Structure Your Monday: 7 Steps to a Successful Week

small__4479381576As the new year quickly approaches, we hear the annual recommendations for planning our year ahead. Every magazine and blog is running an article about how to plan for 2014. Although stating long term goals and planning for their success is important, I suggest that planning your week, every week, will put you closer to your desired target when this time rolls around again next year.

Monday is the most important day of the week. What we choose to do on this day each week will set up our remaining days for success or doom us to a week of frustration.

Here are seven steps to structure your Monday for a successful work week:

No Monday Meetings

In order to keep my work week productive and manageable, I don’t schedule meetings on Monday. This keeps my day open and my time free to properly manage the remaining days of the work week.

Take 10 Minutes of Quiet

Before I start my day, I close the door to my studio and sit quietly for ten minutes. I don’t surf the net, check email or respond to Twitter mentions. I just sit… quietly.

I use this time as a transition between my morning as Dad, when I make breakfast for my kids and get them all to the bus on time, and my week ahead as Partner in Charge of Operations at Fivecat Studio. These are two very different responsibilities. Having a private studio in my home makes for a very convenient commute, but the abrupt change in roles can be stressful. Ten minutes of uninterrupted quiet lets my mind settle and allows me to slowly transition into work.

Before moving to the new studio, I used my morning drive to the Pleasantville studio as my decompression time. I’d stay off the highway, take the back roads and keep the radio turned off. This quiet time would clear my mind and prepare me for the “chaos” that is running a small firm architecture studio.

Scan Email

Many personal productivity experts will advise you to not review your email first thing in the morning. I understand the intent behind that rule, but in reality… even when we know its best not to, its the first thing we do. (Admit it… it’s the first thing you do.) I find it is also important to stay aware of any potential fires smoldering among our projects. An urgent email sent by an concerned client can quickly ignite into an inferno if not attended to promptly.

I agree though, addressing each of the 100+ emails that arrive during the weekend can take up much of my Monday morning and that time is much better suited to organizing my week ahead. So rather than a complete review first thing in the morning, I will scan the subjects for any potential crises. If nothing calls for my immediate attention, I move on to my weekly review leaving the email for later.

Perform a Weekly Review

The next task on my list is to perform a weekly review. I review each project and identify what needs to be completed, review deadlines and understand priorities for each. I then review my responsibilities as administrator of the firm, as well as my responsibilities as a husband and dad. I identify every item that require my attention during the coming week and add them to my task list.

A terrific tool for this weekly review is Nozbe. I use Nozbe to organize all my tasks and easily review them in separate contexts. It allows me to quickly understand the highest priorities and easily integrate every role of my busy life.

Schedule Project Tasks

With all my known tasks identified during the weekly review, I then schedule the top priorities with dates and times. Nozbe allows me to add dates and deadlines to my tasks, so during my review I can easily see which items require the most attention.

Although Nozbe has the ability to schedule as well, I like to use the iCloud Calendar on my Mac to schedule my weekly tasks. This allows me to see my tasks, color-coded by categories, such as meetings, telephone calls, project tasks, administration and personal. By using iCloud, I can sync my Calendar with Annmarie’s iCloud, keeping us both aware of the other’s schedule. As married partners with three kids, this is critical to the success of our partnership as well as our marriage.

Review Weekend Email

With my week’s tasks reviewed and scheduled, I then direct my attention back to my email. I review and handle each message in one of three ways; I either delete the message (which accounts for about 95% of the messages I receive, even with a full SPAM filter activated), I respond to the email immediately or I tag it for my attention later. Any email tagged for later is listed on my Nozbe or added to my Calendar.

I try to keep my inbox clear of messages and I formally review my email three times per day in a similar way as described above. Though, with my iPhone always in hand, I do scan for urgent messages throughout the day. My top priority is always client satisfaction and a client promptly addressed in a time of crisis or concern is a client who will refer you to their friends when the project is complete.

Review Financial Reports and Manage Payables

The final step of a successful Monday is to review the payables received from the week before (invoices from vendors, utilities or service providers) and add each one to my bookkeeping software. (I use Quickbooks Pro for now… but I’m considering a switch to a cloud-based alternative. I will write about that another day.) I prepare payments once per month, but by keeping my software updated with pending payables, I can always see the current financial status of the firm.

Before I shut down the bookkeeping software, I review my financial statements so I have a clear understanding of our fiscal health. Knowing where we stand allows me to adjust as required and keeps the stress of not knowing to a minimum for the remaining days of the week.

With a properly structured week, organized and managed every Monday, I put my firm in a position to succeed and myself in a position for a happier life… with more money and less stress. How about you? Do you have a specific routine each week? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Have a happy Monday and a fantastic work week!


photo credit: jronaldlee via photopin cc


    • Mark R. LePage says

      The minutes feels so long when you’re doing it. It actually takes practice to do it. Thanks for the comment Edward.

  1. says

    Lots to inspire…I like the No Monday Meetings rule and your approach to email is more realistic than the standard “leave until lunchtime” advice. Where possible, I also try to follow the advice of never read an email twice: this can push you into making a decision about how to act at first reading (hmmm, should have written this on Monday!). My decompression is a walk with the dog…keeps us both fit!

  2. says

    I’m thinking about setting aside a day each week to address marketing and advertising exclusively. I’m spotty at best keeping up with these duties and think i should set aside a bunch of time till I at least start to see some positive results.
    Your thoughts?


    • Mark R. LePage says

      Greg: I think that is a great idea. I think the only way to get anything done is to set a goal, set a deadline and schedule the time. Keep me posted on how it goes.

  3. says

    As a freelance 3D Design Architect, I avoid working on Mondays even if I haf enough rest during the weekends. There’s just something about Mondays that’s so stressful and I don’t know what and why.

    I love your tip about taking 10 minutes of quiet. When I was still working in an office, this is what I normally do before I start working. I just sit and stare on whatever I can stare at and just think.

    After quiet time, the first thing I check on the internet is my Facebook — yeah. It’s like a refrigerator that I always check even though I’m not gonna do anything. And of course, next would be my email. =)

  4. Elana Mayerfeld says

    Here it is, Monday morning, and after walking my dog and making my transition from home to work responsibilities, I got to my office and tried not to open my email (due to the long list of tasks I have on my desk), but I just couldn’t resist. I openend my email and while looking for intersting mail to further push off my work schedule, I actually opened your newsletetter! That just happened to be the right thing to do! Your blog on “Structure your Monday” is just what I need to push me to organize my week instead of sitting at my desk trying to figure out where to start! I just feel swamped sometimes and don’t know where to begin. My solo architect office is starting to “take off” and as I get more projects I am learning the the organization part takes up more time than it used too. Thanks for your advice. I enjoy your blogs, newsletter and podcasts very much, and enjoy “sharing” in your experiences of moving your studio and building up your practice. Good Luck with it and thanks again for “sharing”!

  5. Danny says

    First of all, love your blog. I just found it today and its terrific. Just out of curiosity, you said you use Nozbe, but then use iCloud Calendar to manage your tasks…do you essentially enter everything twice (once in Nozbe, and once in Calendar) and then check the task complete twice (once in Nozbe, and once in Calendar). I was just wondering.

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