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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

    6 Ways to Finish Strong (When Your Momentum Is Low) 20 Things Life Is Too Short to Worry About How to Get Motivated Every Day When You Wake Up Does Less Discipline Equal More Freedom? The Endless Battle Between Good and Popular

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    Last Updated on January 12, 2021

    How To Protect Your Focus From Being “Robbed” By Notifications and Social Media

    How To Protect Your Focus From Being “Robbed” By Notifications and Social Media

    Between a cell phone that’s always ringing, a plethora of social media apps vying for your attention, and a steady stream of text messages, it probably feels like you can never get a moment of peace.

    Think about how many times you’ve been working when a notification pops up on your screen. The message might be important, but more often than not, it’s just spam that pulls your focus away from your project.

    Imagine all the times you’ve been in a meeting and felt the distinctive buzzing of your cell phone. Putting a smartphone on vibrate doesn’t make it any less disruptive for its owner. You instantly divert your attention from the other human beings in the room to the device in your pocket.

    Distractions make you work harder

    Studies suggest that the average American worker is interrupted every three minutes and five seconds.[1] An estimated 6 hours of productivity are lost every day to distraction. When someone is interrupted, they not only have to deal with the disruption, but then they have to use even more time and energy to get back into their work.[2]

    It’s not only annoying to feel like you can never situate your mind on one task, but it also keeps you from doing your best work. The greatest ideas require time for mental processing. You have to do research and dig deep to come up with exciting ideas. If your focus is shallow, your ideas will never be able to develop to their fullest potential.

    Our concentration naturally fluctuates

    It would be nice if you could simply disconnect from the internet and have a consistent ability to concentrate, but that’s not how your brain works.

    If you were to visualize your concentration throughout an 8-hour work day, it might look like this graph.

    Throughout the day, you will experience peaks and valleys in your energy levels. You might feel a jolt of productivity after you go for a walk or have a cup of coffee, but there will also be points in the day–like right after lunch–where you’ll feel sluggish. You create your best work during periods of high energy and focus.

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    Protecting those peak periods ensures that you can maximize your work time. When you constantly shift your focus back and forth between your work and distractions, your brain has to work extra hard to get back on track. Opening your Facebook page or replying to your friend’s What’s App message is almost never worth the productivity cost.

    You will still have peak moments of productivity when you face interruptions, but the peaks will not be as high. This is because jumping between items wears you out. You lower your potential productivity every time you give in to distraction.

    To be successful, you have to root out anything that stands in your way. The inability to concentrate will affect your work performance, but you can take control of the situation.

    How to maintain focus in a sea of disruptions

    Being able to give your best at work doesn’t mean that you have to disconnect from the world entirely. You can still enjoy the connections you have through technology, but there are a few ways that you can keep them from having a negative impact on your work.

    One of the first things that you can do to minimize your distractions is set aside a time for them. Give yourself windows of time when it’s acceptable to look at Facebook or respond to messages.

    Start by listing out the things that most commonly distract you. Maybe you get sucked into the rabbit hole of Facebook if you get a notification. Perhaps you find that your friends texting you throughout the day pulls you from work. Whatever it may be, write it down.

    Then, set aside a time slot in which you are free to use the apps as you please.

    Plan to use your distracting apps during times when you need to restore energy. As you can see from the graph, times when you need to restore your energy are also times when you may not be as productive.

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    Instead of giving up peak energy times, sacrifice the time when you aren’t working well to engage with technology. When your recovery time has ended, jump right back into your work.

    It might seem counter-intuitive to make time for these distractions during your day, but if you create a schedule that protects periods of peak energy, you will actually boost your productivity. Instead of being inundated with notifications or thinking about the next time when you are allowed to check your messages, you’ll have designated times for that.

    Rather than shift your attention at random, you can focus fully on the task at hand until it’s your time to play on social media or check messages. Using this approach can help you regain a lot of your brain power because you won’t have to waste it on refocusing. You’ll simply do less important tasks during natural breaks in your day.

    Set up a system to limit distractions

    Just because you vow to check your messages and look at social media during certain times doesn’t keep distractions from happening. You’ll need to set up a system to keep disruptions at bay.

    You can’t always control when someone is going to send you a message or when you’ll get a notification. You can start by adjusting your settings. Most apps allow you to opt out of notifications. Stop push notifications from non-essential apps.

    For everything else, you need a different plan. We may be able to avoid opening social media tabs, but sometimes the messages still pop up on our phones. At the same time, most of us want to continue to use social media to stay connected and receive important information.

    Try planting some trees with your concentration

    The Forest app helps you train your brain to avoid distractions during work time. You can use Forest on your desktop or smartphone. The app works by enabling you to establish an amount of time during which you do not wish to be interrupted. You can adjust the amount of time from 10 minutes up to several hours.

    Refer back to the list of distractions that you made earlier. You can take the websites and apps that drain your time and add them to the Forest’s blacklist.

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      The amount of time that you wish to stay off of distracting websites and apps is called a “planting session.” When you decide that you want to “plant a tree,” the countdown timer starts. If you access a blacklisted website during the time when you are supposed to be working, the app will remind you that your tree is still growing. You will have to decide whether or not you want to kill your tree, which is harder than you might think.

        When you can successfully stay off of distracting sites for the allotted time, your tree grows, and you get coins. The coins will allow you to unlock other types of trees.

          As you continue with your work session, you can see a countdown timer and an animation of a tree growing from a seed to its full splendor. Usually Forest also includes an inspirational saying to keep you on track if your focus starts to drift.

            To make the impact of your efforts even greater, success in Forest also gives you the option to plant a tree in real life.

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            This simple visualization can help you break the bad habit of checking your phone or accessing websites that disrupt your thought processes. When Forest asks you if you would like to “give up” and kill your tree, most often you will realize that the reason you were heading to the blacklisted website wasn’t that important anyway.

            Sometimes you just need a small reminder to stay on task. Use Forest during your peak productivity times so that you don’t waste the most valuable parts of your day.

            You have to identify the distractions before you can stop them

            You may be wondering how much of your peak productivity time you are losing to mindless distractions. The only way to find out is to take a closer look at your habits. Notice the times when you seem to do your best work. Name the sources of notifications and interruptions that decrease your attention. After you have done this, use an app like Forest to cut out the distractions.

            Using Forest will not prevent you from being tired, and it won’t keep you from staring off into space, but it will make you think twice about wasting time on sites that distract you.

            When you are able to experience a distraction-free work environment, you’ll recognize how much more you are able to accomplish. You’ll be able to do your work more efficiently, and you won’t feel the fatigue of constantly re-centering yourself. Soon, your desire to stay focused will be stronger than the temptation to click on your notifications.

            Featured photo credit: Viktor Hanacek/ Picjumbo via picjumbo.com

            Reference

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