“Before anything, preparation is the key to success.” – Alexander Graham Bell

Nothing excites me more than a fresh start. On a large scale, September and January are the months that refuel me: my projects, my life. I love to dive into goals, both big and small, and prepare a plan for the year. That plan inevitably changes and shifts, but I think clarity is key to success in all realms of life. I’ve always been goal-oriented, but as I get older, these devoted moments of goal-planning and preparation help me dig deeper into my passion in a way that I might not on a regular day.

I’m also a planner on a smaller scale — I think this type of planning is even more important than the big scale stuff! Every Sunday I take many hours to prepare for the week ahead. It was difficult at first to do this, but I’ve created the habit and reaped the reward. Taking the time to prepare for the week ahead is like setting up dominoes and watching them fall: if they are all lined up in the exact right way, they fall perfectly, as they’re supposed to. If one is slightly off, every other domino falls the wrong way too, if at all.

5 Things to Plan Before Starting Each Week

Spending hours planning and organizing isn’t glamorous, but it’s critical to my success for the entire week, and today I wanted to share 5 of my most critical preparations.

1. Shop and Plan Simple Meals

Every week I go shopping and then plan out my meals for the week. I shop and then plan rather than the opposite because I’m frugal and try to buy sale items. My biggest tip is not to try to overdo it with the meal planning. I’ve found that if I overreach (life gets in the way!), then I end up not cooking at all and replace the meal with something faster and less healthy. If you make your lunch every day, this is an even more critical time and money saver!

2. Set Work Goals

Like many entrepreneurs and freelancers, I have a few different jobs and projects on the go at all times. Because there is so much to remember, I rely heavily on lists. One of the most important preparations I do for the week ahead is to list each job/project and the tasks I need to tackle that week. I keep this information in a notebook dedicated specifically to this so that I know where it is at all times. This simple task really helps curb the overwhelm on Monday mornings.

3. Clean Up Your Space

My cleaning consists of organizing the house, changing sheets, and really making sure I’m working with a clean palate come Monday morning. I am one of those people who can’t function properly unless my house is in order (thanks, Mom!). I think most of us are like this, even if we don’t realize it. Take some time at the very least, to clear your workspace. This is why Pinterest is so inviting — we like to look at pretty, clean things!

4. Carve Out Time for Creativity

If I left it to my schedule, I would never get anything done for myself. That’s why I take a look at my calendar on Sundays and sort out when I’ll throw creative work in there. For me, right now, that looks like novel revisions at 4 am. This isn’t ideal, of course, but if I want it to get done, this is how it has to be. Creative expression is not optional; we NEED it.

5. Make Learning Something New a Priority

Like many of you, I’m constantly seeking knowledge. This is good for my career and on a personal level, it’s good to challenge yourself. Try to spend time every week learning something new. If you can’t seem to find that time, think about Audiobooks and Podcasts. There are so many ways to consume knowledge these days!

I hope my preparation tips help you prepare as well.

Do you have any planning wisdom to share?