Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.

Dwight D. Eisenhower
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What is a weekly dashboard?

I am sure we’ve all been there before. We make a grand plan and then life gets in the way and we’re left floundering and flying by the seat of our pants anyway.

It’s an easy next step to say that because that happens so often, planning is a waste of time and an exercise in futility.

But it’s not true.

One military saying is “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” That’s what we experience in home life also: No plan survives first contact with a real day. However, generals don’t stop planning because of this fact and neither should we.

When we plan, we are not determining how life is going to happen. We plan so we know our options and our priorities, so we understand what is and isn’t feasible, and so we are prepared to adjust and flex in the midst of real days unfolding unpredictably before us.

After all, it’s easier to roll with the punches life throws when we have a plan to adapt than if we’re approaching the week aimlessly and cluelessly.

Even when plans don’t play out the way we expected, having a plan guides us. Often, it’s our own lack of mental and emotional energy hindering progress and motivation. A plan also reminds us of that direction we’re trying to move toward.

A weekly dashboard is a plan of action.

When you know what needs to be done – and not all that might possibly be done – it helps you spot the pockets in your day that become available but that we usually fritter away aimlessly.

Your weekly plan – more than your daily one – banishes aimlessness and brings clarity and momentum.

During my weekly review I’ve decided what must be done and I’ve added it to my weekly dashboard. It’s my week-at-a-glance that I can work from, adjusting to and rolling with the days as they unfold.

Sure, “wash sheets” may be listed under Thursday on my list, but if I don’t have a full load of laundry on Wednesday to run, I’ll do it then instead. Or, if it didn’t happen Thursday, I can still do it Friday and that little checkbox is still there and still gets marked off. In fact, then on Friday I can assess: Is Thursday’s box more important than today’s box? Which should I do first? I can make a choice and work from my priorities IN THE DAY I actually have, not trying to pretend I live in the ideal world of perfectly smooth days.

The whole point of working the plan is that we can know what we have on our plate so we can be focused and also adjust on the fly. Knowing what our responsibilities and duties are, and listing what we’ve chosen to prioritize in those cool, reflective planning moments, will help us be engaged in the present moment and make better decisions on the fly as life actually unrolls and we roll with the punches and adapt on the go.

The point is not even to get all the boxes checked off, although that is of course a wonderful feeling. However, I almost never do, myself. Instead, the point is to know how to make appropriate and wise choices in the moment as we do the next thing. We can’t do the next thing if we don’t know what the next thing is. We can’t know if that urgent incoming task is more important than our other projects unless we know what those other projects are and what’s next to move them forward.

The whole point of working the plan is that we can know what we have on our plate so we can be both focused and flexible. Knowing what our responsibilities and duties are and listing what we’ve chosen to prioritize in those cool, reflective planning moments will help us be engaged in the present moment and make better decisions on the fly as life actually unrolls. We can roll with the punches and adapt on the go.

Our weekly plan – more than a daily one – banishes aimlessness and brings clarity and momentum. So no matter what kind of planner you keep, you need a weekly dashboard.

Step #1: Brain Dump

Before creating your own weekly dashboard, think through what you really need on yours and what format might be best.

What kinds of planners or lists have you kept in the past? What did work, what did you like, with each one? What didn’t work? Why did you stop using each one?

What would be more convenient for you: large-format that sits out and open at home or something more portable? If you’re going to keep something always at hand, what traits will it need?

What are you currently using to keep track of what’s on your plate? What is and isn’t working about that arrangement?

A Basic Weekly Dashboard

Your planner might have a lot of moving pieces, but the workhorse, the essential piece, is the week-at-a-glance view. Keeping a weekly dashboard – in any format – will help you keep your plates spinning when life is hectic and busy. The weekly dashboard is the workhorse of your planner.

Think of that image of a workhorse as you set up and use your dashboard. When we imagine a particular planner or page in the planner as being the heart, the key, the important piece, we become paralyzed as we stare at it. We don’t want to mess it up. Something that’s so vital ought not be scribbled on.

Thus, what ought to be vital is dead to us for lack of use.

A weekly dashboard, by the end of the week (and maybe even at the beginning), will be a messy page because it will be a reflection of real life. Our job as both mothers and planners is not to contain life into neat and tidy baskets, but to orchestrate many moving pieces – that means mess happens. Mess is part of the plan or our plan is a waste of time.

Your weekly dashboard is where the hands-on orchestration of all the details happens. It is your at-a-glance, go-to overview. What details make it onto the weekly dashboard will vary from situation to situation and person to person, but there are three universal components.

First, your dashboard needs boxes for each day with plenty of room for writing. What you write in those boxes might change up from week to week, but there will usually be day-specific yet non-appointment notes to track. For instance, if I plan overnight bread for Friday’s dinner, I need a place to note to start that bread on Thursday.

Second, your weekly dashboard needs a spot for tracking your home’s necessary routines and any habits you are currently trying to build. After all, our sense of our own consistency is often inaccurate. Especially with mood or hormone swings, we can feel one moment like we’re doing pretty well and the next like we’re totally failing. Instead of relying on our feelings, a routine and habit tracker gives us concrete data to evaluate not only how we’re doing but also where we most need improvement.

Third, you’ll want to choose a weekly set of top three tasks to be sure to do. There’s always a lot on our plates and many tasks to track, but this section is where you call out what really matters most and can’t be skipped this week. Choosing a limited number of priorities – not huge projects – helps us accomplish more because we stop procrastinating on the tasks that matter most.

Much of our mental and physical wheel-spinning happens when we’re avoiding important tasks. Calling those out and then knocking them out helps us become people who follow through, people who keep our commitments.

Step #2: Create a weekly dashboard

Print & populate a weekly dashboard as part of your weekly review. It should hold routines and tasks to be done this week, as well as habits you’re working on and your menu plan.

Yes, you can create a digital dashboard, but in my experience it does dilute the potency of having it physically in front of your face on the counter, where you can glance at it without tapping through various screens to open it up. So my recommendation is to keep your weekly dashboard on paper, even if you’re a digital planning person.

You’ll update and populate your dashboard during your weekly review. Then every morning and evening, review and update your dashboard again. This is the page to keep open and visible during the day so you can continually refer back to it.

Commit to a basic format or your current planner spread for one week, as long as you have a box for each day of the week, visible at a glance.

Write down what’s for dinner each day this week.

Make a spot for the weekly top three tasks you chose during your weekly review.

Add a list of your current routines with checkboxes for each day of the week. Don’t add a bunch of hopeful, ideal routines; start with what’s already happening and just practice using the dashboard to track them this week.

Keep a post-it-note size spot clear for your daily card, which you will add in Work Your Plan #6.

Weekly Dashboard Examples:

Step #3: Start with a baby step

The trick to making planners work is to actually look at them after you’ve made them. That’s the habit most of us lack.

Remember that we learn by doing. We find out what we need written down and what is clutter. We discover what format makes sense to us and whether no-nonsense bullet journalling or colors and stickers and designs will appeal – not which appeals to us when we’re at the table with all our supplies, busy making a great planner, but when we’re in the midst of a busy average day.

So the weekly dashboard baby step is to use your dashboard, no matter how incomplete or imperfect it is. Building the practice of looking at and working from your dashboard will be the key to improving it, also.

Find a habit you already have in the morning and evening. Add the habit of looking at your weekly dashboard to that habit. With your first cup of coffee, look at the planner. After dinner dishes are done, sit down with. your planner.

Each time you sit down with your planner, don’t let your eyes glaze over. Engage with what it says. Cross things off. Check things off. Write down notes to yourself. Read the notes you’ve written to yourself.

Give your planner, or just your weekly dashboard on a clipboard, a visible, convenient home in your house where you can quickly glance at it as needed.

Personalize your weekly dashboard

“I like to draw my dashboards, so use cardstock for durability and just tactile enjoyment. I often do my menu plan along the bottom of the days, but I didn’t get to it this week. I have been experimenting with decorating them or leaving them basic. The jury is still out on which I prefer. I might move the decorating to my homeschool records page, because my brain doesn’t love having to sort through the decorations to get to the content.”
Cassie Spurlock,
Simply Convivial Member

Don’t overcomplicate it.

“This has been so helpful to think through what actually needs to be on my dashboard. I tend toward too minimalist sometimes because I’m afraid I’ll over clutter it. I just have an alignment quote, my weekly view, top 3, am/pm habits, cleaning loop and this time I write my interval list since it’s the first week of the interval.”
Rena Sites,
Simply Convivial Member

Step #4: Iterate for progress

Remember to iterate your dashboard format. Don’t try to make it perfect the first time. Start with a format that is concise and clear and build from there. Tweak the plan based on what works for you, what resonates with you, what appeals to you. Don’t change it midweek, but do feel free to change things around during or after your weekly review.

Take notes on your page about what you’d like to change next time around. Sometimes sitting on those changes rather than acting right away helps us hone them and make better changes when the right time comes.

Consider integrating your vocations with your dashboard. Include them and choose a focus or task for each one or simply write out your vocation statements so you can keep them in mind as you work out your plan.

One common problem is adding so many things to the weekly dashboard that it becomes hard to see all that’s there. If it takes too much visual or mental work to interpret what’s on your list, you’ll avoid using it. Tempting as it is to put everything on your plan, do keep it as clear and simple as possible.

Color can help the visual filtering process. Different colors for different vocations or different time slots or different children can help us sort and see at a glance.

Stick with it.

I usually try to use a weekly format or planner for at least a month or two unless it’s a total disaster. I highly recommend this for people who are switching planners or are new to purchasing planners.
Victoria Graf,
Simply Convivial Member

Meaningful productivity

My dashboard holds the valuable information so now it doesn’t take as much mental effort or time to pick it back up the next morning (or even in the middle of the day) and get back on track when things fall apart.

Because of the weekly dashboard, I am now working through more projects and keeping consistent home-making and home-schooling patterns. 
Jenn McDonald,
Simply Convivial Member

Repent. Rejoice. Repeat.

Effectiveness comes by our choices, our actions. The planner doesn’t change anything. It informs and reminds us so that we make wise choices. Wisdom is aligning our actions and affections with what we know to be true. Our plan reminds us of what is true. Wisdom takes that truth and translates it into appropriate action, moment by moment.

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“There is always time to do the will of God. If we are too busy to do that, we are too busy.”

– Elisabeth Elliot, Secure in the Everlasting Arms