My most successful weeks have always had one underlying factor: Sunday prep.
Taking the time to set myself up for a streamlined week over the weekend is something that I take seriously. Whenever I haven't done this, I have felt unorganized, short on time and not ahead of things; which is the exact opposite of how I like to feel. Investing regular time at the end of the weekend is worth the effort for the payoff I receive the following five days that precede.
Instead of living day by day wondering about the smaller details as well as larger personal happenings coming up on my to-do list, I already either have those knocked out or have a plan in place. Instead of running errands, worrying about cooking meals and other items, I can focus my free time on whatever I want to at the end of the day.
Here's how I set myself up for a smooth week:
Personal calendar review
I make sure I review my personal calendar first. I look at the week ahead to see if there are any immediate happenings I can prepare for. I always finish off by looking about 2-3 months ahead to refresh my mind on what is coming up in the future.
If I have any appointments that week, I will send an email or leave a voicemail to confirm (only if sending an email is not an option). Typically wherever I am calling or emailing is closed. The reason for this practice is to check off the task so I do not have to worry about completing it when I'm on the clock at work. I usually receive a confirmation at some point on Monday.
One important item is scheduling my exercise. I'm realistic about what I know I will do and treat it like it's an appointment with another person. I'm never a no-show; if something important comes up, then I adjust my schedule. This routine has worked for me for over 10 years.
It might sound dated, but I use a paper calendar. Half of the entries are for birthdays and I store cards for the recipients in my planner. I usually go to my favorite card store with a list of all of the birthdays that are coming up in the next 3-4 months and pick out all of the birthday cards in one shopping trip. I always have general birthday cards on hand as well just in case. I often decorate all cards for the month at once, which not only saves time but is a fun batching project.
I usually wrap up my personal calendar review by working on tasks that have popped up during that time. It could be researching wedding gifts, ordering supplies for an upcoming trip or just having fun adding glitter glue to a batch of birthday cards; it depends on what's going on and would be the most helpful for me the week ahead.
Personal email check
Since I am already on top of these emails, this is more of a general check as part of my batching efforts to make sure I don't have any items that need to be handled elsewhere (typically either in my calendar or in the electronic to-do section that will be discussed soon).
Work calendar review and email check
It's nice to know what to expect before stepping into work Monday morning. I have always preferred to come into work early so I have time to adjust my rolling task list anyways. However, it still helps to have an overview of happenings in case of any emergencies or other items so I can get ahead of those first thing. I do not work over the weekend unless there is an emergency, though; it is important to fully recharge.
Electronic to-do list reviews
I prefer Asana for my task management lists and have separate accounts for my work and personal tasks. I usually have my computer open while I am doing my personal and work calendar reviews so I can schedule important tasks as well as reminders. On my work calendar, I schedule time blocks marked as busy for important tasks and schedule reminders marked as free. On my personal calendar, I pencil in all of my tasks and reminders. Usually, this has already been done since it is an ongoing task. Because of this, it ends up being a refresh so I remember what is coming up.
Having already made, healthy food prepared for the week is an important item right below my calendar and to-do list reviews. If I don't complete meal prep for the week I feel almost naked; it's a horrible feeling! My husband also relies on me to complete this task, so I would hate to let him (and his stomach!) down.
I start out by counting how many prepped meal items are needed. Here's a typical example:
*Note: Some meals or parts of meals don't always require prep. For example, I always eat sprouted whole grain english muffins with almond cream cheese for breakfast which require zero Sunday prep, so those do not count.
Breakfasts: 5 days of cut fruit for 2 people
Lunches: 5 days of dinner leftovers for me
Dinners: 4 days of dinners for 2 people
I vary my meals based on what vegetables are in season and what I'm in the mood for, plus cooking is one of my creative outlets, so it's hard to give a guide of what I make. Sometimes I make a one pot meal, such as black bean chili, and only need a few vegetable side dishes, and other times I make several dishes. However, for the purposes of providing an overview, this is my general thought process: a protein dish, a carbohydrate dish, and two different vegetable dishes. Learning portions is tricky, so I recommend keeping healthy frozen meals on hand while you are getting into the swing of things in case you don't make enough so your week is not thrown off. (Tip from NY Times: the difference in nutrient levels between fresh and frozen food is almost negligible.)
An essential aspect of meal prep is investing in high-quality food storage containers. I recommend doing research and buying safe containers that do not contain BPA or other scary plastics that can cause health issues. If you are planning on bringing lunches to work, then invest in a reusable lunch bag (or two, so you have a backup). I recommend finding one that is easy to clean, fits one of your single serving food containers with room to spare and is a design you won't mind carrying around on a daily basis. I also recommend keeping a frozen meal on hand at work if space allows. I have only forgotten meals once or twice, but on those occasions, my backup meal was a lifesaver! (Plus, you could be a lifesaver to someone else, as well!)
Running all of my errands is something that I do my best to complete. I always complete grocery shopping so my meal preparation can happen. However, some businesses aren't open on weekends. When that happens I schedule those errands when doing my personal calendar review and strategize the most optimal times to complete them.
Having my outfits planned in advance helps to shave so much time off my mornings through the week! Plus it feels great to know that I'm pulled together in a well-thought-out outfit. It's crucial to present yourself with polish at work.
I start off by checking the weather. I then lay possible outfits on my bed and narrow them down until I'm happy with my assortment. I then pull all coordinating pieces: all accessories, shoes, jackets (if it's cold) and even my underwear. (Yes, I literally plan every single item from head to toe.) I hang all of my outfits in order in my closet with my shoes below and I'm good to go. If I'm ever on the fence about an outfit, I hang a backup outfit behind it (sometimes I do that if I buy something new that I'm not sure if I really like or not). If I ever need to wear a piece from another outfit, then I put a post-it note on the front (ex: "remember: black suede jacket") so I remember my original plan.
I finish off my wardrobe preparation by either doing my own mani/pedi in a polish that coordinates with my outfits for the week or I get them professionally done (see the "Recharge!" section below). Seeing pretty nails is something that makes me feel happy all week. Plus, being well-groomed is one aspect of presenting yourself with polish.
Social media management
Ever since I started my blog, social media management became part of my Sunday prep. I use Buffer and am overall pretty happy with it. I usually have posts booked several weeks out. However, I do like to review all of the posts in case I want to make any adjustments or in case I notice my Buffer is low and needs to be filled.
Around the house items
When it comes to any household, the to-do list can go on and on. For the purposes of Sunday prep, I recommend pinpointing which items will set you up for a successful week. I always defer to my top priorities and go in order.
Here are my current household to-do items that I consider Sunday prep to give you an idea: finishing the laundry, making sure all dishes are washed and put away and doing a general tidying up of the house. It's nice starting off the week without loads of laundry waiting to be washed, a full dishwasher waiting to be run and messy rooms waiting to be picked up. That way the house doesn't look like a giant to-do list; instead, it feels like a reset button has been pressed.
My list might sound a bit long to someone not seeing me in action. I promise it is quite doable! Like any routine, once you have it down to a science, it is a snap and doesn't take up as much time as when you are first getting used to it. Nevertheless, it does require focus and energy to be this productive, so I want to make sure my last item is an important reminder: use your remaining time over the weekend to recharge. Do whatever it is that makes you feel refreshed, relaxed and like you had a full weekend. Call your best friend. Watch your favorite show. Do whatever it is that makes you feel like you had sufficient "me" time.
I hope these tips give you ideas to help batch some of your tasks, free up more of your time through the work week and help you to start the week feeling ahead of the game. Time is a valuable commodity, especially Monday through Friday! Every minute saved is one more minute you could be spending on something you'd rather be doing. Spend one day investing in your future self and experience the benefits the five days that come afterward.
How do you prepare for the week ahead? Please share in the comments below!