Are you looking for a simple new practice that will ensure you can start 2020 in the most productive and organised way?
Do you want to know the best way to balance your daily tasks with inevitable influxes of last-minute requests?
Are you ready to finally smash through your never ending daily to-do list like Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball hits through love?!
Then it’s my pleasure to introduce you to my favourite planning tool – the Ultimate Weekly Task List! I’ve been using this method in my day job and coaching practice for nearly two years now and it has transformed the way I plan work and get things done.
I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty organised person, but when I read about this approach to planning in Stephen Covey’s ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ it really struck a chord. So much so, that I developed my own tool for organising my tasks weekly. I genuinely reference this list at least 10 times a day. It’s always up in the background for me to double-check what I’m doing and helps me refocus on the work that’s important.
There’s a few simple tips for using it effectively that I wanted to share, so you can really get the most out of it. But once these things are in place, and you’re using the planner, I can promise you’re going to feel lighter, less stressed and far more in control of your workload. In the file download you can also see an example task list that I’ve set up, to show what I mean by some of these points.
Think about the daily roles you fulfil
List these down the left-hand side of your planner and assign a separate colour to each role. Think about all the roles you fulfil on a daily basis that take up a significant amount of your work time. As an example, if you work for yourself and have your own business, it’s likely you’ll have multiple roles: Social media manager for your marketing; Finance manager for monitoring your ingoings and outgoings; entrepreneur for your creative thinking/ expansion; and manager if you have staff as part of your business.
Also think about some of the roles you play that can encroach on your daily tasks. Are you a parent or a carer? Perhaps you volunteer or run a networking group outside of work? Any role that could play a part in your daily routine and workload can be listed, if you feel that it has a significant impact on how your days tend to run.
It’s also worth having a ‘miscellaneous’ or ‘other’ role listed, for those things that can crop up and don’t fall into any other category.
Map all of your meetings
Stage 2 of using the planner is to log all your meetings for the following week, so you can see how much time you have either side of them for the work you want to get done. I like to use the ‘thick box border’ command so that my meetings stand out in the planner, and I colour-code them to align with each role. Alternatively, you could mark all meetings in a different colour to make them stand out, whatever works best for you!
List down the tasks you need to get done against each role in the left-hand side of the planner
Assign each task to the relevant role area and write it down in the second column across. These are the things that you can realistically achieve in your normal working week.
Map each task into your week
Assign at least 30 minutes for each task, or longer depending on how much time you think you’ll need to spend on it. Colour code everything against the roles you’ve identified
30 minutes per task might seem excessive, but it’s actually key to generating some quick wins and getting your productivity wagon rolling. Assigning at least 30 minutes per task means that the following things will happen in your working day
When you finish a short task earlier, you can move on to the next task more quickly, starting the ball rolling for a more productive day than you initially mapped out
30 minutes ensures that a 10 minute task that could be hindered by an unannounced phone call, an impromptu chat with a colleague or a delivery man at the door, still gets ticked off
Ticking off each task that you get done, especially before you thought you’d finish it, boosts the feel-good hormone serotonin. The more you tick things off, the better you feel, and the more you want to repeat the good feelings, by getting more tasks ticked off. It’s essentially a productivity snowball.
When you finish each task, each task, uncolour it
This is definitely more satisfying that a big cross through a task or a tick at the end of a list! Watching your weekly task list go from a mishmash of different colours, to an uncoloured, completed table is a real boost and lets you see just how much you’ve completed in a short time
Keep some time segments free
At the top of each day, you’ll see there’s space for ‘Today’s urgent/ last minute tasks’. Use this space to add anything that comes in urgently. When you’re planning each weeks’ worth of tasks, you want to make sure that there’s always gaps in the day so you can respond to the urgent, unplanned requests that come through.
Edit the table to make it yours
I’ve only shared a template but please make it work best for you!You can change colours, add in more roles, change the times or extend the length of the day – the task list is yours to play with!
The obvious caveat with all this is that you will get out what you put in. There are weeks when my task list is looking tip-top and yet I’ll still procrastinate, miss personal deadlines or spend too much time ‘researching’ utter uselessness on youtube and buzzfeed. However, what this tool has helped me do, is refocus myself after I’ve taken a fall off the productivity wagon.
And, if you’re thinking to yourself that this all sounds like a lot of work: it is maybe a 30-60 minute investment of your time every week. But as the great Brian Tracy says:
“Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution; this gives you a 1,000 percent Return on Energy!”
And with that in mind, go forth, grab a coffee and get planning!