Organizing your time isn't easy. Managing how much time you spend on one activity as opposed to another can be difficult. It can also be tough to remember important meetings or events you've committed to or scheduled. That's why it's critical to plan your time beforehand. But that begs the question: what unit of time should you use to organize your schedule? 

You can plan out your time at the beginning of each month or the beginning of each week. The best approach is to use a schedule that incorporates both monthly and weekly planning timelines - but how do we use and incorporate both sections in one schedule? 

Let's take a closer look at how you should think of planning your monthly and weekly schedules, what information to include in each section, and how to incorporate them both together to maximize your efficiency, stay on top of your demanding schedule, and get more things accomplished. 

Monthly planner vs. weekly planner 

Planning out your month versus planning out the weeks within that month comes down to the question of thinking strategically versus thinking tactically. There's a significant difference between the two approaches, though both have the same desired end result of helping you achieve more in a shorter amount of time. 

When you plan your month out in advance, you're thinking strategically. You're including the biggest events and high-level items that may require your attention during the month. From a goal-planning standpoint, you may not include individual tasks, but instead, opt to record major projects and your expected progress. From this perspective, strategic planning is all about what you need to accomplish on a macro-level over a longer period of time. 

When you plan out the individual weeks within your month, now you're thinking tactically. Tactics are the smaller items you accomplish throughout your month to help you complete your longterm strategic goals. 

The interesting part about looking at your planning this way? You can't achieve one without the other. Your weekly activities to help you get closer to completing the goals you set out for yourself each month. But if you don't have any monthly goals, you won't have a direction for the weekly activities you intend to complete. The two work together symbiotically.

What's Next Sticky Note

What belongs in a monthly planner

When you begin planning your month, there are a few items you should look to include on a monthly planner, including: 

  • Major meetings, events, and dates. This can include a conference at work, your spouse or children's birthday, or some other sort of milestone you definitely need to stay aware of. Don't include too much information at this point - simply a date and title of the event will suffice. 
  • Your major projects. These can be personal or professional projects you're either starting, continuing, or wrapping up. 
  • Monthly objectives. Your objectives are the things you want to accomplish by the end of the month. This can represent the conclusion of a project or simply progress on it. 

Think of your monthly planner as the place for "big ticket" items and overarching goals on your path to success in whatever you're doing - whether it's something like a project you're managing at work or something personal like running a marathon. You have goals you want to accomplish and your monthly task tracking allows you to see your progress. 

If you think of your productivity in terms of a funnel, the monthly goals are the top of that funnel. You put these items in at the top of the funnel, where they trickle down and become your weekly tasks. 

What belongs in a weekly planner

If your monthly planner breaks down your schedule at a macro-level, your weekly planner should break down your schedule at the micro-level. It should include: 

  • The individual tasks you'll need to complete to get closer to your monthly goals, and when you'll need to do them. 
  • Meetings, events, and dates that may not be high priority enough for your monthly schedule, but you still need to capture. Doctors, dentists, or utility appointments may fall into this category. Also include the major events you recorded for your monthly planner. For each event, make sure to include identifying information such as location, date, time, and other involved parties. 
  • Depending on how detailed you want your schedule can be, you can plan out your daily schedule using individual days within the week. This can be helpful if you're looking to build a routine with to-do lists and a timed schedule of each day. 

How to combine the two

Not only can you combine monthly and weekly planning, but you really should do it to make sure all your goals stay aligned throughout the year. You should start, at the beginning of the month, by writing out the major monthly tasks and goals you have in store. Then, at the beginning of each week within the month, review your progress from the previous week. You can then adjust your weekly tasks based on that progress. 

It's important to be adaptable in how you track your results. Using weekly planning will let you know how close you are for your targets. It will also help you calibrate the goals you set out to achieve in the next month. Let's say, for example, you get overwhelmed one month and only finish half of what you set out to do. You'll be able to look back at your weekly progress and see exactly where you had too much on your plate.

At the outset of the following month, you can then calibrate your task load to ensure you're giving yourself a reasonable amount of work to do in a reasonable amount of time. While it may seem like you should try to load as much work as possible into every week and month, you can only do so much. By keeping tabs on your weekly and monthly planning, you can avoid overloading yourself and, in turn, increase the quality of the work you do. 

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Using monthly and weekly planners, together, is a great way to boost your own productivity, effectiveness, and even creativity. You just have to remember two critical components: 1) stay organized and update your plans daily, and 2) think strategically on what information you include where-remember, monthly planning is macro, weekly planning is micro.

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