When we hear the name Stephen Covey, high on the list of related things that come to mind is no doubt the book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Well known around the world and translated into a dozen different languages, we often hear talk about this bestseller within big organizations, mostly among management and its leaders. But Covey’s legacy, in the form of the useful principles contained in it, isn’t limited to just these concepts as a whole. He also had a lot to say about planning and journaling.
While we were getting to know Covey, we discovered that there are two kinds of planners in the world: individuals who plan out every little detail in their life, the same ones who live day by day and moment to moment, and the rest who prefer to look at the many perspectives offered by the bird’s eye view to plan ahead. In this article, these refer to daily and weekly planners—and how Covey believes that “the week gives us the most manageable perspective.”
If you haven’t tried planning by the week, here are three reasons why you should start now!
1. Find the distinction between what’s important and what’s urgent.
More often than not, our most important tasks and projects get pushed back and rescheduled over and over again in favor of finishing the more urgent ones. This is because a lot of the urgent, due to their immediate deadlines, feel like they’re more vital to accomplish. In a lot of cases they are—but so are the things that we consider important, even if they don’t have a due date. As critical as it is to, say, succeed at work or in school to pave the way to a successful career, we must also allow time and space for our happiness and personal growth.
Fortunately, weekly planning can help us strike a balance between these two—but it requires us to sit down and really figure out what things in life are most important to us. Twenty to thirty minutes a week will do. After all, in the words of Covey, “you have an obligation to take care of yourself,” and one way to make sure you’re able to is by organizing your life “around your roles.” This means shifting your focus not on individual tasks alone but on what your roles are in relation to certain tasks.
A parent, community volunteer, partner, friend, sibling… the list goes on. Knowing what your role is will better help you determine what’s truly important based on that very role.
Need a system to manage the urgent versus the important once you’ve finally figured them out? Find four different methodshere!
2. Why it’s crucial that the “big rocks” go first.
Covey defines big rocks as the most important aspects of every role we play in life. These are tasks, responsibilities, and activities that have the most positive impact on our personal goals—as in what we want to find out in number one.
In order to make sure we accomplish them, it’s paramount they go into our schedules first. The logic behind this is simple and is based on an example that Covey has used multiple times in his many talks: think of your entire week as an empty glass jar, and your urgent, unimportant tasks as grains of sand. Now picture these tasks filling up the jar completely. Do you have any space left for what’s important? Most likely not. Your big rocks will no longer fit.
This time around, imagine the opposite: put your big rocks in the jar. Once they’re all there, you’ll notice empty spaces in between where grains of sand, urgent tasks, can still fit. In this kind of balanced setup, you not only get to prioritize what’s important—you also have enough time in a week to accomplish other things.
Our Planner refill makes it a breeze to plan by the week with its 26 weekly spreads (and 6 monthly spreads). Easily customizable with only the days filled in, feel free to get started on weekly planning any time of the year: whether that’s the end of January or the beginning of December, it’s just a matter of filling out the dates and the month. No part of the Planner refill goes to waste! Add it to the other refills that you can fit into the Field Journal which can comfortably hold up to six of them at the same time.
Field Journal Refill
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3. Rinse and repeat—but also reflect as needed.
If Covey’s weekly planning setup works out for you on the first try, great! Rinse and repeat. Do what you did the first time each week, every week, as long as you’re getting the best results. At the same time though, let’s be realistic: this isn’t always the case, which is why we also need to reflect.
When you’re scheduling the following week before it begins, take a moment to look back. Ask yourself what’s working out for you—keep doing them!—and what isn’t—maybe it’s time for a new approach.
The beauty of planning by the week is that you also have enough time to make adjustments and still get things done that same week. Covey wasn’t lying when he said, “the week represents a complete patch in the fabric of life.” It really is with its weekdays and weekends.
There are numerous ways to plan out your life, but if you’re still looking for the best fit and haven’t tried a weekly approach, there’s no harm in giving Stephen Covey’s method a shot. By focusing on importance instead of urgency, we’re able to do more for ourselves without sacrificing everything else we need to do for the world.
What does your planning setup look like? Have you tried weekly planning before? If so, how has it worked out for you? Let us know in the comments below—we’d love to hear from you!