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What Do You Plan or Prep in Advance?


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What do you plan or prep in advance, either on the weekend, the night before, or another set time — and how does it help your productivity, goals, and so forth?

While I’m getting better at some things, I was looking back at an older post and realized how far I’ve fallen from a few years ago in other ways!

So I’m curious — what do you prepare or plan on the weekend or the night before, either in terms of meals, work, workouts, or more? If you’ve changed your habits in the past year or two, such as because you work from home more, what has changed for the better, and what for the worse?

{related: why I love Atomic Habits}

How to Get in the Habit of Weekend Prepping (Food and More)

Readers have had great advice on this over the years. A few important points:

It doesn’t have to be Sunday night!

One reader noted that

I find that Sunday evening is way too late for me to do this. Too late to actually grocery shop or pivot. I like to do this Thursday morning before work. I review my calendar for the next week and my weekend plans, figure out my meals and order grocery delivery, figure out when on the weekend I can fit in some chores.

Another agreed, noting:

I do this on Friday afternoons, when for me, work is generally pretty slow. I make my task list for the next work week and make my grocery and errand lists for the weekends, look at my bank accounts, etc. My husband grocery shops on Sunday mornings so I will do meal prep on Sunday night. But trying to do all that on Sunday made me resentful that I was spending valuable relaxation time on the weekends on the “life admin” stuff. Lunchtime on Thursday or Friday might be another time to to do this kind of stuff.

{related: four ways to make the most of your evenings}

It helps to find your pain points.

For example, if you buy meat but then stick it in the freezer instead of portioning/cooking it, what extra steps can you take when you get home? (I know I’m one of those people where if I bring home a rotisserie chicken I have to “process” the entire chicken immediately when I get home — I typically sit at our counter with a baking sheet in aluminum foil in front of me as well as a big glass container; all of the dark meat and some of the white meat goes onto the baking sheet for a meal that night, and the rest of the white meat goes into the big glass container. We often bake the dark meat immediately, but if we don’t we just fold up the aluminum foil into a little packet and refrigerate until mealtime.)

Similarly, if you’re one of those people who is constantly throwing out wilted/fuzzy vegetables — the weekend is a great time to clean out the fridge with a big soup, stirfry, or salad, or to assess what you can/must eat in the next day or two.

You can make it social!

One reader noted:

One of my girlfriends and I get together every Sunday to prep breakfasts/lunches for the week, and sometimes an extra snack or dinner. She’s not in the law, so having her over to chat about life/movies/etc. is incredibly relaxing for me, and we can get everything done in an hour or two so it’s super efficient. If we have time, we also try to fit in a walk or some sort of workout. It’s my weekly sanity check and I think it makes the whole week go more smoothly.

{related: body-doubling tips for productivity}

If meal prep isn’t your thing, you can still prep other things!

Some readers have noted that they prefer resting on Sundays and just “slapping together” whatever dinner comes to mind. I know when I was in Big Law I often ordered food at the office so much that meal prep wasn’t really a concern. Still, readers have had success with planning or prepping other tasks, including:

  • laundry
  • sheets
  • planning social engagements or workouts
  • picking outfits (I can’t find the link now but a reader blew my mind when she noted that she put together little “packets” of workout clothes with top, bottom, shorts, and undergarments, so she could just grab a pack in the morning and go. BRILLIANT!)
  • reviewing big work tasks
  • packing snacks for the week — when I was at the law office I typically loaded my purse or tote up on Monday morning with the snacks I planned to eat throughout the week, like those little nut packets.

{related: how to avoid getting hangry at work}

My $.02: What I Plan and Prep in Advance — and How I Could Be More Productive

Successes: What I Plan and Prep in Advance

I’ve happily gotten into a good habit with meal prep on Sundays, at least. I

  • pick out dinner recipes to make for the week (or at least hit the store for prepared meals)
  • defrost 3-5 lbs of chicken to bake, grill, or shred (these often just become tacos for the kids, or if I reheat them for myself I’ll eat them with dijon or I’ll add cheese, pepperoni, and pepperoncini on top of the chicken)
  • soak one bag of Rancho Gordo beans (we generally cook them slowly on Mondays, and then I just eat them with hot sauce throughout the week)
  • if possible I try to prep at least a day or two of veggies, such as cutting, chopping, roasting, whatever. I could probably work some mason jar salads into my life.

{related: variety vs routine, and how “boring is productive”}

Every night before I head to bed I try to make sure I’ve

  • picked clothes to wear the next morning (I tend to put on workout clothes first thing, but finding the right top/short combination is somehow taxing for me in the morning)
  • packed lunches for the kids (and done a general check to make sure kids have clothes)
  • reviewed our schedules for the next day

Departures: Ways I Want to Be More Productive on Weekends (Again)

I used to have really productive weekends for work, both pre-kids and in the Nap Years. Here’s what I said in a post a few years ago about how I turned my Sundays into “Super Mondays”:

For my $.02, when I was working in BigLaw I liked resting/playing on Saturday and coming into the office on Sunday for a few hours if I needed to do some work. Because I was well rested and there was no one else in the office (or, at least, vastly fewer people, and everyone was there to work), my focus was so much better — I used to call them “Super Mondays” because I was so productive.

These days, I often try to get at least half of the short morning and afternoon posts written for the week on Sunday afternoons, putting in a few hours of work while my youngest son naps. If at all possible I also try to write a to-do list of my tasks for the week ahead, and put papers to review on my desk so I can get some focused work done before turning on the computer — easier said than done when your business is online! 

Ooof. Well — part of my problem is that we lost the naps as the kids got older, so I lost that pocket of “me” time on the weekends — but as they’ve gotten older and needed less supervision, there’s no reason I couldn’t reclaim that “me” time and use it for work, or at least the personal to-dos I never seem to get done. (Totally fine that I’m wearing contacts from 3 prescriptions ago, right? Riiiight.)

{related: how to get out of a work from home slump}

How about you guys — what do you prepare or plan on the weekend or the night before? Do you have planned ways to be more productive with your partners where you sit down once a month to review things (budget, schedule, dates, social stuff, etc.)?

Stock photo via Stencil.



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