So, you want to achieve your plans, and are looking for ways to create an even better system?
Did I hear a yes?
(don’t worry, I’m not spying on you, it’s just my intuition speaking… 😀 )
And P.S. there’s a post series on nailing down your goals, feel free to check it out if needed 😉
I like to test and tweak, too.
And with the years of different duties, roles, and jobs, I believe I’ve first-handedly experienced the real-life effectiveness and usability of both daily and weekly to-do lists.
Here is what I found out.
All the ups and downs of keeping a daily or a weekly to-do list, along with a best-match-for description.
I even covered their “offspring” variant, as well (you’ll see what I mean 😉 ).
Ready? Let’s hop in!
A daily to-do list
A lot of people are making a daily to-do list.
Day after day.
And as you probably know, the usual advice is to make a daily to-do list and write it down on your daily planner page the night before.
This way, when you wake up in the morning you know exactly what you should focus on for that specific day.
An alternative approach is to create your daily to-do list right on the spot, the very morning when you wake up.
For some people, this system works wonders – they get their list items ticked off & done without breaking a sweat.
However, a daily to-do list might not be the right one for everybody.
Along with its pros, it has some cons as well.
Let’s get those stuff in the open now, shall we?
Daily to-do list PROS…
Here’s what I found to be the biggest advantages of a daily to-do list.
- it gives instant clarity on what tasks you should do in a single day,
- it is best for tasks with short deadlines and/or fast completion time,
- it gives a better view on the accomplished work (has “an instant gratification” psychological effect).
… and the CONS
However, there are also some things I like less about a daily to-do list.
- it needs to be written on a daily basis,
- it tends to have more items than what can be realistically dealt with in a day,
- since it is super time-bound, it gives less flexibility.
Who benefits the most from keeping a daily to-do list?
I deeply believe keeping a daily to-do list is highly valuable for the people:
- who have a predictable schedule (so predictable that it’s almost turned into a complete routine),
- who are working independently,
- who have the privilege to, more or less, organize themselves,
- whose job duties and tasks are more or less standard and well defined,
- who can dedicate enough uninterrupted working time.
However, if you’re not finding yourself here, maybe you should consider the next type of list.
A weekly to-do list
This one is quite similar to the daily to-do list, except there are a few differences.
A weekly to do list contains the items you would want to achieve for the next 7 days.
(makes sense, right? 😀 )
The best advice is to open the weekly page of your planner and write down this list on a Sunday night or a Monday morning.
You get the idea why – so you would start the workweek with the tasks set in place, ready to be completed in the days to come.
Tip: If your working week is not a standard Monday to Friday (or you maybe even work every day throughout the week), the best time to make this list is on the night which mimics Sunday.
Now comes the summary of the pros, cons, and best-match for this type of list.
Weekly to do list PROS…
- it’s more flexible when it comes to organizing the work,
- it’s the best to be used for more complex tasks which can’t be done in a single day,
- it aligns better with your current mood for work, energy level, and the surrounding events.
… and the CONS
- it can lead to big fluctuations in terms of the quantity of work done on a day-to-day basis,
- a weekly to-do list tends to have more items than what can be realistically dealt with in a week,
- since it applies for the week ahead, it may be used as an excuse to procrastinate.
Who benefits the most from keeping a weekly to-do list?
A weekly to-do list might be a better option for the people:
- who don’t have a strict schedule,
- are working in a creative type of work and often rely on inspiration (and if in need of some creative inspiration, you might consider reading this post),
- are someone’s primary caregiver,
- have an option (or simply like) to massively batch tasks in one day, as to have more free time some other day,
- who work from home with the kids around.
If this is you, you found the right type of list to put your tasks on. 🙂
However, there is still a possibility that neither a daily or a weekly to-do list fits your needs the best.
Here comes the last option…
The hybrid method
Maybe the best option (as it usually is with anything else in life) is the golden middle approach.
This type of list is what I use myself.
(but when I say “the best option”, I’m not being subjective 😉 )
Basically, I make a weekly to-do list in my planner where I write down everything I would want to achieve for the week ahead.
And that’s it.
But, what happens next?
Over the next seven days, on the morning when I wake up (and can already take a good guess about my energy & enthusiasm level for the day), while I’m drinking coffee (and getting into the working mode for the day ahead), I create a short daily to do list by choosing the tasks which feel right to do in that day from a weekly to-do list.
That’s my process.
The end goal is to do all the tasks listed in a weekly to-do list in those seven days (or five days, or six… depending on how you organize your work week).
Hybrid method PROS…
- it combines both the flexibility and the clarity regarding your daily tasks,
- it matches the amount and the type of work to your current resources and demands,
- it helps you be less overwhelmed by tasks.
… and the CONS
- a hybrid method can appear to look messy,
- it tends to have more items than what can be realistically dealt with in a week,
- since it basically shifts you from weekly to daily to-do list and back, it takes some time to get into the routine on it.
Who benefits the most from maintaining a hybrid method list?
As with the previous list types, this method also has its “perfect consumers”.
Those are the persons:
- who work two jobs – the one structured and well defined, and the other more creative and subjective to change,
- whose single work requires both structure and creativity,
- who both work and maintain a household,
- who juggle multiple obligations/roles in one day (or even at one specific time),
- who have the discipline to work daily but sometimes want to skip a day or two (max!).
Despite the cons of this hybrid method (in the end, everything has its pros and cons!), for the personality I have and the lifestyle I live, this is (currently) the perfect solution for me.
By having a full-time lab-job, the work I do there is more or less very streamlined and precise.
Most of the “rigid” daily to do planning goes to this segment of my life, because it can be very well predicted.
The only “problem” left is – me to deliver what has to be done. 🙂
On the other hand, when I get home from that kind of work, I have different roles and a different kind of job.
(I’m talking about this site/blog you’re reading right now, being a mom, taking care of the household… those kinds of things)
Needless to say, it requires a different tactic?
That’s the part where the pieces of a weekly to-do list step in.
Because let’s face it, I can never quite tell how much energy, inspiration or enthusiasm will I have for these kinds of things on a specific day or moment.
Especially after spending some part of the energy at my full-time job.
Not to mention the possibility that some unexpected events might happen.
(it comes more frequent with being a mother, I guess…)
Therefore, even though I created my daily to-do list from the weekly one the very morning, it’s considered as a draft until the day ends – which means it’s open to change at any time.
Without the stressing out if/when the changes happen. 🙂
The bottom line – to keep a positive attitude and to align the work I have with the physical/emotional state I’m currently in (yes, it does have an effect on productivity!), I’m using a hybrid to-do list method and try to check everything off within a 7 days time period.
Quite doable, I should say.
What type of a to-do list person are you and what method works for you the best?
Let me know in the comments below.