Editor’s note: We keep the most up-to-date versions of all of our planners on the Free Planners page. Also, this planner used to be called the Freelancer Workweek, in case you’re here from an old post.
The Weekly Project Planner is a planner that places the primary focus on the projects you need to do this week, rather than the time you have to do those projects in. It’s great when you have a lot of autonomy about when and how you do the work, but still have a lot of projects to do.
The Big Idea
Many creative people have a different orientation to time and work. We work from all over the place and often blur the lines between at work and not. On the other hand, there’s a lot of pressure to get projects done, week by week.
Time is usually not the primary consideration – the work to be done is.
But it’s really easy for us to overestimate how much we can get done in a week, especially when we’re continually juggling multiple projects. Because individual projects take longer than estimated and we’ve agreed to multiple projects, we end up with three options: 1) stack projects (thus working longer hours), 2) renegotiate deadlines for agreed-to projects (a band-aid, at best, that still drains credibility), or 3) drop agreed-to projects, either intentionally or unintentionally. None of these options are good.
So the idea behind this particular planner is to get all of your projects in the same space. If you can see what you’re doing and what you’ve committed to, you have a better chance of working with a clear head and being able to commit with confidence. Hence the text in the title area: you can commit with confidence, knowing that you’ll be able to complete your current and proposed commitments, and you can complete your projects with the clarity that you’re working on what you should be working on.
You’ll notice that this form is about constraints. If you’re juggling more than five projects at a time, you’re doing a lot of shuffling. If you’re planning to work on five decent-sized deliverables of projects during a single day, you’re probably planning too much. Hopefully, the physical constraints of the planner help you gain the focus you need to do your best work.
Take a second and envision what it’d be like to actually complete your projects with less stress rather than always working under the gun of a deadline and the stress of juggling too much at once – I hope this planner helps you get there.
How to Use This Planner
This planner serves as your weekly dashboard. Use it when you’re planning your week and review it throughout the day to make changes as needed.
Start with the left side of the planner first, as it’s mostly about your constraints.
If you’re scheduled to be somewhere for a day, that’s time you can’t use. So mark down your scheduled events before you think about when you’ll be working.
Active projects are simply the projects you’re working on this week. Yes, there are only five spots available – this is intentional. Yes, the block is kind of small – the Individual Project Planner gives you plenty of room to write if you need it. Use the short name for your project, since you’re probably using it with yourself anyway. Also: use the number (1-5) of the project as a reference throughout the planner.
If you’ve completed your Monthly Action Planner, your active projects are hopefully the same ones on your Monthly Action Planner. Remember, if you’re planning effectively, you’ll always be changing your plans.
Deadlines and Milestones
The “Deadlines” and “Milestones” seem to be the same kind of block, when in fact they’re dramatically different kinds of constraints. Deadlines are commitments you’ve made with your clients and what you’re used to working against. Milestones, on the other hand, are commitments you’ve made with yourself. Using milestones helps you visualize how your projects are coming along and keeps you working on your own pace. Remember: the sooner you complete the project, the sooner you can focus on something else.
A further note on deadlines and milestones: think long and hard about whether you want to have multiple deadlines or milestones on one day. Stagger them if at all possible and save yourself the stress of it all.
Now that you have the left column filled out, you should have a pretty good snapshot of when you should be working on what. Hopefully, the Dashboard on the right is straightforward. Be mindful of how much time you’re planning on working on a deliverable and how much time you’re actually working on that deliverable. Notice trends so that you can better plan in the future.
Though I recognize that you may need every row on every line, don’t feel like you have to have something on every line. I would err on the side of undercommitting than overcommitting until you have a good feel for how long you’re actually working on your projects.
- You Have to Make Time To Make Time
- How to Use the Daily Blocks in Our Planners
- Why You Don’t Have a Time Management Problem
If you’d like to dig in deep with our planner system, you might want to check out our Premium Planners. It includes yearly bundles of our Action Planner and Project Planner series, as well as some exclusive planners, that’ll help you start finishing your best work.