Making Mondays — and your week — more productive

Mondays are opportunities to start new habits and the day to begin a productive path for the week. While others grumble about Mondays, I try to think of them like the first day of school or the first day of a new job. The possibilities for success, fulfillment, creativity, and all the reasons you do what you do are open for you to experience.

To help keep me motivated and positive about Mondays, I like to begin each week with a 10- to 15-minute planning session. I grab my cup of coffee (glorious, glorious coffee), a pencil, my calendar (this year I’ve been using the Julie Morgenstern Balanced Life Franklin Covey daily planner), and I head to my front porch or the dining room table. During this time, I ask myself the following questions while I plan out the week:

  • What calls, meetings, luncheons, parties, and travel do I have on my schedule that have set times and locations?
  • What deadlines do I need to meet?
  • What actions do I need to take to meet those deadlines?
  • What additional tasks do I also wish to accomplish this week?
  • What reminders for future actions do I need to set on my computer when I get back to my desk?
  • When am I most productive?
  • When am I least productive?

I plan for both my work and my personal life at the same time. I currently keep everything on the same calendar, but there have been years when I have kept things separate. It’s a matter of preference, and you could do one planning session at home and another when you get to work if that better meets your needs.

How you plan for your week is up to you, but taking the time to plan can make a significant difference in what you accomplish by Friday. It’s a lot easier to get somewhere if you know where you’re going.

Happy Monday!

25 Comments for “Making Mondays — and your week — more productive”

  1. posted by Dawn F on

    “It’s a lot easier to get somewhere if you know where you’re going.” –

    Your last sentence is soooo true! I think I’ll use it as the Quote of the Day.

    Planning out the week and continuing to monitor your goals and tasks is so important to having an efficient, successful work week (that includes stay-at-home moms, too!).

  2. posted by Molly on

    Caribou (right next to my office) has $1 coffee on Mondays. It’s a nice treat to start the week.

  3. posted by Jenny on

    How do you like that planner? I’ve had trouble finding one I like and usually schedule electronically, but I’m going to grad school full time in the fall, and want something analog.

  4. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Jenny — I like the planner. It’s not perfect, but it works. If you’re going to graduate school, I actually recommend buying one of the planners the school sells in their bookstore. They typically have all of the important school dates specific to your university marked in them (registration deadlines, drop deadlines, half days, school breaks, etc.). When I taught, I used the school planner because it saved me time having to look up school stuff.

  5. posted by ANdrea on

    Between working full-time, pursuing a doctoral degree, remodeling an old house, and trying to have something resembling a fitness plan and a social life, the ONLY calendaring plan that works for me is the google calendar. School dates are well-publicized and sort of predictable, and you would have to enter your own course work plans, anyway. So, the paper planner put out by the school didn’t offer me much that I needed and easy accessibility was essential to me.

    Thank you for the post. I was having a “let’s start over” sort of day, and your “reframing mondays” idea helps a lot.

  6. posted by A.Y. Daring on

    Dude… I think we’re mental twins or something. I’ve been doing this exact Monday ritual for ages. The first thing I do when I wake up on Monday, before I go to they gym is to plot out the landscape of the ucoming week. If I didn’t do this, I’d actually go insane and my life would literally fall apart at the seams. Literally!

  7. posted by Lindsay on

    How thick is the planner. I really like that it has two pages for each day, but I’m worried about how bulky the planner will be?

  8. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Lindsay — It’s actually 12 planners. Each month is its own small, spiral bound book.

  9. posted by April on

    I’m a big fan of Google calendar.

    We used to have a paper calendar hanging on our wall at home, but we were usually out when someone would ask us about having dinner sometime, etc. We’d have to say, “Uh… we need to check our schedule at home. We’ll get back to you.” I felt this was a little rude, especially since sometimes we’d forget to check! Also, we’d forget to write things down we committed to because it was inconveniently not with us. It made it so we were basically relying on our memories, which was stressful.

    Now both my husband and I can check from anywhere, so long as there’s Internet access. Home, work, library, blackberry… very convenient. And we can color code his appointments, my appointments, our appointments, and birthdays/anniversaries—that way we can see at a glance what’s what. It also sends us e-mail reminders, if we chose to.

    So helpful!

    I’ve been meaning to putting in future actions on there so I can just forget about it (make a dentist appointment, flip the mattress, etc.). Guess I should take the time to do that today, since it’s Monday. 🙂

  10. posted by James Kersey on

    I’d like to second Google Calendar. I’ve also been finding more and more use for Google Tasks for similar reasons.

    And a big stack of index cards 🙂

  11. posted by Jenny on

    Thanks for the input, Erin. That is a good point. I’m used to working 8-5 staring at a computer screen. Full time classes and TA responsiblities are going to take some getting used to.

  12. posted by Jonathan on

    Cal Newport has discussed the benefits of a similar Sunday ritual on his blog (which is geared toward students). As a life-long procrastinator, I can testify that using this along with a couple of other strategies (like switching from to-do lists to time-block scheduling) really transformed my grad school performance. It’s a small change, but it had a major impact on work and after-work life. Life distractions have recently pushed the Sunday/Monday ritual out of my schedule, but this post reminded me why I need to bring it back. Thanks!

  13. posted by Nick Mason on

    This is great advice! I actually like to break it down further than this, every day before I leave my desk I make a list of the top 3 or so tasks I need/want to accomplish the next day. The list helps me refocus after I respond to an email or handle something small…and it feels great to cross something or multiple big things off your list during the day.

  14. posted by chacha1 on

    I have pretty much the simplest analog solution … I print out the month calendar from Outlook and write my hard-and-fast commitments on it (glass of wine with BFF Monday night, teach Wednesday night, drop off cat at vet Friday, etc). That makes it easy for me to judge how much time I have left in the week.

    The blocks are large enough to write fairly detailed notes but the whole calendar page folds up into my handbag. It’s not pretty but I carry it everywhere (weightless) and it is working for me VERY well. Free, too!

  15. posted by Michele Connolly, Get Organized Wizard on

    ‘Glorious, glorious coffee’ – you’re a woman after my own heart, Erin!

    I really like your idea of working out when you’re most/least productive. I use a ‘template’ weekly schedule (http://www.getorganizedwizard......-template/) that takes into account my best days and best times for all my regular tasks. When I have to schedule appointments I can work around the precious times and enjoy more productivity. 🙂

  16. posted by Carmen on

    My family found a few months ago, and we really liked it. It’s not perfect, but you can access it from any computer with internet access, or print out the day’s plan if you want to.

  17. posted by omglawdork on

    Thirded on the Google Calendar – my husband and I were consistently scheduling things on top of each other’s work trips or other commitments before we got everything in one place on the G!Cal, which is accessible from our phones. I even have it synced up to my work calendar so I can add items at work and see personal and work conflicts in one place before I ever commit to anything.

    I’ve been a “Paper Pilot” person since I was in middle school, but between Google Calendar and Google Tasks (also accessible from my beloved BBerry) I’m finding that I’m using my paper planner less and less.

  18. posted by Matt Hixson on

    I have implemented various parts of GTD over the years and the one thing that has stuck with me is the weekly review process. I do this every Sunday and do a full review of all projects and tasks. Each day I spend 5 minutes making sure that I am still aligned on all the best things for the day.

  19. posted by Jami on

    I would be interested in your thoughts on using a pen & paper planner. I have been a little (okay, a lot) overwhelmed/distracted by the many, MANY online options and haven’t felt like anything is really helping me keep it “together”. I’m wondering if an old-fashioned, pen & paper method might work better for me. I have gone back and forth on the Google tools, using them, not using them and back again. Maybe a lack of consistency is my bigger problem here…

  20. posted by Laurie on

    Jami, I write a blog about paper planners and have posted reviews of many different brands and formats of planners. If you need some ideas, come on over and check it out:

    And you are right, I have to remind even myself: the best planner in the world won’t work for you if you don’t USE it!

    I love this post about figuring out when you are most productive, and planning your day around those times.

    I also love Cal Newport’s Sunday Ritual as posted above by Jonathan! That’s useful even to those of us who are not students!

  21. posted by Christine (The Raw Project) on

    Great post and the last statement is so true. I need to get more in the habit of just reviewing my calendar and tasks for the week and Monday morning seems like a logical time.

  22. posted by Linda Thiltgen on

    I find if I like my planner it helps me stay to task. I don’t like my planner this year…paper is not a good quality to write on and it’s boring visually, and I am NOT on task. 🙁 A good planner makes a huge difference. I have been spinning…and wondering if it is advantageous to actually take the Franklin Covey seminar for time management. Do you think its worth it….or can I do it on my own with one of their planners? Thanks for the post. I’m enjoying the daily unclutterer tips.
    Linda T

  23. posted by Bird1128 on

    I also go old fashioned with paper and pencil. I print out the monthly views of the Outlook calendar for the calendar year (blank), binder clip them and – voila! – there’s my planner. I only use pencil.

    Every now and then, if I have a string of busy days or a busy weekend, I’ll take a blank piece of paper, fold it as many times as I need for the number of days I need to plan and write out a more detailed schedule for those few days with any action items that go with it (and clip it to the calendar). But that’s pretty rare. The calendar is usually plenty. Online calendars don’t work for me because I don’t have a PDA that let’s me access that info at all time and I like to have my calendar with me always. When the month passes, I turn the page but keep the history attached. I often have to reference old dates/activities and it’s helpful to keep them.

    It does get dog-eared and stained and ratty, but I use it and it works!

  24. posted by panig on

    Thanks to everyone who recommended the Outlook option. I did not know about the calendar feature of Outlook as I don’t use Outlook for email. I don’t like to carry a binder and am not logged onto a computer a lot. Printing out a daily and a monthly plan is convenient.

  25. posted by ninakk on

    I’m a fan of GTD as well. Like someone above stated, Sundays are generally my planning days. I like to review the upcoming week (here the week begins on Monday) and check birthdays out (can be automatically imported to iCal when you’ve added a birthday to your contact card in Address Book on Mac, you just have to set such a calendar up!), other special occasions, tasks, important deadlines and not as important things which might be squeezed in if there’s time.

    I bought an iPod touch for the purpose of being electronical everywhere and so the calendar goes with me as it has been at last synchronization. Changes made while on-the-go are then synchronized in the other direction once I’m at home again. Perfect especially since my lecture schedules are available as iCal files too; more than once there have been changes during the semester so you can imagine what my poor Moleskine was capable of looking like – I never liked using pencils…

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