Episode: Next-Level Strategies for Weekly Planning

Michael Hyatt: Hi, I’m Michael Hyatt, and this is Lead to Win, the weekly podcast to help you win at work and succeed at life. In this episode, we’re talking about two hyper-strategies that will take your weekly planning to the next level. Megan Hyatt Miller is still on parental leave with her newly adopted daughter Naomi, but she’s going to be back soon.

Today, we’re going to solve a problem most high-achievers face, and that is having your week train-wrecked by unforeseen problems, relentless interruptions, and the normal whirlwind of trying to run a business. If that describes you, no worries. We have a solution for you. I’m joined, as always, by Larry Wilson. Hey, Larry.

Larry Wilson: Hey, Michael. How are you?

Michael: I’m doing great. Thanks.

Larry: You know, that situation really did describe me in a lot of weeks before I came to Michael Hyatt & Company. Man, your week is just blown right off the bat. You think you’re going to get so much accomplished, but it hits you Monday morning, and things are flying at you as soon as you hit the door. Sometimes before you walk in the door you’re getting phone calls or getting pinged on email or text messaging, and wow, that can be a real problem. It’s really hard to enter the week with a plan that’s going to hold up for five days.

Michael: It’s really true. I can think back early in my career, when I started getting some management responsibility and I was responsible for other people, hitting the office on Monday morning and kind of having a plan of what I knew I needed to accomplish that week and almost immediately being on my heels and just trying to fend off the deluge of interruptions and requests and feeling like I lost control of my week. Then, all of a sudden, anything goes. I’m not sure where I’m going to end up at the end of the week.

That’s so often why I would drag work into the weekend, because I didn’t get it done during the week. I didn’t have a plan to get it done during the week, and when I got to the end of the week and didn’t get it done and it had to be done, then that became my Saturday or my Sunday evening. It’s not a great way to live. Here’s the key: you don’t need another day in the week; you need a better strategy for keeping your focus. You have to be proactive, not reactive. You have to take control of your focus, your priorities, and your energy, and that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about.

Larry: We have two strategies that will take your weekly planning to the next level. Now, just to let everybody know how this episode lays out, the first strategy is going to be something we talk about a lot. It’s probably new to some people, but it’s embedded in the Full Focus Planner. We’re going to go over that. The second is tweaks or hacks that will take that to a whole new level. The first strategy is conduct a Weekly Preview.

Michael: Yes. If you’re a Full Focus Planner user, you’re familiar with this concept. I want to give credit where credit is due. I first learned about what David Allen called the weekly review from David Allen, but the tweak we’ve made to this is that it’s not just a review; it’s also future-focused. In fairness to him, his is as well, but we have a very defined plan that’s slightly different than his that I think will be helpful to you, and that’s what we’re going to talk about in this segment.

Larry: To start off with, can you give me just the top line on a Weekly Preview? What is this for?

Michael: The purpose of this is so you can get a leg up on the week, and instead of drifting through the week, like I described, where you’re reacting to things that were unforeseen, you’re going to design your week. It doesn’t mean things you don’t expect won’t happen, because even with the best laid plans, things you don’t expect will happen. I love the Mike Tyson quote that says, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

The idea here is to take a little bit of time, a small investment, to get you big leverage during the week. For me, my Weekly Preview takes about 30 minutes. I do it on a Sunday night. I’ve tried it on Friday afternoons. I’ve tried it on Monday mornings. It may work at a different time better for those of you who are listening, but for me, it works best on Sunday night, because now I’m rejuvenated, I’ve had the weekend to recharge, and I’m beginning naturally to turn my thoughts toward the upcoming week. So it’s the perfect time to take advantage of that natural momentum and just go ahead and plan and spend 30 minutes doing it.

Larry: There are six steps to the Weekly Preview, and we’re going to go through them. We’re going to do that a little bit quickly, because some listeners are familiar with it; some are not. I just want to give you this heads-up. This is embedded in the Full Focus Planner, so if you have a planner or you’re going to get one of the new lines that are just being released, it’ll be right there for you. If not, get the transcript of this program, which you can download in the show notes at, and maybe go over this in more detail. You don’t have to worry about holding all this in your head. So, let’s talk about these six steps. Step 1: My biggest wins.

Michael: This is where you’re going to list your three to five major accomplishments from the past week. This is important psychologically, because high-achievers tend to focus on the 10 percent that didn’t go right. It’s just human nature, but I think it’s especially human nature for leaders to focus on the 10 percent that didn’t go right. It’s what Dan Sullivan calls “focusing on the gap rather than the gain.” But when you focus on your wins, you put yourself in a position to take on new and bigger initiatives in the coming week. If you focus on the negatives, you’re going to be reluctant to do that. So we want to focus on the wins. It puts us in the right psychological state to continue.

Larry: That makes total sense. You start the week off in a positive mental frame of mind by listing your biggest wins. That takes us to Step 2: An After-Action Review. Maybe you want to define that really quickly for those who haven’t heard of it.

Michael: This is something we borrowed from the US military. Every time there was a major initiative or they completed a mission, they would do an After-Action Review to sort of face the good, the bad, and the ugly, what worked, what didn’t work, and to learn from that. That’s often the key thing that’s missing in our planning. We don’t take time to review what just happened so we can distill from it the best lessons so we don’t have to repeat our mistakes and so we can better ensure that we continue our successes. We have that baked into the Full Focus Planner and into the Weekly Preview.

It refers primarily, in this context, to evaluating how you did on your last Weekly Big 3. I’m going to talk about Big 3 in a minute, but let me give you a little bit of a preview. The Weekly Big 3 are your top three priorities for the week. Those could be something related to your quarterly goals. It might be tasks that are related to an important project. It has to be one or the other. So, what were the Big 3 that you identified from the past week, and now, how did you do?

Specifically, we break the process into three questions. We ask, first of all, “How far did you get?” This is a time to face reality, face the music, and be honest with yourself. You either completed it or you didn’t complete it. Maybe you got half done, maybe you got 75 percent done, but did you complete it? Second question: “What worked and what didn’t?” This is the time to do a little bit of analysis and say, “Okay. Last week didn’t go quite as I had hoped. What didn’t work or what was missing?” which is a great question to ask. Or “What did work? What made last week so exceptional?” That’s the second question.

Then the third question: “What will you keep, improve, start, or stop doing?” We think of that as the KISS method. Not “Keep It Simple, Stupid,” which is often what that acronym stands for. We use it to mean “What will you keep? What will you improve? What will you start? What will you stop doing?” It’s basically important to use this to activate our learning. The process is vital because it ensures that you learn from what took place before, good or bad, so you don’t repeat your mistakes and so you continue to replicate your successes.

Larry: I think this is so important, because leaders are high-achievers and they’re always future-focused, and stopping to debrief and look at the good and the bad… You can’t optimize your success if you never consider what made it a success, and you’re certainly not going to learn from your failures if you won’t acknowledge them.

Michael: For most of my career I didn’t do this, and it was a big mistake, because I was missing all of these lessons, all of these opportunities to improve. You can read all of these leadership books, you can go to all of these conferences, you can hire an executive coach, but if you’re not learning from your own experience, you’re missing a huge opportunity to grow in your leadership. This ensures that that happens.

Larry: So, Step 1: List your biggest wins. Step 2: Conduct an After-Action Review. Step 3: Do a list sweep.

Michael: Here’s what we mean by that. Most of us keep lists in one form or another. We have a task list, maybe we have notes we keep, maybe calendar items, but here are a couple of places to look. You have to have a place to review these so they don’t fall through the cracks and get forgotten.

Deferred tasks. Go back through the prior week and add in any Big 3 or other tasks you didn’t complete to your task manager. Some people use this right inside the Full Focus Planner. They might go to the Notes section at the back of it and keep a master task list. I use a hybrid system. In our company, collectively, we use Asana as our task management system. Honestly, it’s not that important. All of them do pretty much the same thing, whether you use Todoist or Nozbe, two task managers I’ve used in the past. We now use Asana. I’ll go through and do that list sweep of my deferred tasks, and anything that wasn’t completed last week I dump into Asana.

Then there are delegated tasks. Add any unassigned tasks or desired status updates to your task manager. That may be notes, things you didn’t delegate during the week, or even things you did delegate but forgot to put into your task manager. This is an opportunity to do that. Daily notes. Go back through and review the notes you took. We have a page for that in the planner. Opposite your Daily Big 3 and your agenda for the day there’s a place to take notes.

You want to do a sweep of those notes and make sure anything you committed to, anything you need somebody else to do, an assignment… You want to put those into your task management system, whether that’s analog or digital. Again, the whole point of this list sweep of these three kinds of lists is to keep you from dropping balls, to keep you from missing a commitment or just letting your team down.

Larry: I think another huge value of this step, Michael… You don’t lose anything, which is the object, but what you gain is peace of mind. You gain some better sleep on Sunday night when you know everything is accounted for and you’re ready to move forward.

Michael: And you’re not surprised when you go to that next meeting, that recurring meeting, and you forgot to complete your assignment because it never made its way onto a list and never populated your Daily Big 3.

Larry: Let’s go to Step 4: The Weekly Overview. I have to admit, this one is new to me.

Michael: This is in the new planner that comes out this week. The idea here is that we want to list the important events, the important deadlines, the tasks in the coming week. Now we’re shifting our focus. Previously, we were looking backward at what happened the previous week. Now we’re shifting our focus forward. We were looking through the rearview mirror; now we’re looking through the windshield. We want to look at what’s coming in the week ahead.

This is divided into personal and professional sections. We have found, as a team, that it’s easier to think about these things if we divide them into these two broad categories. Life is blended, obviously, but we try to focus on work at work and the personal stuff when we’re at home. This is where you’re going to narrow your focus. You may leave some meetings off this list. We want to really focus on the big rocks. It doesn’t have to be everything you have to do this next week, but at least the big rocks. You’re going to transfer those items to the Weekly Overview, segmented by the days of the week. There’s a space for Monday, there’s a space for Tuesday, and so forth.

Larry: I like that.

Michael: Yeah, it’s cool. People have been begging for this, so this is an answer to what our customers have been asking for. This is going to be populated from your digital calendar, if you use one. I use Google Calendar. It could be populated from your task list. As you look at all of the tasks you could possibly do, what do you want to do this week? That’s how we set up this Weekly Overview.

Larry: Another thing I really like about that is the separate listing of personal and professional tasks. I was doing that in the previous planner. I would just try to put the professional ones up at the top of the page and the personal ones at the bottom of the page. I knew I was going to pick and choose, but in my mind, it helped to keep those as two separate categories. So I really like that too.

Michael: And it’s important, because we’re committed to helping people win at work and succeed at life, so there has to be space in the planner. This is how you operationalize it at the level where the rubber hits the road. So, to give them two categories to think of, because we want them to make progress in their personal life, not just their work life.

Larry: I think this will be new for people who have never done this weekly review to think, “Yeah, I need to think at home as well as what I want to achieve at work.” It’s very helpful. Step 4, then, is the Weekly Overview. Step 5: The Weekly Big 3.

Michael: This may be my favorite part. Even in those occasions when I can’t do the full Weekly Preview, I always do this, because if I start the week without knowing what my Big 3 are, it’s going to be a problem. Then I’m going to be in reactive mode already, but if I can get to the end of the week knowing I accomplished my biggest three priorities, that’s going to be a huge win for me. You can refer back to episode 54, The 3×3 Goal Achievement Strategy, where I talk about this in more detail.

The idea is that we want to reference our two to three goals for the quarter and ask, “What could I do this week to make progress on those goals or (this is important) an important project?” It has to be one or the other. It doesn’t always have to be a goal, but it has to be an important project. Every goal is a project, but not every project is a goal. There are going to be important projects that don’t rise to the level of actually being a quarterly goal, and you can populate your Weekly Big 3 with either, but it has to be one or the other. It can’t be something trivial.

And you only can pick three. People say, “Well, what if I have four?” Look. Force yourself… Just try it my way. As an experiment, identify your Big 3, and do that consistently week after week. You’ll find that it gives you enormous focus and a sense of progress when you get to the end of the week. Even if you’ve had a blizzard of meetings and activities, if you got your Big 3 done, score it as a win.

Larry: This is where we’re really getting future-focused and getting into a sense of control and plan for the coming week. We’re starting to see the payoff from this Weekly Preview right here.

Michael: Totally.

Larry: That brings us to Step 6 in the Weekly Preview. This has changed a little bit, too, from what we’ve taught in the past. We’re now calling this the self-care planning.

Michael: Yeah, that’s what we were always trying to get at when we talked about the Weekend Optimizer in the past. We’ve kind of struggled a little bit, to be honest, to get this in a format people would actually use. We think we’ve dialed it in here. By the way, if you’re not convinced that self-care as a leader is important, go back to episode 27. It’s the speech I gave at the Leadercast event about a year and a half ago. It’s called Self-Care as a Leadership Discipline. I really believe it is a leadership discipline. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anybody else.

We have to make sure we’re managing not just our time but our energy. Why? Because time is fixed but our energy flexes. The better care we take of ourselves, the more energy we’re going to have and the more productive and focused we’re going to be. So, we give you an opportunity in this section of the Weekly Preview to brainstorm ideas for how you’ll rejuvenate in five key areas: your sleep (critically important), what you eat, movement, connection, and relaxing. Then schedule these activities on your Daily Pages. What gets scheduled gets done, and this is an opportunity for you to do this in the context of the planner.

Larry: Okay. Let’s review those steps of the Weekly Preview for people. Again, you don’t have to memorize them. They’re embedded in the planner or you can pull them right out of the transcript for this program and study them in a little more detail.

Step 1: List your biggest wins.

Step 2: Conduct an After-Action Review.

Step 3: Do a list sweep.

Step 4: The Weekly Overview.

Step 5: List your Weekly Big 3.

Step 6: Do self-care planning.

These steps together, the Weekly Preview, give you a solid plan to move through the week with confidence and the feeling of being in control. Let’s get to the second next-level strategy for weekly planning. This isn’t so much a strategy by itself as a list of tips or hacks for taking the first strategy, the Weekly Preview, to another level.

Michael: Exactly.

Larry: All right. Let’s get to the first hack: Conduct your Weekly Preview in a place you enjoy.

Michael: I heard Don Miller say one time, “Where you do what you do is important.” Sometimes, doing our Weekly Preview in a new place or a special place can make it more interesting to us and can force us to enjoy it in a way maybe we previously couldn’t. This might be a coffee shop, it could be a special room in your house, it could be out in the park, wherever you feel inspired. This is a chance to really reflect and to get inspired, because you’re thinking about the upcoming week and how you can maximize it or optimize it.

For me, this is pretty simple. We’re recording this in my carriage house behind my home. I come upstairs here, because nobody lives here, so it’s always clean, and for some reason, it just inspires me. I put on some great music and sit down, and for 30 minutes I do my Weekly Preview. What about you, Larry? Do you do yours in a special place?

Larry: I have a couple of places I like to do my preview. Sometimes I go to a local coffee shop. There happens to be a great one just a block from my house, so I can just walk down there and grab a cup of coffee. When I’m there I usually put on headphones, which says I want to be alone, and I listen to some relaxing music and just do my Weekly Preview. It’s such a smooth entry into the week.

I have a beautiful front porch that overlooks the park in our town, so that’s another spot. If it’s a nice afternoon or evening (usually I do it on Sunday), I like to sit there and watch the people strolling and walking their dogs and sip a cup of coffee and do my Weekly Preview. If it’s bad weather, I just do it in my office, but I always spruce it up a bit by adding fresh coffee or a lemonade or something that just makes it a special time.

Michael: Cool.

Larry: Well, let’s talk about the second hack for taking your Weekly Preview to the next level: Do a deep dive on your goals. I think this means not just a goal review but something more than that.

Michael: I typically do a goal review every day. When I’m trying to come up with my Big 3, I’m going to look back on page 5 of the planner and look at my goal summary, the goals I have not only for the year but, more particularly, what I’ve committed to for this quarter. I’m doing that on a daily basis. It takes me 10 seconds to look at them. I’m going to see if I can’t populate my Big 3 for the day with something related to one of those goals.

When I’m doing the Weekly Preview, I’m going to do a deep dive. Now I’m going to go to the goal detail pages that follow that summary. I’m not going to look at every goal I have for the year but only the ones I have for that quarter. I’m going to look at whether or not I need to modify the motivations, whether there are any next steps, anything I want to tweak on that.

To remind myself of the why, which is the key motivations, is really important, because sometimes we get into the messy middle and forget our why. We forget why that goal is important. So, to reconnect with it, not just intellectually but also emotionally, can make a big difference in terms of us making progress toward the goal. So that is, for me, a part of my Weekly Preview.

Larry: That deep dive on goals is so important to me, because it does connect you to your why. I’ve had goals I was on the verge of abandoning because I hadn’t had any progress on them. I get fired up about working on them, and then roll that right into my Weekly Overview and list some actions I can take for the coming week. So that’s important. The third hack: Share your wins with at least one other person.

Michael: When you have good news, something positive, why not share it? Bless somebody else with it too. Particularly if it’s somebody who cares about you, they’re going to want to hear this. Gail and I do this on a regular basis. As we’re doing our Weekly Preview, we just share with each other, “Hey, here were my wins for the week. What were yours?” In fact, we do it daily. We do this every night before we go to bed. “What were your wins for the day?” But on a weekly basis, too, it just gives us an opportunity to kind of pull out a little bit and look at the bigger overview of the previous week and share our wins with each other. Do you share your wins with somebody?

Larry: You know, I think I’m going to start that. I haven’t really done that consistently, but it really does make you feel better. There’s actually some research behind this, that when you share joy with somebody it increases your sense of well-being. Here’s the thing: that’s even greater when they respond positively. When you share it with somebody and they say, “Oh, great. That’s great. Happy for you, Larry,” but when they say, “Wow! That’s cool. I’m so proud of you” or they respond really positively, that can last you all week.

Michael: Which is also a reminder that we need to be careful about who we’re sharing this with. You don’t want to share it with somebody who’s going to feel jealous or competitive with you. You don’t want to share it with somebody who’s going to feel threatened by your accomplishments. If you can find a good accountability partner or just a good friend… Sometimes it’s your spouse, sometimes it’s not, but pick somebody you’re pretty positive is going to be for you and celebrate your win with you.

Larry: Let’s recap those three hacks that will really take your Weekly Preview to another level: conduct your Weekly Preview in a place you enjoy, do a deep dive on your goals, and share your wins with at least one other person. Michael, this would be a good spot to remind people of the Perfect Progress Checklist that’s a free tool you can download right now.

Michael: This really is a cool tool, because it essentially becomes a bookmark for your Full Focus Planner. On it, it’ll enable you to be consistent with your Weekly Preview by tracking your daily goal review, selecting a Daily Big 3, sharing your wins, and one other daily habit or behavior you choose. For added accountability, it has a place to list the time and location of your next Weekly Preview. Again, it’s free, it’s bookmark size, and this is a tool I think you’re going to want to make a permanent part of your Full Focus Planner.

Larry: And you get to check off a lot of little boxes. That’s fun too.

Michael: For achievers, that’s awesome. There’s a link in the show notes too, we should say.

Larry: Well, today we’ve learned two hyper-strategies that are going to take your weekly planning to the next level. The first is a Weekly Preview, and the second is three hacks for optimizing that Weekly Preview. Michael, final thoughts today?

Michael: Yeah. I would just say that if you haven’t tried the Weekly Preview, you need to try it. I know not everyone who uses the Full Focus Planner uses it, but it’s a mistake. You don’t want to be that guy or that gal. You want to do this, because this will give you an edge. You don’t have to do this if you’re not serious about productivity, if you’re not serious about your leadership, but if you are, you have to give this a try. This will take it to the next level.

Larry: Thank you, Michael, for sharing these strategies. Very helpful, as always.

Michael: Thanks, Larry. Thank you guys for joining us. We’ll see you guys right here next week when we’ll tell you what to do when you feel overwhelmed. Until then, lead to win.