How I’m Using Weekly To-Do’s to Increase Efficiency

posted by Andrea | 09/24/2015
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Weekly To-Do's

As many of you know, I’m a huge advocate for writing things down (on paper or electronically) — not only to help me remember what I need to do, but also so I can enjoy the satisfaction that comes with crossing the tasks off after I complete them (I know I’m not the only one!)

Written to-do lists have worked wonders for me over the course of my 30 years… but for the last few months, I’ve made a slight tweak in how I make my to-do lists. I honestly never thought I’d notice any difference, however, I’m shocked at how much more efficient I have been as a result!

It all started at the beginning of the summer. I was preparing to have a more relaxed summer, take some time off from blogging, and make more room in my schedule for the massive time commitment a newborn baby requires.

Part of my “strategy” for making more time to relax and snuggle the baby (yes, I have a strategy to relax!) was to make a weekly to-do list in addition to my daily to-do lists.

Contrary to what you might be thinking, this really didn’t take up any extra time on my part. In fact, it freed up a lot more time.

Let me explain…

Here’s how my weekly to-do lists work:

At the end of each week, I take a few minutes to think about the things I need and want to accomplish the following week.

Some of these things are time-specific (like a meeting or an event on a specific day and time) — so I would still mark those on the appropriate date in my planner.

However, many of the things I want to accomplish each week do not need to be done on a specific day of the week or at a specific time. So instead of arbitrarily allocating these tasks to various days of the week, I make a separate weekly to-do list at the bottom of my planner page for that week (see photo below).

weekly todos

Then, as I have random pockets of free time during the day, I can pick and choose what weekly to-dos I can accomplish during that time.

Examples of things that might be on my weekly to-do list:

  • clean the bathrooms
  • make one meal for the freezer
  • weed the planting bed by the fence
  • wash Nora’s sheets
  • write 5 blog posts for the following week
  • email the insurance company about our bill
  • schedule Dave and my dentist appointments

As you can see, it really should NOT make any difference whether I do these tasks on Monday, Thursday, or Saturday (except that the dentist wouldn’t be open on Saturday). And for most of the tasks, I can do them any time of day as well.

So as I go through my days, I try to tackle one or two things from my weekly list in addition to my daily to-do list (which includes more time-sensitive tasks like made dinner, pick up a prescription, pack Nora’s backpack for school, wash dishes, etc.)

Why weekly to-dos work so well for me (but why they might not work for everyone).

While the weekly to-do lists have been working fabulously well for me, I will be the first to admit that they might not work as well for everyone.

I am (and have always been) someone who LOVES “working ahead”. I naturally set self-induced goals for myself, I love a challenge to increase my productivity, and I rarely procrastinate.

If you are the type of person who is always putting things off until the very last minute, a weekly to-do list might mean that you spend all day Saturday trying to catch up from a week of not doing very much… in which case, you probably won’t enjoy your weekend all that much.

Also, if you are the type of person who isn’t great at looking ahead or planning in advance, a weekly to-do list might not work well for you either (however, it still can’t hurt to try!)

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For me, a weekly to-do list offers more flexibility — which is what I need right now with 3 kids who never do exactly the same thing every day.

I’ve found that when I have shorter daily to-do lists, I no longer get frustrated because our plans changed, Simon woke up early from his nap, or the kids stayed up later than normal. I can almost always easily accomplish my daily to-do’s, even on “bad days”. Then, if I have time, I can pick and choose the weekly to-do’s that work with that day’s schedule. Sometimes I don’t get to any of them, but other days I might tackle 3 or 4 if Dave is home or if the kids go to bed early.

As I mentioned above, there was a noticeable increase in my productivity and efficiency after changing my system, so I knew I had to share it on the blog 🙂

Obviously, there is never one “right way” to do anything. Some of you might thrive with a weekly to-do list in addition to your daily to-do’s. Some of you might completely hate it, and others will most likely use some of my ideas and tweak them to work for your lifestyle.

I’d love to know…

Do you make weekly to-do lists?

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26 comments

  1. Lynda

    10/07/2015

    I love this idea…. totally going to implement next week! Thank you!

    [Reply]

  2. Beth

    10/01/2015

    I used your daily agenda for a while but never did well with that. I really wanted it to work! I love this though. A little more structure for to do’s than my plain notebook but a compliment to my digital planner (Cozi) because I do need to physically write things down (tactile learner here!). Do you still use your agenda within this planner to do system as well?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Ever since I switched to the personal planner, I haven’t had much of a need for my daily agenda because I was able to customize my personal planner to do much of what the agenda did for me. There is certainly not a one-size-fits-all method for daily and weekly to-dos, so by all means, use whatever system seems to work best for you!

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  3. Jacquie

    09/29/2015

    Hi Andrea – how are you managing your longer term to do list? I am having trouble finding the relevant post but I imagine that things have changed over time. When I worked full time, I used a word doc that I wrote on during the week and updated each Friday. I no longer do that now that I am not a desk all day, but perhaps I need to work it into my weekly routine.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I guess I just always have my long-term todos in my brain 🙂 I’m always thinking back to what needs to be done “eventually” and then when I have a little free time, I pick one to do.

    It’s not a perfect system — and you’re right, it’s always evolving and changing. I do think the weekly list could work well for helping you incorporate some of these longer-term projects into your daily routine.

    [Reply]

  4. Sue R

    09/25/2015

    I’m definitely going to try this! What planner do you show in this post? I like the open space at the bottom.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    It’s called the Personal Planner. Here’s a link to the post I did about it last year: https://andreadekker.com/giveaway-personal-planner/

    [Reply]

  5. Amy

    09/25/2015

    I made a form of my weekly cleaning chores and then check them off as I do them. I really broke it down too, so not just clean the bathroom, but clean the sink, toilet etc. It helps me to use a few minutes here and there to get a larger job done. Also, I don’t have to remember when I cleaned something last – because I also have a daily and monthly checklist!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    This is great Amy — thanks for sharing your system!

    [Reply]

  6. Erika

    09/25/2015

    I have recently started using weekly to-dos, as well! In my planner, I have a sticky note on each page titled “This Week”. That way, if something comes up during the day that I know I don’t have time for this week and isn’t an emergency but IS important (like filling out a form for a client or writing next month’s birthday cards – I’m a social worker with thirty people on my client list), I can add it to the post-it note for next week. When I sit down on Friday afternoon to plan the next week, I can look at the sticky note and slot things in between clients, when I might have a few extra minutes to knock off a task or two. And if I have an unexpected free hour (a cancellation, say), then I can look at the remaining items on my weekly to-do and see what I can accomplish in the time I have.
    Being able to write things down for a specific week, but not necessarily a specific day or time, helps me to plan ahead AND helps me to feel more productive and on top of things in the moment, because I know that whatever the item is, it is on a list somewhere and will get my attention as soon as I can give it. I’m not worried about forgetting something or overloading my daily to-do with future tasks. I’ve even started keeping a “monthly to-do” for the bigger tasks, like purging files, updating information, etc.
    As a social worker, lists are absolutely crucial to my wellbeing, and to ensuring I giving the best possible service to my clients. They rely on ME to remember things (many have of them have memory issues), and without lists, I would be drowning in a sea of to-dos and appointments and dates.
    Thank you for your blog – you continue to inspire me with each post.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Erika! Your system sounds like it’s working really well for you!

    [Reply]

  7. Debbie

    09/24/2015

    I tend to have a weekly to do list in my head for the week, and make a daily to do list for weekend. I do like the flexibility from a weekly to do list, but definitely sucks when 90% of it goes on my weekend to do list.

    [Reply]

  8. Tammy

    09/24/2015

    Can I ask what notebook you are using in the picture and where you got it? I would love to start doing this. Thanks!!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    It’s called the Perfect Planner. Here’s the link to a blog post I wrote about it last year: https://andreadekker.com/giveaway-personal-planner/

    [Reply]

  9. Tracie Nall

    09/24/2015

    Andrea – I have been following your blog since Nora was first born, and have gleaned so much useful, practical and applicable information from your sharing. I have especially enjoyed the way you don’t pigeon hole people into this is the right or wrong way to approach any given task or topic. I appreciate your sharing today, and I deal with a medical condition that some days causes me to have less energy than others, so having the flexibility to “do” based on what time and my body allows is so helpful. I also appreciate the concept of writing down a weekly goal and challenging myself to accomplish it.

    What a great post! So thankful you have continued to share your gift and talent with the cyber world.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Wow, thanks Tracie!!

    I hope the weekly to-do list is helpful for you!

    [Reply]

  10. Erica

    09/24/2015

    I don’t make weekly to-do lists, but I do try to make daily to-do lists, especially when I have a lot of things I need to remember to do. I do like the idea of making a weekly to-do list though, I may start doing that.

    [Reply]

  11. JJ

    09/24/2015

    I am going to have to try that! I never thought to do it that way and often get frustrated if time doesn’t allow for something, even if it’s not time-sensitive. I have a 1 year old, a 2 year old, am 9 months pregnant and just moved this weekend! So, this system might just be key to helping me get things done without constantly moving to-do’s from one day to the next. Thanks for sharing!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Wow, your kiddos are even closer in age than mine are! Good luck with baby #3… I hope weekly to-do lists will work as well for you as they do for me!

    [Reply]

  12. Heidi

    09/24/2015

    I’ve always been a paper planner person and just COULD NOT switch to digital. While I still keep regular paper planner, I’ve switched to the Wunderlist app for my to-do lists. I teach full time, so I only have 3 to do lists “groceries”, “school to do”, and “home to do”. All my weekly to do tasks are on there and so far it’s working well. Working full time with a football coaching husband and two young kids, it’d be really easy to feel like I’m failing at getting things done, but the app seems to help me see some progress throughout the week.

    [Reply]

  13. Audra

    09/24/2015

    Oh my goodness! The picture of your planner was like an Aha! moment for me (or maybe a Duh! moment!)….using the band (hair tie looking thing) to hold the pages open. I have been using a binder clip. Did you switch your plastic covers around so the band is on the front cover?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha, yes! I just flipped the back cover to the front to used the band to hold my pages down 🙂

    [Reply]

  14. Pamela

    09/24/2015

    This is exactly what I do! And I switched to this after baby #3 also.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Haha — must be that 3rd baby that just pushes us type A people over the edge!

    [Reply]

  15. Courtney

    09/24/2015

    I am a big fan of weekly to-do lists. I don’t have kids, but I do have a job that requires me to be very flexible. It would be very frustrating when I couldn’t accomplish my daily list because of a change in plans. So I went to weekly. I simply use a spiral bound notebook to write my weekly to-do, if I have a specific day a task needs done I write that beside the task. Then I make my daily list. I keep both together so if I have a little extra time I can quickly glance at both lists and see what I can get done between other things. It’s been a real sanity saver for me. 🙂

    [Reply]

  16. Charissa

    09/24/2015

    Hi Andrea, I loved this post! I have started a similar format for planning and have enjoyed it/found it to be helpful!

    [Reply]