Developing a weekly routine can help you reduce stress, save time, increase productivity and tap into your weekly rhythms.
I’ve spoken at length about how important daily routines are to my productivity and wellbeing. They’re an essential tool I use to move forward with my goals and to ensure I engage in regular self-care, and one of the primary ways I ensure I keep up with recurring tasks, especially dull ones like emptying the dishwasher.
But what about those recurring tasks that I don’t do every day? I don’t have nearly enough clothes to do laundry every single day, for instance, nor do I do things like write blog posts daily.
This is where the weekly routine comes in. Rather than try and schedule these tasks every single week, or wait until the last possible moment to get them done, I have a set time every week that I do them. Laundry, for instance, is done on Saturday morning (unless it’s raining on Saturday and forecast to be fair on Sunday, as I like to hang it outside if I can). Blog posts are outlined at the weekend, written on Tuesday, then revised and prepped the following weekend.
I only started really harnessing the full power of the weekly routine recently, but in truth it’s something I’ve done to a greater or lesser extent for years. Most workout routines, for instance, have you exercise somewhere between three and five days a week, and I have always scheduled my workouts for the same day every week. That’s a weekly routine right there. I wouldn’t be surprised if you, too, already have the beginnings of a weekly routine, even if you don’t yet realise it.
Setting all your recurring tasks on autopilot, however, will reduce the amount of time you spend planning, freeing up time to tackle your to-do list.
Why develop a weekly routine?
There are a number of reasons to automate your weekly tasks. For a start, it’s simply easier. You don’t need to check and see if you need to do laundry, because it’s Saturday and Saturday is laundry day. You’re never left staring at an empty fridge, because you do grocery shopping on Sundays and Wednesdays and make sure there’s enough food to see you through to your next shop. Etc.
For another, by making the day and time at which you perform a task part of your routine, you free up valuable mental planning space. Let’s say you have half a dozen tasks you perform every week. If they aren’t automated, then every week you have to write them down in your to-do list, and you have to juggle them with your other tasks.
If they’re routine, however, then you no longer need to do that. Your 9am Sunday morning grocery shop is as set-in-stone as your 7pm Tuesday yoga class, so in both cases you simply take into account the fact that you are otherwise engaged at that time while you plan for the week, giving you fewer tasks to slot in.
The routine also helps prevent procrastination, because instead of considering your closet and thinking you can probably go another day without doing laundry, you simply get on with it and do it because that’s what you do every Saturday.
Automating your weekly tasks not only frees up time when planning, but the act of developing a routine forces you to consider how much time you’re spending on these recurring tasks, which also allows you to effectively set aside time to tackle those one-off tasks that always seem to be pushed to the back of your to-do list, rather than find all your time sucked up by the same tasks week after week.
My favourite thing about my weekly routine, however, is the same as my favourite thing about my daily routine. Just as I do my creative work and exercise early in the day to ensure top productivity, I also front-load my creative work at the start of the week.
For instance, I write blog posts on Tuesday evenings, while on Thursday evenings I do admin and social media for my blog and tidy the flat, because by Thursday evening I’m less likely to have the mental energy for creative work. Likewise I save revising posts for the weekend because that’s when I’ll most likely have the mental energy to think critically about my work.
By now you’re probably thinking a weekly routine is sounding pretty fantastic, and to get started all you need to do is figure out what tasks you’ll be including in your weekly routine and where they can fit into your week.Want to increase your productivity and reduce stress? Try a weekly #routine Click To Tweet
What tasks can fit into a weekly routine?
A weekly routine is ideal for just about any task you perform at least once every week or so, but not every day. There might even be some things you currently do once every eight or ten days that you find are easier to fit into a weekly routine rather than have to remind yourself every ten days that they need done.
Some tasks that work particularly well in a weekly routine are those that we could do every day, but don’t have enough time for the duration we would prefer. For instance, I personally like to spend a little bit of time every day working on whatever novel I’m currently writing. I find I write best when I immerse myself in the story world every day and don’t spend too long writing at once, so there’s plenty of time for the story to sit and marinate in my head in between writing sessions. As a result, I usually write for somewhere between 20 minutes and an hour each day, usually around 40 minutes.
My critique partner, on the other hand, is the opposite. When she writes, she likes to write for hours on end, sometimes even cranking out an entire chapter in a single sitting. Between her day job and other commitments, however, it’s not practical for her to write for three hours every day, so instead she writes three days a week, and she writes at the same time and on the same days every week, making her writing just as routine as mine.
Creating your weekly routine
Now that we’ve established the value of a weekly routine and what kind of tasks are best suited to it, it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty of how to go about creating your routine.
Step One: Identify Your Recurring Tasks
Grab a piece of paper or your bullet journal and draw a line down the middle, then divide the right-hand column into three equal columns, so you have one wide column on the left and three narrower ones on the right.
In the wider left-hand column, list all the recurring tasks you currently have. Then in the three right-hand columns, list the number of times they occur per week, the amount of time each session takes, and the total amount of time per week required.
If you’re flexible on the amount of time spent and/or the number of sessions, then include that range in your table. For instance, if you’re following general health guidelines, then you know you need to do moderate cardio for at least 150 minutes a week, but you’re not sure how frequently you want to do it for. In this case, you might do three 50-minute sessions, five 30-minute sessions, or seven 20-minute sessions and an extra 10-minute session.
It’s helpful to do this because it enables flexibility later down the line when we look at setting times for these tasks. If you’re not set on doing long cardio workouts, you might find that you can slot 20 minutes into your daily routine and then just have a single 10-minute walk in your weekly routine.
Another thing to consider are tasks that are currently part of your daily routine but that you’re not certain you want to continue doing every single day. Continuing on with the cardio example, you might currently do 20-25-minute walks every day, but you’re open to switching to three or five days a week.
Once you’ve listed all your recurring tasks, add up your values in the far right column and record the amount of time these tasks require every week. You can convert this to hours if you like; if you don’t, keep in mind you’re using minutes throughout the next steps.
Step Two: Finding the Time
Now that you’ve gotten an idea of the things you’ve been scheduling every week, look at your current weekly schedule. Create a table, either by hand or on the computer, for the days of the week and the times of day in half-hour intervals. Start by blocking off any non-negotiable commitments, like the time you spend at work or your Monday night book club (make sure you include travel time!). I like to use ink for these commitments, as the time spent there simply cannot be devoted to anything else.
Now mark off your current daily tasks, like eating and sleeping or your current routines. These are more flexible than things like your work schedule, so I like to use pencil so that things can be shuffled around if need be, for instance moving a morning workout to after work.
Now look at the white space and add up how much time you have available. Compare this number to the one you calculated in Step One. If your available time is less than the time required, then go back to Step One and rethink how much time you really need to spend on these commitments, as well as looking back over your pencilled-in daily commitments.
Hopefully, you’ve determined that your recurring tasks take up substantially less than the entirety of your free time. Now that you’ve got these numbers, though, it’s time to consider your backlog.
Backlog tasks are all those things that get shunted from day to day, week to week, and even month to month because they’re not urgent enough to force you to take action on them, but instead they hang over you like a dark cloud, constantly reminding you that you should do them, but you’ve been too distracted with other things to get around to them.
One of the great things about a weekly routine is that not only do you automate your regular tasks that are the same, or similar, every week, but you also have the chance to carve out some time to tackle your backlog every week.
How much time you have depends on the difference between the amount of free time you have and the amount of time your recurring tasks take, but anywhere between one hour a week and a full day is a good start. Record the amount of time you’ve decided on.
Step Three: Scheduling it All In
You might be tempted at this point to start assigning tasks at random, but wait! To make the most of your weekly routine, take some time to think about how you want to go about it.
There are two main options for splitting up your recurring tasks, including your backlog. One is to do a little bit every day, perhaps setting aside the same hour every evening for them.
The other option is to choose entire evenings that are devoted to your recurring tasks. This is the method I’m using currently. Tuesday and Thursday evenings are spent wholly on recurring tasks. I also set aside a four-hour block at the weekend for my backlog and the occasional one-off task, where I systematically work through as many tasks as possible in the time available, as well as a separate four-hour block for a couple of recurring tasks.
I don’t schedule my weekend blocks exactly because they depend on what else I’m doing that weekend, but rather than scheduling every little thing each weekend, I just need to schedule in two four-hour blocks.
Once you’ve decided how you want to arrange your tasks, start slotting them into the free time available. This is where the flexibility from Step One comes in handy, as it makes it easier to fit your tasks around the way you’ve decided to set up your schedule and the other tasks already in it.
And you’re done! Now you just need to implement your routine and stick to it until it becomes second nature.
Over to you
Do you have a weekly routine? Do you find it helpful?
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