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How to Organize Your Tasks With Weekly To-Do Lists

Written by Leon Ho
Founder & CEO of Lifehack
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It takes commitment to remain focused and make your week productive. 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 when you master how to organize your chores, tasks, and responsibilities with weekly to-do lists.

What Is a Weekly To-Do List?

A to-do list is a schedule that itemizes what you need to and when you have to do it to enable you to simplify your life and improve task management. You can plan your to-do list every week to ensure that you’re achieving what matters.

Here’s what daily to-do lists do well – and where they fall short:

Pros of To-Do Lists

1. Keep You From Forgetting Daily Tasks

When you have a thousand things buzzing around your head, it is easy to let something slip past you. Once you’ve organized your weekly asks, a to-do list puts all that noise onto paper, so you don’t forget anything. It also frees up brain capacity, so you don’t have to wake up in the middle of the night with the sinking feeling that you have forgotten something.

2. Organize Your Day

Nowadays remote work is booming. And along with that, a dip in productivity. If you work from home, you know how tricky it can be to give your day routine and structure. But a to-do list with specific daily tasks to work toward gives your day momentum.

3. Motivate you

The best part of a to-do list is crossing off an item. Small rewards like these give you a sense of accomplishment which can motivate you to work harder.

Cons of To-Do Lists

1. Cause Anxiety Easily

On the other hand, a to-do list might end up causing you more stress! Unexpected interruptions to your work day happen all the time, and when they do, you can end up falling behind on your list. Not accomplishing the daily tasks you planned can lead to feelings of guilt and failure, which can demotivate you.

2. No Prioritization

Most to-do lists are just what they sound like: a basic list of items. A to-do list doesn’t prioritize tasks in order of importance. Unless you rank them, you’re more likely to complete the easiest tasks first, and end up procrastinating when it comes to the bigger ones.

3. False Sense of Productivity

Putting pen to paper can give you a false sense of accomplishment when you haven’t really done anything yet. It is easy to spend time putting together an excellent list – but the hard part is actually doing it! Don’t let your to-do list dupe you into thinking your job is done. Follow through by working hard too.

4. Not Considering the Big Picture

To-do lists – at least daily to-do lists – are only focused on a single day. Because of this, they are not created with the bigger picture in mind, and can’t measure the progress of your long-term goals.

That’s where a weekly to-do list comes in:

Why Weekly To-Do Lists Work

Unlike daily to-do lists, a weekly to-do list looks at the big picture. When writing your list, you evaluate your overall progress, asking questions like:

  • How well did I achieve last week’s goals?
  • Where am I now in context of my long-term goals?
  • What can I do this week to get me closer to these goals?

That requires deeper reflection. It asks you to strategize about how you can use the week ahead to be in alignment with your long-term plan. Your weekly to-do list should be a bite-sized game plan to getting closer to those big goals.

Another great thing about weekly to-do lists is that they measure your weekly progress. When writing a list, you assign measurable targets you want to be completed in the week. That could be the number of course modules you want to finish, for example.

In all, weekly to-do lists are a great alternative to a regular to-do list.

How Long Should Your Weekly To-Do List Be?

A weekly to-do list should be roughly 15-30 items long. In other words, you should plan to complete around 3-6 daily tasks. Your weekly to-do list should have enough to challenge you, but not to overwhelm you. It should be ambitious but not unrealistic.

However, the exact number depends on:

  • The scale of your tasks: Larger tasks, like research projects or a 5,000 word article, are time-consuming, so schedule fewer of these.
  • Your work availability: the number of hours you are able to allocate to your work determines the number of daily tasks you can do.

Find a figure that works for you.

In general, people tend to overestimate how much they can get done in the space of a week. So keep it manageable. And if you find you’ve been over-ambitious, don’t worry. You can always transfer incomplete tasks over to the next week.


How to Plan Your 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 use a pen and printable to-do list or leverage applications in managing your weekly to-do lists. However, research suggests that you can remember information better when you write by hand[2]. Ultimately 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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