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Weekly Planning Is Key To Healthy Work Life Balance


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Weekly planning, Healthy Work Life BalanceWorking 60 hours a week? May be 80? Want to scale back to 40 hour workweek? It’s easily doable and proven to be sustainable over a long period of time. Here is the secret: plan ahead for 40 hour workweek and keep it a goal throughout the week. It also includes brutal prioritizing and disciplined execution according to the plan.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Set Weekly Objectives

Obviously first and foremost objective is staying within 40 hours during the week. Or 8 hours per day.

Next identify what’s needed to be delivered by the end of the week. Think of 3 big things. Not 20, not 10, not even 5 things. Think about 3 big rocks. Imagine Friday night, you lock your computer… what is it that would be really great to have under your belt? This is what I have right now on my plate:

  • All threat models completed.
  • Security scanning scripts automated.
  • Security engineering document v1 ready and sent for review.

I derive my weekly deliverables from my Monthly planning exercise to make sure it adds up by the end of the month, and that in turn adds up by the end of the year as planned.

Break It Down To Daily Tasks

What does it take to achieve each and every one of the three objectives? Can you imagine the series of tasks that would lead to the outcome? List it and roughly put a “price” tag in terms of how long would it take accomplish each task. Chances that the list of such tasks already nicely organized and categorized if you follow task management practice outlined in Task Management Using Microsoft Outlook. Look in the list of tasks for each category (objective), bubble up those that directly contribute to the objective and block time as outlined in Defend Your Time Using Outlook Calendar. Review the weekly calendar, are you still within 40 hours? If not, adjust to make it so. Review again – does it look realistic? No? then you are trying to bite more than you could chew, and that’s not sustainable. Reduce scope of your work or push out your deadlines.

Checklist

Use this checklist before you start your workweek:

  • 3 weekly deliverables identified and and written down.
  • List of tasks directly contributing to the deliverables identified and prioritized.
  • Time blocked week ahead for each task in the list.
  • Weekly schedule validated for sanity and adds up to 40 hours.
  • If the schedule is insane, scope reduced or deadlines pushed out.

What’s left is stick to the weekly plan in disciplined manner throughout the week and make sure you stay on course. As you keep practicing this approach you will first realize it’s hard to stick to the plan due to distractions or due to unrealistic planning. Keep practicing. After few weeks you will have sense what sane weekly schedule should look like and what does it take to accomplish it. A good indicator for successful schedule is accomplishing and delivering at least 80% what was originally planned. By that time you will be amazed how much impact could be achieved by “only” 40 hours work week – and that’s not by doing more rather by delivering what brings value. It’s healthy for you, it’s healthy for your manager, it’s healthy for your company. And it’s sustainable over long period of time.

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12 October 2012

8 Comments »

  • Jimmy May @aspiringgeek said:

    Excellent guidance! I recently read a reference to work-life *harmony*—which struck me as an interesting perspective on what for many is an elusive concept.

  • Alik Levin said:

    Jimmy,
    Thank you. It could be elusive, but it could be real – it all depends on you, eh? ;)
    For me it’s been real for few years now. I know it works for me, chances it may work for others too.

  • Michael Einstein said:

    Alik,

    Good advice. One key step in nearly every time management system you will read (“Getting Things Done – David Allen”, “Seven Habits – Steven Covey”, “Total Workday Control – Michael Lindenberger) is that they all suggest you incorporate a “weekly review” time into your schedule where you can review the prior weeks accomplishments and schedule the coming week’s activities and priorities. This is a good time to block-out time, review your e-mails, and review your tasks (if you use them).

    I have (personally) found Friday mornings to be a good time for this, as it gives me a chance to review what I did (or did not accomplish) and then set my calendar for the following week.

    Regards,

    Michael

  • alik levin (author) said:

    Michael,
    Thank you. This one never fails me. Or it does, when I stop doing it ;)

  • Mike King said:

    Great article and tips here Alik. I to consistently plan ahead for known tasks and strategic work (even more important since everythingsseems to pull away time from strategic work, and lean more to tactical reactions). I personally get to this wednesday typically for the next week, as I often host a lot of conference meetings or phone calls so extra time to prepare and ensure people are available for those tasks is really helpful.

    Anyway, all around, great advice!

  • alik levin (author) said:

    Mike,
    Thank you.
    I also plan for all unknown tasks, just by blocking some time for unforeseen. It happens more often than not.

  • Kim said:

    Wonderful post. I feel that there is great wisdom here. I also like to plan ahead accordingly, makes me feel a lot better when things are planned out ahead of time.

  • alik levin (author) said:

    Kim, Thank you. Planning ahead and sticking to the plan was key for me for a long time.

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