like the Type A person I am, I just knew that lists and a schedule could get me back on track!

I learned — through trial and error, along with some helpful reading — that I need a writing schedule if I’m going to get my own grad school work done. Family and my employer’s work tend to come first. When I shuffled pieces around, I deferred work on my own research and writing. No more! Now I use the Pomodoro technique (funny name, I know) to help me get in a minimum of two hours per day on my own writing. I often get in more, but the minimum helps me stay consistent and write every weekday. I read (part of my research, naturally), go to meetings and seminars, and work on paid research for my adviser the rest of the time. Well, that and the whole raising two children, managing a household with my husband, and living a life thing 🙂 But that goes in my other calendar!

My Dissertation Proposal Task List

OmniFocus on my phone – My dissertation proposal task list

Putting Together My Weekly Writing Schedule  

  1. Every Sunday, when I do my weekly review, I put two hours (minimum) of writing time onto the schedule for each day of the week. It goes into my weekly agenda simply as “Writing.”
  2. Next, I think about what writing tasks I hope to accomplish during the week ahead. I use the OmniFocus app to store specific tasks (e.g., “Write about sample selection.”). Yes, I’m a Filo girl at heart, but I love to mix it up with a few digital helpers. The plan is only for one week. It’s best to be flexible in case something happens. My son, for instance, had some unplanned doctors visits and medical tests yesterday, so I fell a bit behind schedule. I’m going to try and catch up, but if I need to, I can move tasks to next week once Sunday comes around.
  3. I enter daily goals for my writing time onto a dedicated “Month on Two Pages” (MO2P) calendar. This has its own section in my Malden, and it speaks to how important this aspect of my work is to my life as a graduate student. I’m sure this system could work for people tackling other large projects.
  4. Each day, when it’s time to start writing, I open up my binder and review my goals are for the day. No time wasted on wondering what I should be doing; that was decided on Sunday. Just dive right in! Since I’m easily distracted, I should also add that I disable my internet during these sessions. It’s the only way for me to get the work done!
Each writing task goes into the square for the day I plan to complete it.

Each writing task goes into the square for the day I plan to complete it. The notes may not make sense to others, but I know, for instance that today I need to plot out different options for my research design. I also need to write my research questions and read an article by Judith Warren Little, one of the members of my dissertation committee!

My goal now is to use the list on the side to record my total writing time each day. The two hours is a minimum, and I want to be accountable for meeting that goal. Perhaps I’ll identify patterns of when I’m most (and least) productive.

Some might wonder why I dedicate an entire A5 MO2P calendar just to tasks related to one part of my life. First, my research is an important part of my life. Before I gave it its own “space,” I found myself putting it to the side when family or work tasks demanded my attention. I probably added an extra year on to my doctoral program because of overcommitments in other areas.

It also helps take a big project and break it down into manageable pieces, all while allowing me to see the bigger picture. Adding family or other work events would be visually distracting, and it would be difficult to quickly gauge if I’m making appropriate progress toward my qualifying exams. It doesn’t clutter up my family calendar with tasks. The tactile and visual nature of writing in on the MO2P format helps orient my work for the week.

I’ve been a lot more productive since starting this system. The 2 hour minimum is a big factor, and the calendar allows me to avoid getting bogged down in planning what to write each day I sit down in front of the computer. This mix of paper and digital works well for me. Navigating between the two formats allows me to do the real “thinking” about what I want to accomplish before the start of the week, and it sets a productive tone for my writing sessions.

I add my writing schedule one week at a time. This is part of my weekly review each Sunday, so I have an idea about what my week looks like.

I add my writing schedule one week at a time. This is part of my weekly review each Sunday, so I have an idea about what my week looks like. Disregard the pink and blue stickers. I repurposed this calendar, and I struggled to cover some old entries.