Busy weeks are some of the hardest to conquer, and we all have them. However, a busy week doesn’t have to be a high-stress week. Busy doesn’t imply stress unless you allow it.
Usually, the number one reason busy weeks are stressful is lack of planning. With this short guide, I want to give you my tried and true ways to reduce busyness, stress, and disorder from your busy week so you can flourish.
Performing a task braindump
Before you tackle your schedule, perform a task brain dump.
Sit down and write everything you want to do that week on a sheet of paper. Don’t tell yourself no. Don’t over think. Just write the tasks down. This is a brain dump, so there is no judgement. And no task is too small.
Once you have your task list, remove the tasks that can be completed later in the month. These are usually tasks that aren’t on a time crunch, or their due date isn’t upcoming.
From there, remove the tasks that are non-essential. If you already know your week is full, now is not the best time for non-essential tasks. They can be moved to a low-pressure week. Note: self-care based tasks are essential. We’ll talk more about that later.
Once you have your list, do one more run through to see if anything else can be removed, then start prepping your planner for the week.
Keep short to-do lists for motivation
The largest key to surviving a busy week is to manage your tasks appropriately. If you take some time to honestly read over your task brain dumps, you have quite a few things that aren’t essential to that specific week. Move as many to another week as possible.
Then from there, make short to do lists for each day. I have 2 major items (tasks that need at least an hour of time) on my list per day, followed by 3-5 minor tasks (tasks that can be completed in 15-30 minutes). After you decide on your to do list for the day, use your favorite productivity technique to finish your list.
Do not add to your list, unless it’s absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, you can’t commit to everything. You can’t always say yes.
And, if you can’t be honest with yourself about your week, and your schedule, you’ve lost before you’ve even started.
Prepping your planner
When figuring out the flow of my busiest weeks I make time to prepare my planners, yes, planners. I’ve found that it’s easier to deal with busyness when personal related tasks are separated from work related ones.
Take the task list you created from the first exercise and separate personal from work (or whatever category name you’re giving ‘non-personal tasks’). From there, place three sticky notes on each day.
The first is for your major daily task. Major tasks are usually tasks that need at least 1 hour of time to complete, or they are highly time-sensitive deadline based tasks. I usually have 2 tasks here.
The second is for minor tasks. Minor tasks are tasks that can be completed in 15-30 minutes. I usually have 3-5 tasks here. Be careful stacking minor tasks. Too many can take away from the major tasks.
Leave the third for your routine tasks: dailies that help you wind-down or get started (we’ll talk about those later).
Doing this exercise will help you visualize your week before you write it in stone. Remember try to keep your to do list for each day short. It’s more encouraging and easier to manage last minute additions and emergencies. As you fill in your sticky notes, you may see that one day is significantly fuller than another. When this happens, you need to reorder tasks.
If you’re like me, I often pack a ton of tasks at the beginning of the week and it’s not until I do this exercise that I notice this problem. This exercise also gives me a visual reminder that some days are full. So if a meeting request comes up, I see that I can only commit to meetings on XYZ non-full day.
Remember: it’s not that our schedule is full, it’s that we’re voluntarily committing to too much per week. Once you see it laid out physically, you usually start to manage busyness better. You say ‘yes’ to less, schedule meetings more accurately, and turn down things quicker. Don’t skip this exercise.
Scheduling rest time midweek
Corporate work weeks have us trained to believe we wait until Friday to rest and that’s often not healthy. I’ve found the best way to survive busy weeks is actually to schedule time midweek to rest. Rest can mean various things based on your week, your schedule, or your needs. The main point is to slow down midweek and refresh.
This means that on say, Wednesday, you do mostly mindless tasks (usually admin tasks): sorting email, organizing spreadsheets, laundry, cleaning, etc. Or, you take an extended lunch. The key here is to schedule a day specifically to move slower so you can catch your breath.
Incorporating a wind down routine daily
If you are like me, usually during busy weeks it’s not only harder to rest, it’s also harder to focus on sleeping. But, if I’m being honest, sleep is just as important as the other aspects of your week. Sleeping is a work activity and if you haven’t taken time to get a healthy amount of sleep, you won’t be as productive.
To make sleep more routine, I’ve started doing a wind-down routine. It consists of meditation, journaling, and reading before bedtime. The success of this routine is directly determined by your willingness to turn off your phone, tablet, laptop, etc.
To craft your wind-down routine, pick a few activities that help you relax. Spend 30 minutes on each. And, then go to bed. It may be helpful to get ready for bed and perform a task brain dump before you start to wind down.
How do you prepare when you have a busy week ahead of you?
Brittany Melton is a logo and web designer of 11 years. She has worked corporately for brands such as BMW, the University of Alabama, and Target. She has been featured in Quirktastic, Search Engine Journal, and Madame Noir, just to name a few. Brittany launched her first successful business on Etsy in 2012. After hitting a few hundred sales and being featured in Entrepreneur Magazine, she used her design skills from the corporate world to venture out on her own. Ever since then, she's been working full-time as a freelance designer helping new creatives launch their brands and businesses. Twitter: @xobritdear Instagram: @xobritdear