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Last Updated on November 26, 2020

How to Organize Your Tasks With Weekly To-Do Lists

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How to Organize Your Tasks With Weekly To-Do Lists

It takes commitment to remain focused and make your week productive. A research conducted by the University of California revealed that you need 30 minutes to refocus after being distracted on a task[1]. With so many distractions pulling at our attention, how can we complete our weekly to-do lists?

With the introduction of new technologies and the popularization of remote work, you can expect more and more distractions. Meanwhile, it is possible to relieve yourself of pressure and burden when you master how to organize your chores, tasks, and responsibilities with weekly to-do lists.

What Is a To-Do List?

A to-do list is a schedule that itemizes what you need to and when you have to do it. The essence of a to-do list is to enable you to simplify your life and improve task management.

How to Prepare Weekly To-Do Lists

Follow these steps to get yourself ready for the week ahead with a comprehensive, simple to-do list.

1. Select a Channel

It is important to find a medium that works for your task lists. You can utilize a pen and printable to-do list or leverage digital applications in managing your weekly to-do lists. However, research suggests that you can remember information better when you write by hand[2]. Nevertheless, find what helps motivate you more and stick with that.

2. Develop Multiple Lists

Your multiple lists should contain:

  • Master list
  • Weekly project list
  • HIT list

Your master list includes every task you want to achieve in the long-term. For instance, complete all Lifehack courses, clean out the bathtub, etc. Your project list contains all the tasks that demand your attention within the next seven days. And then, your high-impact list, or HIT list, includes tasks that you need to attend to within 24 hours.

Every evening, identify the items you need to move from your weekly to-do list to your HIT list for the next day.

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3. Make It Simple

Your weekly to-do lists should not be intimidating. You can simplify your HIT list by highlighting the chores and responsibilities you want to complete today and divide them into two. Ten items are perfect for your HIT list.The accumulation of your HIT list items makes up your weekly to-do li

Batch tasks when creating your weekly to-do lists.

    Begin your HIT list with 2 or 3 important tasks you need to carry out within 24 hours. That way, you don’t waste time cleaning the bathtub instead of completing the presentation that is due tomorrow morning.

    4. Break the Goals Down

    Instead of having an item such as “work on a Kindle book,” you can be more specific by making your goals more manageable. That way, you will eliminate the fear factor. You could have something like: write the book outline on Monday, write the first chapter on Tuesday, and the next chapter the following day.

    5. Include Detailed Information

    You should support every item on your weekly to-do list with information to complete the task. For instance, if an item says “register for a course,” you should include the website and course title. That way, you save yourself the time of scouring for information later.

    6. Time Every Item

    You have 10,080 minutes each week to complete all the tasks on your weekly to do lists. It is reasonable to allocate time for every item on your list. For instance: Write the introduction from 9 am-12 pm, clean the bathtub from 4-5 pm, pick up some groceries at the supermarket from 5-6 pm. Once your time expires, you move on to the next item.

    7. Establish Breaks

    You need to rest a bit after cleaning the bathtub before setting out. You can allocate 15 minutes to relax your mind or prepare for the next task.

    8. Make It Visible and Public

    You can share your to-do list with your accountability partner. Also, post it on your sticky notes, or add tasks to a digital calendar accessible by all team members.

    9. Allocate Time for Scheduling

    It takes time to prepare your weekly to do lists, and the best approach is to schedule a time for that task. Block out your Friday afternoon for organizing items on your weekly to-do lists.

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    10. Start With a Fresh Slate

    Don’t allow old tasks to clog up your schedule. Ensure you organize your tasks with a new list each week. Complete your HIT list each day so you don’t block your weekly project lists with old items.

    Now, it is not enough to prepare your weekly to-do lists; you need to master how to prioritize with the list for maximum productivity.

    How to Prioritize To-Do Lists

    Use the following techniques to maximize your productivity through prioritization.

    1. Use the Getting Things Done (GTD) Method

    David Allen, a productivity expert and author, affirmed that you can be productive despite having a long to-do list. How you plan is what counts. The Getting Things Done technique enables you to focus on your Most Impactful Tasks (MITs) instead of the number of tasks.

    2. Focus on One Task at a Time

    You are aware of which task needs urgent attention. All you need is to focus on that task and its due date before taking out the next.

    It’s not a long list that kills, but multitasking.

    If you choose not to multitask, you will realize that you can make notable progress on difficult projects. Not only that, but your stress level will go down, and you will find more joy in the tasks you’re completing[3].

    3. Evaluate Your Weekly Progress

    It is not easy selecting a few important plans for each week. That’s why you need to reflect every weekend on what worked the previous week and what did not.

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    Also, anytime you complete a task, don’t just tick it as “completed,” but label it as “progress.”

    On Friday evening, assess your Progress list, and study every item. How could it be improved? Follow this process every week.

    4. Ask for Help

    Sometimes, things get out of hand. The best strategy is to request assistance from your teammates, managers, or accountability partner.

    Avoid procrastinating on activities that go beyond your capabilities.

    5. Learn to Say No

    Sometimes, you feel compelled to consent to every request, and you would rather sacrifice all items on your weekly to-do lists to say yes.

    Say no[4] to things that your schedule and energy cannot accommodate. Do what counts towards your long-term objectives.

    Learn how to say no using this article.

    6. Focus on Outcomes, Not the Method

    Focusing on results helps you to determine how to assess your achievement. If you focus on the methods, you may find it difficult to say if an item has been achieved.

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    A result-oriented approach will enable you to mark your goal as “progress.”

    7. Share Your Productivity Strategy

    When you share what you are working on with your teammates, it helps you enjoy a maximum level of support. Furthermore, when you have actualized your goals, share the results with your team and inspire them to do the same.

    8. Choose Themes for Your Week

    If you have different tasks, you can divide your weekly to-do lists into five days of different work sections. Then, take out those tasks each week. Ensure you carry your teammates along on your day’s focus.

    Jack Dorsey[5], Twitter’s CEO, was highly focused when he was doing 80-hours of work per week in two companies. He was exceptionally focused on planning his day, so he developed a theme for his week:

    • Monday: Attend to management issues
    • Tuesday: Work on products
    • Wednesday: Marketing, communications, and growth
    • Thursday: Developers and partnerships
    • Friday: Corporate culture

    Steve Jobs was also productive due to his consistent plan. He held executive meetings on Monday, while he dedicated Wednesdays to advertising and marketing.

    9. Respect Others’ Time

    No one likes to be interrupted, be it via meetings or emails. Respect others’ time: no texts, email, or a call for unnecessary meetings. When you do this, others will be more likely to respect your time, helping you avoid unnecessary distractions.

    Final Thoughts

    Weekly to-do lists can be a great tool to keep you accountable and on task. Use your to-do lists to maximize your time by achieving a smaller set of important tasks and doing your best.

    Practice prioritization by completing your most important tasks first, and feel productive immediately. This will motivate you to push through the rest of the week.

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    More Tips on Getting Things Done

    Featured photo credit: Emma Matthews Digital Content Production via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Leon Ho

    Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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    Published on October 22, 2021

    The Flowtime Technique: A Pomodoro Alternative

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    The Flowtime Technique: A Pomodoro Alternative

    Today, there are countless productivity techniques that claim to help you work at peak efficiency. Among them, few are more widely known and widely used than the Pomodoro Technique. It’s a time management system that suggests that you break down your work tasks into 25-minute chunks and take breaks in between them.

    The idea revolves around the notion that most people begin to lose focus after 25 minutes of continuous work and will need a reset to remain productive. But there’s a problem with that idea: no two tasks are the same. And for that matter, neither are any two people! That means a one-size-fits-all productivity system can’t possibly be the best fit for everyone.

    But there’s an alternative that provides more flexibility and allows you to customize it for your specific use cases. It’s called the Flowtime Technique, and here’s everything you need to know to use it and start getting more done.

    What Is the Flowtime Technique?

    The Flowtime Technique, while not as well-known as the Pomodoro Technique, has been around for some time. In many ways, it’s a direct descendent of Pomodoro. It’s the brainchild of Zoe Read-Bivens, and she thought it up as a means of dealing with some of the shortcomings she experienced while using the Pomodoro technique.[1]

    She found that sticking to 25-minute work segments often interrupted her flow—the feeling of being immersed in a particular task—and ended up harming her productivity rather than enhancing it. To fix the problem, she sought to create a system that retained the beneficial aspects of the Pomodoro Technique while allowing her to get into a positive flow and stay there.

    The Basics of the Flowtime Technique

    To start using the Flowtime Technique, the first thing you’ll need to do is create a timesheet to help you manage your daily activities. You can do this with a spreadsheet or by hand, whichever you find most convenient. At the heading of your timesheet, include the following column headings:

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    • Task Name
    • Start Time
    • End Time
    • Interruptions
    • Work Time
    • Break Time

    Your timesheet will be the primary way you track your daily tasks and establish a flow that works best for you. Once you have it set up, here’s how to use it:

    1. Choose a Task

    To get started, choose a task you wish to get done. It should be specific, and something you can reasonably complete in the amount of time you have. In other words, don’t choose a task like “paint my house.” Choose something like “paint the front door of my house.” If you select a task that’s too broad, you’ll have difficulty sticking with the work. So, try and break down what you’re doing into the smallest manageable pieces.

    2. Begin Working on Your Task

    The next step is to start working on your task. Begin by listing the task you’re going to work on in the appropriate field of your timesheet. Then, list the time you’re starting work. Once you’ve gotten started on your task, the only rule you must observe is that there is no multitasking allowed. This will help you to focus on what you need to get done and minimize any self-imposed distractions.

    3. Work Until You Need a Break

    You may then keep working on your listed task for as long as you like. If you feel yourself getting fatigued after 15 minutes, take a break. If you get into a productive groove, lose track of the time, and end up working for an hour straight, that’s fine, too.

    The idea is to get to know your own patterns and work in segments that fit you best. If you don’t focus well on certain tasks, work on them for shorter durations. If you get absorbed in other types of tasks, maximize your output by working for as long as you feel capable of staying focused.

    You’ll likely find that the longest period you’ll be able to sustain is around 90 minutes or so. This corresponds to your Ultradian Rhythm, which are the alternating periods of alertness and rest that our brains experience throughout the day.[2]

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    There are plenty of case studies that demonstrate how taking regular breaks improves productivity. It’s one of the reasons that mandatory breaks are a part of the Pomodoro Technique. But there’s evidence that the less-structured Flowtime approach to breaks works just as well. One technology company that recently directed its employees to take breaks every hour as they saw fit saw productivity levels rise by 23%—with no mandate required.[3]

    4. Take an Appropriate-Length Break

    When you decide you need to take a break, go ahead and do so. Just make sure to write down your stop time on your timesheet in the right place. You can take a break that’s as long or short as you like, but don’t abuse the privilege. Otherwise, it won’t be long until your breaks eat up the majority of your time.

    As a general rule of thumb, try taking a five-minute break for each 25-minute work period, and increase your break time proportionally for longer work periods. You should use a timer to make sure you get back to your task in the right amount of time. And when your break ends, don’t forget to record the time you’ve resumed work and list the length of the break you took.

    5. Record Distractions as They Happen

    While you’re working, there are always going to be times when you’ll get distracted. It may come in the form of a phone call, an urgent email, or even the urge to use the bathroom. When these things happen, record the occurrence in the interruption column on your timesheet. Do your best to keep distractions short, but don’t try and block them out.

    The reason is that you’re unlikely to succeed and sometimes, the things that distract you will be a higher priority than what you’re working on. So, it’s important to deal with distractions as you see fit instead of trying to simply work through them.

    6. Repeat Until Your Work Is Complete

    All you have to do next is to repeat the steps above until the tasks you’re working on are complete. As you complete each task, be sure to record your final stop time. If you wish, you can calculate your total work time (and fill it in) when you finish a task, or you can do all of the math at once at the end of the day.

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    All that matters is that you don’t leave any gaps in your time tracking. Your timesheets, once complete, will become an asset that improves your ability to create a work schedule that maximizes your daily output.

    What to Do With Your Timesheets

    Although the act of recording your work periods and break times will help you remain on-task each day, there’s another important reason you’re doing it. It’s that your timesheets will gradually begin to reveal to you how to craft an ideal daily schedule for yourself.

    So, at the end of each week, take some time to compare your timesheets. You may see that certain patterns begin to emerge. For example, you might notice that your longest work periods typically occur before lunch or that there are specific parts of your day that tend to be filled with distractions. You can use this information to plan subsequent days more effectively.

    In general, you’ll want to cluster your most important tasks at your most productive times. So, if you are reviewing detailed property records, for example, you can set aside time to do it when you know you’ll be able to focus without interruption.

    Conversely, you should schedule less critical work at the times when you’re most likely to be interrupted while working. So if you need time to respond to emails or return phone calls, you’ll know just when to do it. This will not only make you more productive but will also eliminate mistakes in your work.

    Key Similarities Between Flowtime and Pomodoro

    If you’re familiar with how the Pomodoro Technique works, you may have noticed some similarities with the Flowtime Technique. As we’ve discussed earlier, this is intentional. The Flowtime Technique is specifically designed to retain three critical features of the Pomodoro Technique, which are:

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    1. Precise Time Tracking

    One of the reasons that the Pomodoro Technique is so effective for many people is that it creates a rigid system to facilitate time tracking. By having to split your work tasks into 25-minute segments, you become acutely aware of the tasks you have in front of you and how you’re using your time. That alone helps you to avoid wasting precious work time because you have to account for every minute. The Flowtime Technique provides this benefit, too.

    2. Eliminating Multitasking

    With the Pomodoro Technique, you have to choose a task to work on and use a 25-minute timer to measure each work period. This does an excellent job of keeping you on-task because you know from the moment you set the timer what you’re trying to accomplish, and you’re therefore not likely to stray onto another task.

    Even though you don’t need to use a timer with the Flowtime Technique, the very act of writing down your task accomplishes the same task. Because you know you’ll be tracking your time spent working on a particular thing, you’ll tend to stick with your task until it’s complete or time for a break.

    3. Facilitating Breaks

    One of the biggest killers of productivity is exhaustion, and there’s plenty of data to prove that taking breaks is essential to maintaining peak work performance. That’s the real secret to the Pomodoro Technique’s successful reputation—it makes breaks mandatory and unavoidable.

    The Flowtime Technique, by comparison, also insists you take breaks. It just doesn’t force them upon you until you’re ready to take one. In that way, some additional self-discipline is required to succeed using the Flowtime Technique. But if you can obey a timer, there’s no reason you can’t learn to obey the signals your body sends you when it needs a time out.

    Final Thoughts

    At the end of the day, you may find success using the Pomodoro Technique. There’s a reason it’s so popular, after all. But if you’ve been using it for some time and find yourself straining against its rigid structures, you’re not alone. So, consider giving the Flowtime Technique a try for at least a week or two. You may find it’s a much better fit for your work style and that you get even more done than you ever have before.

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    Featured photo credit: Fakurian Design via unsplash.com

    Reference

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