As a blogger and wannabe-entrepreneur, I always have 100 different tasks I want to get done. These often become weekly activities that I need to achieve to grow my blog/business. When I first started blogging, I used my iPhone’s Calendar app to manage my weekly schedule. You might be using a digital calendar too. You might even be keeping it old-school and using paper diaries or calendars. (I ain’t judging – I love x100 paper stationery.) But how much time are you wasting on maintaining these calendars and diaries? How flexible are these tools?
Why I stopped using my iPhone Calendar
I used my phone’s calendar for everything. I used it to organize my personal and work meetings, birthdays, and reminders to pay off my credit card. So, why wouldn’t I use it to manage my blog tasks as well?
WELL, after a month or two of using my digital calendar, I came across a few problems.
I was wasting a lot of time just managing my schedule. That’s because I was constantly tweaking my blog schedule to match my ever-changing lifestyle. Managing calendar meetings may not sound like much effort. But all that effort adds up when you’re updating more than 30 activities to different dates and times.
Secondly, I didn’t like that I always had to choose a particular time slot for each of my tasks. For example, I knew I had to get certain tasks done on a specific day. But I didn’t necessarily need to get it done at a given moment of 9:15 am. The timing of when I had to get a task done was more in the context of my daily life schedule.
Here’s an example to help illustrate. I have a daily job of commenting on other blogs or Facebook groups. This is so that I can build my connections and just generally promote my existence. I planned to do this every morning while I’m on the bus on my way to work. But I often catch my bus at different times. Also, my bus ride duration differs depending on the time of day and the weather. So this makes it difficult to set a specific time every morning for this task. Not only does this discrepancy throw off my calendar schedule, but it mentally throws me off too. My real-life actions won’t be consistent with my calendar. This makes me ask myself, ‘What’s the point?’
Thirdly, it’s hard to get the big picture of my weekly plan in a phone calendar. You can only see a few days at a time of your weekly schedule. And it’s often cluttered with your personal and work meetings as well. Sure, you could filter your calendar only to see your blog/business tasks. But it’s still difficult to see the big picture and arrange your schedule easily on a small screen.
Traditional paper diaries don’t work either
Yes, I’ve been there and done that with paper diaries and calendars too. Growing up, I was one of those organized freaks that recorded every meeting, reminder, and task for each week. And I was only in primary school! So, I can assure you that I’m not a millennial who’s hating on paper ‘just because’.
The biggest issue with paper diaries and calendars is that once you write in it, it’s hard to change it. Yes, you can quickly scribble out your mistakes or changes. But now that’s taken up precious paper space that you were short of in the first place.
And don’t even get me started on those refillable diary pages! Wasting minutes, if not hours, filling out those monthly calendar pages. Making sure each day of the month is numbered correctly. And when you realized you accidentally skipped a number and just wrote out a whole month incorrectly *groan*.
Solution: Agile-ify your weekly planner
I work at Trade Me, which is one of the biggest tech companies in New Zealand. At Trade Me, my colleagues and I are always looking for the most efficient way to plan our large projects. Most of the time, we use the Agile methodology to help us plan and deliver these complex projects. Many big tech companies, such as Google and Facebook, also use Agile to build successfully and deliver the right products.
Let me explain for those who don’t work in the tech industry, or are not familiar with Agile. Agile is a concept of delivering the right product, bit by bit. You release the product in increments as you learn more about what your users or the market wants. This is opposite to traditional project management. Traditional practices have taught teams to plan everything that you want to build up-front. And then you’d release the whole product in one big bang. (You can read more about Agile on Wiki.)
But how do you build the right product? Through excellent communication and team collaboration.
And how do you communicate and collaborate effectively? Through Post-it notes!
You might be working on your blog or business on your own. So you might not care about communication or collaboration. That’s cool – the biggest benefit of Post-it notes is the flexibility it offers.
So I thought, ‘Why not learn from what the big tech companies are doing and apply it to my personal project? Surely, if it’s good enough for Google, it’s good enough for me.’
‘Whoa, hold up! Post-it notes? Isn’t that going backward? And completely ignoring the great technology that the 21st century is offering us?’, you ask.
Nope – we’re just going back to basics. No technology will let you see your whole plan clearly, and pick up a note and place it somewhere else in a second. Trying to get rid of a task in your schedule? You wouldn’t grab your Post-it note, place it somewhere else, and then place it somewhere else again before throwing it into the bin. So why would you put up with tapping through your digital calendar 2-3 times to delete a task?
Post-it notes are super fast and flexible.
Trust me – I’ve been wearing my Agile hat and using Post-it notes for the past few months. And organizing my weekly schedule this way has been the best technique out of all the others so far.
How to organize your weekly schedule more efficiently
Follow my step-by-step instructions below to create your own Agile weekly planner!
- The planner should display each day of the week, e.g., Monday, Tuesday, etc.
- Leave enough space for each day of the week for the Post-it notes.
- Post-it notes
- Marker pen
- A weekly planner template.
- Choose a task and write the related activity on a Post-it note.
- If you don’t know where to start, ask yourself: What’s your most common or important task?
- E.g., Publish a new post, research new post topics, analyze one competitor, etc.
- Place the note on the day of the week that you want to do this in.
- E.g., If I want to publish a new post every Sunday, then I’ll place the note for ‘Publish a new post’ under Sunday.
- Place the note in relation to the time of the day you want to get it done.
- Will you do this in the morning? Then, put the note near the top.
- Or will you pick this up just before bed? Place it right at the bottom then.
- Doesn’t need to happen at any particular time? Just put it somewhere in the middle.
- Go through the rest of your weekly activities and follow steps 2-3.
- Do you want to do a particular task more than once a week?
- Write out the same activity onto multiple notes.
- Then follow steps 2-3 for each note.
It’s that easy! Read on to check out my tips on how to optimize your new weekly planner.
Tip #1: Size matters
It’s completely up to you on how big you want your weekly planner to be. I found that A3 size for my weekly planner was the perfect size for me.
If you decide to use an A3-sized planner like me, then I recommend the small Post-it notes. They are the 1.5 x 2 inches (roughly 4 x 6 cm in metrics) sized notes. These small notes fit perfectly across the seven columns for each day of the week on A3 paper.
The size of your pen matters too! Try avoiding the everyday ballpoint pens, and opt for a marker pen instead. Ballpoint pens are too thin and light, so it makes it hard for you to check your schedule at a glance. I recommend the Sharpie Extra Fine Point Permanent Marker pen. This pen isn’t too thick so that you won’t struggle to squeeze your writing onto a small note. And it’s thick enough to be able to see what you’ve written from a distance.
Tip #2: Colour-code your activities
Your activities can get lost when you’ve got a whole bunch of them, like me. Colour-coding your notes will help you see the big picture of what you’re spending your time on. The beauty of Post-it notes is that they come in a wide variety of colors. So, why not try dedicating specific colors for different categories of activities?
Here are some ideas on what you could categorize your activities by:
- Creating content
- Building connections
- Outside of blogging/business (e.g., laundry, painting class)
- Activities without that don’t need specific timing of a day
Don’t worry if you’ve already invested in a large stash of Post-it notes of the same color. You can still visually distinguish categories by icons. For example, I have my improv class every Thursday evening which can’t happen any other time of the week. So I draw a little icon of a padlock on my note for my improve class. This is to show that I can’t move this Post-it note from where it is when I’m trying to reschedule my week.
Tip #3: Review your weekly schedule regularly
The purpose of using Post-it notes is to keep your weekly schedule flexible. So, remember to review your plan once every 1-2 weeks. And be critical on how well the current plan is working for you. Don’t be afraid to be ruthless and be honest with yourself. Can you get that much done in a day or a week? Is that really the most practical time to achieve a particular activity? Do you need to continue those activities that aren’t returning the expected benefits?
There are no rules here except to optimize your schedule as much as possible. Move the notes around or throw them into the bin as much as needed.
Tip #4: Write just enough information
Remember, we’re not trying to write a novel here on these Post-it notes. Only write enough words that will help trigger your memory on which activity you need to get done. This means that there’s no place on these Post-it notes for a detailed breakdown of tasks.
Keep it short and simple.
Also, only write down activities that you will need to do manually. There’s no point in writing down tasks that will happen automatically without your input. Remember, you’re trying to keep your weekly schedule as clutter-free and simple as possible. You only need to write down activities that need to trigger your memory and need an action of some sort.
Well, folks, that’s all the tips from me.
Remember, don’t be afraid to keep your weekly schedule flexible. And be utterly ruthless and honest with yourself about what you can achieve each week. The purpose of my weekly planner is to stop wasting time and start getting more work done!
Do you think you’ll give the Agile-ified weekly planner a try? What’s the biggest thing you’d like to improve with your current weekly planner?
- Choose a task and write the related activity on a Post-it note.