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Last Updated on November 26, 2020

How to Organize Your Tasks With Weekly To-Do Lists

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.

    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

    Your Night Routine Guide to Sleeping Better & Waking Up Productive 74 Healthy Habits That Will Drastically Improve Every Aspect of Your Life 7 Tips for Overcoming Challenges in Life Like a Pro How to Get Motivated Every Day When You Wake Up How to Plan Your Life Goals and Actually Achieve Them

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    Last Updated on April 19, 2021

    What Is Block Scheduling? (And How It Boosts Productivity)

    What Is Block Scheduling? (And How It Boosts Productivity)

    On August 6, 1991, the world changed forever when the internet became publicly available. Less than 30 years later, our lives have been irrevocably transformed. We can now learn, explore, and communicate 24/7, which is both amazing and, as we all know, hazardous to our productivity[1]. This is why the question, “What is block scheduling?” has become important.

    To be clear, the internet isn’t life’s only distraction, and while productivity has become a huge buzzword in recent years, it’s simply a measure of progress: Are you doing what matters most? Actively moving toward your goals?

    Author Neil Pasricha writes in Harvard Business Review[2]:

    “As our world gets busier and our phones get beepier, the scarcest resource for all of us is becoming attention and creative output. And if you’re not taking time to put something new and beautiful out in the world, then your value is diminishing fast.”

    Most entrepreneurs relate deeply to this sentiment. Pasricha solved his own productivity challenges by instituting “untouchable days” that shield him from texts, phone calls, meetings, alerts, or appointments of any kind. He says these focused sessions have enabled him to produce his most creative and rewarding work.

    I love Pasricha’s approach, but it’s not always realistic for me. As the founder and CEO of JotForm, I need to weigh in on a variety of daily decisions, from hiring to product roadmaps to financial planning. I suspect other founders feel the same way. Yet, I do believe in the power of focused work, which is also why I recommend block scheduling.

    What Is Block Scheduling?

    Entrepreneurs often flaunt their multitasking as a badge of honor. After all, starting a business is a tug-of-war between competing priorities.

    However, while multitasking might feel efficient, research shows that shifting between tasks can slash productivity by up to 40%. Task-switching leaves what Dr. Sophie Leroy calls “attention residue,”[3] which means we’re still thinking about a previous activity while we start the next one[4].

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    Here’s where block scheduling can shine. What is block scheduling, exactly?

    We usually become familiar with the concept of block scheduling in high school. You likely received a schedule with a certain number of classes per day, all blocked according to class time, each school year. This is basic block scheduling.

    Also called time blocking, block scheduling is the practice of allocating large chunks of time to related tasks. For example, you might designate Mondays for meetings and Tuesdays for strategy. Teachers often use block scheduling when creating lesson plans. There are many different approaches, which we’ll get to shortly.

    First, here’s why it matters. Business is essentially problem-solving. Creating strategies, writing code, developing products, and all the myriad activities that entrepreneurs tackle demand focus and minimal distractions. They’re also inherently human tasks that won’t easily be replaced by AI, which means your business depends on your ability to go deep.

    Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Success in a Distracted World, said in a 2017 interview:

    “Focus is now the lifeblood of this economy.”

    Entrepreneurs use their minds to launch ideas and create value, so the ability to concentrate is “almost like a superpower”[5].

    Block scheduling can also help you to produce higher quality work in less time. Parkinson’s Law holds that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion,”[6], which is why setting time limits can deflate a ballooning task.

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    How to Use Time Blocking to Boost Productivity

    We all have different rhythms and responsibilities. Personalization is the key to successful time blocking, and it will require some trial and error. Here’s how to get started.

    What is time blocking?

      1. Assess Your Calendar

      Evaluating your current schedule can be surprisingly difficult because few of us can accurately estimate how much time a task requires. If it feels easier, track how you actually spend your time for a full week. Note each activity—even 10 minutes of email and 15 minutes of social media scrolling between meetings.

      Once you know how you’ve been spending your time, it’ll be easier to know what to keep and what to throw out when you begin to make your new schedule.

      2. Look for Patterns

      After you’ve documented a full week, group tasks into categories. For example, you can include the following categories:

      • Administrative
      • Meetings
      • Creative work
      • Email
      • Personal time.

      You can also label tasks based on how you feel while doing them, or how they influence your energy levels on a scale from 1-10. Do whatever makes sense for you.

      3. Arrange Your Time Blocks

      Experiment with different block scheduling patterns. For example, one morning may look like this:

      • 8-9am: Respond to emails
      • 9-10am: Write up marketing proposal
      • 10-11am: Brainstorm and plan for Client A’s project
      • 11am-12pm: Meet with Client A to discuss ideas

      However, you may find that you’re more creative immediately after waking up. In that case, you’d want to move “brainstorming and planning” to an earlier slot. If responding to emails is best for when you’re feeling a little lethargic after lunch, put it there.

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      Read your emotions and abilities throughout the day to tap into what is going to work best for you.

      Ultimately, the goal is to avoid switching mental gears throughout the day, week, and maybe even the month. I realize this isn’t easy, especially for entrepreneurs, but it can be incredibly valuable.

      Spending a full day on projects you dislike, such as administrative work or meetings, might feel daunting, but blocking them into a single day can make the rest of your week infinitely more productive and more enjoyable. You’re free to tackle all the entrepreneurial challenges that get your blood flowing.

      4. Create Day Themes

      If you’re someone who has to focus on many things during a single day or week, you may find it more beneficial to create themes for each day instead of blocking up your day into individual tasks. For example, you can set Mondays as Brainstorming/Planning days, Tuesdays as Administrative days, etc.

      If you take this route, I suggest always scheduling in at least one Family day. It will ensure you make time for the important people in your life and give your brain time to rest.

      Benefits of Block Scheduling

      Once you’ve answered “What is block scheduling?” and know how to use it correctly, you’ll find that you receive many benefits. Here are just a few.

      Battle Procrastination

      If you have your schedule set and know you only have an hour to get a particular task done, it will be significantly easier to avoid procrastinating.

      For more on how to stop procrastinating, check out this article.

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      Create Realistic Time Estimates

      Once you’ve been working with time blocking for a while, you’ll learn which activities take the most/least time. You may have to adjust your schedule during the first month or so to get it right, but be patient. You’ll continue to learn to realistically estimate how much time a particular task will take.

      Develop More Focus and Attention

      When your schedule doesn’t leave much room for scrolling through social media or chatting with coworkers, you’ll find your brain is more devoted to paying attention to the task at hand. You’ll respond to the limits you set for yourself and will focus to get things done.

      Final Thoughts

      Most founders crave freedom. Yet, school schedules, jobs, and social norms condition us to work with a traditional schedule and reactive mindset. Before we know it, we’ve re-created a working schedule that traces back to the 19th century, even in our own companies. Block scheduling is not only a tool to maximize productivity; it’s a way to reclaim your time[7].

      In my 14 years at JotForm, I’ve realized that business growth means doing more of what makes the biggest impact. I don’t always succeed, but I try to focus my time and energy where it matters, and I know that busyness is not synonymous with productivity.

      If you feel the same way, give time blocking a try. Share your experiments in scheduling with colleagues and family members so they understand the changes and can support you.

      Finally, don’t worry about getting it right immediately. You may need to get under the hood of your calendar and tinker around a bit. Find what works for you, then protect your new schedule at all costs.

      More Tips on Time Management

      Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

      Reference

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