35

Weekly To Do List – How to Make a To Do List that Works!

by Steve Scott | Join Him On Facebook

It’s been a year since I’ve discussed my weekly to do list.  So let’s talk about the importance of this document and how it helps me successfully run three Internet businesses.

An Example of My Weekly To Do List

To Do List FunnyLet’s start with an example.  Below is a copy of my to-do list for last week (This post was written over a week ago, so even though this stuff is “in the past” to YOU, it’s actually the future to ME.)

1)      Click Here for the PDF Version

2)      Click Here for the Excel Version

(Both are the same document.  Simply click the version the weekly to do list version you prefer.)

Why Most “To-Do Lists” Fail

Before we get into the “why” of this document, I’d like to talk about the single reason why most people fail with to-do lists.


The reason they don’t work is they’re structured around a single day.

It’s been my experience that it’s hard to know how much you can get done in a single 24-hour period.

Usually the day ends in disappointment because you weren’t able to cross off ALL the items.

To be honest, I don’t believe in a daily to-list.

I think it’s both a waste of time and mental energy.  Instead I use a weekly to do list that’s flexible enough to fit into any busy work week.

Every Sunday, I’ll sit down and do a quick review of my business.  I figure out what projects are most important.  Then I determine how much time I’ll allocate to each.

In addition, I’ll include a number of personal items.  This includes all those single-action chores, errands, and appointments I have for the week.

There’s a lot that goes into this weekly to do list.  So let’s go over each item:

Personal Task Management

I believe in simplicity.  That’s why I don’t like using a lot of tools to track what I do.  So instead of separating personal from professional, I use the to-do list to track both.

If you look at this sheet, you’ll see how I include all my personal items at the top.  These are the tasks I need to complete:

  • Send in my jury duty form (Argh.)
  • Install my wireless router
  • Start a new ‘success habit’ for May
  • Complete a few tasks relating to a possible upcoming marathon

What usually goes here are things my Dad likes to call NITs.  These are the tasks/errands that can be completed with a single action.

Also, I include any dates that are important.  In this case, I have a dinner with the family and my brother’s birthday.  (Happy Birthday Gene!)  I include these here to make sure I don’t miss any important date-specific event.

Professional Task Management

To get an understanding of this to-do list; you’ll need to refer to two blog posts:

1)      Information Overload? YOUR Blueprint for Turning Information into Action: This post talks about how to synthesize a lot of information and create a plan of action.

2)      The Art of Completing Internet Marketing Projects: This post details a step-by-step process for starting and completing any Internet-related project.

Read both articles because they form the basis of what goes on the to-do list.

Now…another thing you might notice is I’ve broken things down into projects.  Specifically I have a numbered list of “tasks.”

So let’s talk about how these work in conjunction with a weekly to do list:

With my Internet business I like to work for 45 minute blocks of time and then take a few minute break. This is an arbitrary amount of time.  There isn’t a real reason why I chose it.  Really, it’s a personal preference.

Whenever I start a task, I initiate the timer app on my iPhone.  This goes off whenever I complete a task.  Then I cross it off my list, take a break, and then move on to the next.  Throughout the week, I methodically go through this list; completing tasks and crossing them off the list.

So how much time do I dedicate to work each week?  That really depends on what I have going on in my life.  At the start of the week, I’ll look at upcoming personal obligations and then determine how much time I can spend on my business.

Typically I’ll complete about 50 tasks each week.   If you do the math, that’s a little less than a 40-hour work week:

50 Tasks X 45 Minutes = 37.5 Hours

Again, there is no specific reason why I chose this number.  It seems to be that happy medium between working hard while being able to enjoy life.

One important thing to note is this 37.5 hours of actual work.  I’m not surfing the Internet or checking out Facebook during these breaks.  Instead I’m singularly focused on the task and nothing else.

Okay…if you take another look at the to-do list, you’ll see that I’ve broken down the tasks into blocks that correspond to a particular project.

In the case of this week’s to-do list, here’s how I’ve blocked out my time:

  • 3 Weekly Tasks
  • 2 Monthly Tasks
  • 15 Steve Scott Site (SSS) Content Creation Tasks
  • 10 “Affiliate Marketing without the B.S.” Tasks
  • 5 SSS Improvement Tasks
  • 15 Affiliate Marketing Income Tasks

You might be a little confused about what all this means.  So let’s go over each:

How to Manage Multiple Projects with a To-Do List

As we’ve discussed, I use a project-centric approach with my Internet business.  In addition to my to-do list; I maintain a list of the tasks for each of my projects. (Again this is something I detail here.)  On this sheet is a list of tasks broken down into two distinct categories:

1)      Routine Activities which are the tasks you do on a regular basis

2)      Growth Activities which are the tasks that produce future income

During the week, I first make sure I complete the routine activities.  Only then will I move on to the tasks that help grow my business. That way, I know I’ve completed the important things in case something unforeseeable happens.

It’s important to identify what’s routine and what’s growth.  For example here are the activities I do for each project on this list:

Weekly Tasks

1)     Routine: Create tools for affiliates, answer customer emails, answer Steve Scot Site emails, and comment on blogs

2) Growth: Contact people in my niche to build a mutually beneficial relationship

Monthly Tasks

(This is only done on a monthly basis on the first day.  Normally this time would be allocated to another project.)

1)      Routine: Track monthly earnings, track traffic stats and conversion, register domains, and do a master back-up of my business.

2)      Growth: No growth activities for this task.

Steve Scott Site Content Creation Tasks

1)      Routine: Write blog posts

2)      Growth: Upload YouTube videos, write a guest blog post, and add an email to my autoresponder sequence. (I’ve really been slacking on ALL these tasks.)

“Affiliate Marketing without the Bulls**t” Tasks

(This entire project is based on future income.  But I still like to separate it into two activities.)

1)      Routine: Write the eBook

2)      Growth: Outsource image creation, write the sales page, and plan the product launch

Steve Scott Site Improvement Tasks

1)      Routine: Tweak processes on the blog, and run site-improvement tests

2)      Growth: Enhance the user experience. (I purposefully left this vague because there is a lot of stuff I’m testing on this site.)

Affiliate Income Tasks

1)      Routine: Upload videos to YouTube, re-optimize web pages, create backlinks to high-traffic articles, and manage outsource workers

2)      Growth: Add emails to auotresponder sequences and create new lead magnets

Final Thoughts on Making a Weekly To Do List

There is a lot of planning that goes into a weekly to do list.  It’s what helps me manage all the projects I have going on at the same time.  That’s why I recommend you review this sample document and apply it to your Internet business.

One of the keys to time management is to dictate exactly how you work on a project.  Writing a daily list of tasks is SOOOO 2010.  If you want results with your Internet business; NOW is the time to use single document to manage the entire process.  Use this weekly to do list and you’ll discover it’s easy to get a lot done in a limited amount of time.

Take Action. Get Results.




P.S. Struggling with your Kindle books? Don't know how to get started on Amazon? Looking to generate an additional stream of income?

If so, click here to grab my free report "44 Answers to YOUR Kindle Publishing Questions"


{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

TrafficColeman

Steve you and I must have the same brain or something because I do my list somewhat like this also..it keeps me on task and under 40hrs a week..this is the only way you will make it to the top.

“Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

Reply

Extreme John

I agree with you TrafficColeman. I also create my to-do list on a weekly basis instead of daily which is just so brain draining and taking a lot of effort.

Reply

Dean Carlton@Unleashing the Tiger

Thanks for sharing Steve, interesting system!

I looked at the spreadsheet first and thought, hmmm, not very impressive!

Reading the rest of the article brought it to life and made sense. I particularly liked the concept of splitting the working week into 50 (manageable) units of 45 minutes, then allocating to the different task areas. Interesting to see the split between Routine/Growth – makes sense – and in particular, your personal ratios. Good starting position for anyone, and not something that people often share – so thanks!

I will def. be taking ideas from your post into my own time-management practices!

Reply

Steve Scott

Dean,

The spreadsheet isn’t that impressive. That is kin da the point. It is simple, really. That is an important part of organization in my mind. KISS (keep it simple) The more convoluted and diofficult it is to make up your “to do” lists the less chance that they will get done.

Thanks for the comment!’

Have a great day!

Reply

Eugene @ Internet Success

This is awesome, and perfect timing as well.

I am actually about to write something about the need for a to-do list/schedule. I realized just how necessary it is after a week of joblessness.

Humans are creatures of habit. We need structure (be it imposed by ourselves or someone else).

Reply

Steve Scott

Good point. to-do lists are important when you only have an hour a day… But perhaps something ca be said for really knowing what you plan on doing in your limited time. The more time you have the more the need to not go “astray” in your work.

Have a great day!

Reply

Peggy Baron

Wow, Steve, that’s so structured. I do like how you have them divided between routine and growth.

I’m not as structured with my To Do list as you are, but I have found the same thing regarding daily lists. What currently works for me is just having a master task list on my computer. I add to it as I think of tasks that I want/need to do (which has saved me from having scraps of paper everywhere!), and then move things up and down according to the order I want to do them in.

I review it weekly and sometimes daily and highlight in yellow the tasks that need to get done NOW. Um… commenting on your blog right now was not one of my 3 yellow highlighted tasks so I’d better go….

Peggy

Reply

Peggy Baron

P.S. I love your graphic image on this one!

Reply

Steve Scott

Thanks Peggy,

Everyone will have their quirks for “to-do” lists that work for them. The important thing in my mind is that a) people have to do lists b) understand the difference between the routine and special tasks.

Thanks for dropping by!

Reply

Fran the Online Writer

Hi Steve:

What a formula for a goal oriented life. Well prepared. I appreciate you sharing it online. And of course I know it has some results for you too. I use two hour units for doing things. But reading yours I should change it to hourly. It might get a better speed, and more work done.

Reading it daily and weekly is another aspect to keep track of it.

All the best

Fran A

Reply

Steve Scott

The time units will be a very personal thing. I have read that the mind wander more easily after 1 hour or so. But it can really be a little bit of a personal thing. I know my brother also finds larger time chunks of work, with longer, “real” breaks in between. (I think he does 2 hours like you)

There is some to be said about getting in the zone. Just “step outside” of yourself. If you notice you start to think about “other” things frequently at 80 minutes. 75 minutes might be a good time to set your “break”

Reply

Marlon @ productivity bits

Steve,

The title itself caught my attention. I am into these stuff – gtd, productivity, etc. Your thoughts on this particular topic of To-Do are spot on!

Most To-Do Lists fail for one reason: The ToDo’s listed are not ACTIONABLE.

Another reason that To-Do lists are failing is that the ToDo’s are not tied up with a particular project.

You’ve pointed out a very important concept here about To-Do List. And I’d love to read more of this, please!

Reply

Steve Scott

Marlon,

You make a great point. “Actionable” is the key. Having vague long term desires gets nothing done. There needs to be a balance with short term goals all being reached and long term goals at least getting some love with regularity.

Exactly how it is done is personal. Sometimes i feel it is like telling someone what color underwear to wear. However, having those actionable goals of some sort is very powerful, and as you say the difference between success and failure.

Reply

Jean Marot

Thanks for this greet post. I have always the same problem with my To-Done List

Reply

Alex@make money with niche websites

You should have called this post:
To Do – To Done – Ta Dah!

Great post Steve, especially your reason why so many to do lists fail to see completion.
Time is spot on as the reason for it and I find that everytime I fail to finish a list of tasks it is because I underestimated how long it would take me to get it done.

My system involves placing the to do list above the too hard basket and simple integrating the two every few weeks.

Works like a charm ;)

Reply

Steve Scott

OOO Like that title! You have a rare title making skill my friend!

The rolling stones were wrong… Time most certainly is not on our side.

Though placing the to-do list in the trash recpeticle bi-weekly does ensure action is always taken! ;)

Reply

Marlon @ productivity bits

Steve / Alex,

To Do…To Done…Ta Dah!

That title rocks! Will you guys let me use it?

Reply

Steve Scott

I have no problem with it. I would assume Alex wouldn’t either, might be nice to shoot him an email since it was his idea, though.

Reply

Patricia@lavenderuses

Hi Steve

Your Monday posts never disappoint. This one is being bookmarked so I can reread and remind myself when I am being soooo 2010 with my to-do list that often becomes the not-done list LOL

Some really practical pointers and especially the 45mins slots. Sometimes I work for hours and then wonder why I feel so tired! No wonder you achieve so much with your way of doing things.

I’m going to give it a try and see how I go. Maybe I’ll get it down to 37.5hrs per week sometime soon too :-)

Thanks Steve for all the time you put into producing these MVPs for us week in week out. Appreciated.

Patricia Perth Australia

Reply

Steve Scott

Patricia,

Glad you like it! I work more than 37.5. I always find time to do stuff “off the books” so to speak.

An hour might be better time for you. The m=amount of time you work is kinda personal. I have a little bit of a short attention span. But I would play with it and find out which seems to work better for YOU.

Thanks for dropping by! Have a great week!

Reply

Riley Harrison

Well Steve that’s quite a to-do list, you are a very structured and disciplined person. Do you a similar methodology for goal setting and long range planning. To me to-do lists ensure productivity to efficiently meet goals. But goals have the further burden of being the right goals.
Riley

Reply

Steve Scott

Riley,

Finding the “right” goals is a great point, and definitely a topic of its own. Getting things done matters, but getting the “right” things done is even more important.

Being efficient about what you do can really matter though, as I am sure you know. It is funny but i find I get almost 2X as much done by being structured than i do, “willy-nilly”

Have a great day!

Reply

jane

I totally agree when you refer to daily things to do lists as a waste of time. Whilst planning is good if one starts over-planning each activity and the time it takes and which day and all the finer details, this time could be spent actually doing something on the list. I tend to do a list every 2/3 days and this way performance can be measured and priorities looked into. Good Post.

Reply

Steve Scott

2-3 would certainly work better than daily. For some people dailies Might work. I could see a CEO, who has all sorts of meetings (etc) needing a daily to-do list. (though he probably has a personal assistant for that)

Most of us though get too bogged down in specifics and actually WASTE time with the daily.

Thanks for dropping by and commenting!

Reply

Ana @ aweber autoresponder

Great post as always, Steve. I like your approach as it is very detailed and disciplined. It is so easy to get distracted unless you follow a structured plan.

Reply

Steve Scott

Thanks Ana,

Structure is very important to success. I really believe that. As you achieve more success and have more demands placed upon your time it gets worse.

having achieved a high level of success yourself with your blog, I am sure you can understand that!

Reply

James Pruitt

Hey Steve, that is a really great point, but I do tend to have a daily and weekly task list myself. I tried doing just a weekly list, and it was a pain to keep up with.

thanks for your insights in how to structure it better though. I will have to try your plan out. Didn’t think about the time for each task. I generally set a task, and when its done, I take a break.

Part of that is because no matter how well I try to judge how long something will take, every time I try to put a limit on it, something goes wrong and I wind up blowing that time away.

Reply

Steve Scott

james,
You should certainly try it out. While it may not be for you. It could work out. It saves a lot from having to deal with daily plans too.

ULtimately though is that you DO have something that works for YOU

Reply

Andrew Walker

Thanks for the tips! I love how you manage the tasks like a project manager. Allocating the time for each task will definitely make sure we’ve enough time for each task and have no excuse when we don’t get things done.

Reply

Steve Scott

Thanks Andrew,

I appreciate the comment and you dropping by!

Reply

Martha Giffen

Thanks for letting us see how you “map out” your “get ‘er done” list. I am a nightly list-maker and I only put 6 items on my list. I write them down before I go to bed and when I wake up, for some reason, I get them done with rapid speed. I think my brain works it all out while I sleep or something like that! LOL Nice post!

Reply

Steve Scott

Actually that is a great way to do it. If it doesn’t “keep you from sleeping” you will often subconsciously think through problems while sleeping.

Then it is just a matter of transcribing thought into action.

Reply

Jens P. Berget

Hi Steve,

This is really impressive. I really enjoy the details.

I have been doing to-do lists for a long time, but I’ve always been focusing on each day. So, according to my experience, you are absolutely right when you say that daily to-do lists are a waste of time and mental energy. Some days are great, others are not. And the ones that are not, will be kind of depressive, because I really like to get everything done.

I have also tried many different tools, like Things (for Mac) and different calendars. It’s very interesting to see that you’re using a spreadsheet.

What I have not been doing that seems to be one of the reasons why you are a lot more successful with your to-do list than me, is that I haven’t been adding categories of tasks (routine and growth). I have only been adding tasks, some small and some really big, and I haven’t even divided them into smaller tasks. That’s why some tasks never get done, why I finished others really fast.

Thanks a lot for sharing this. Now I know what I’ll be doing for the next days :)

Reply

Steve Scott

Jens,

Glad you like the “to-do list” ideas.

There are many fancy tools out there. I am not a big “application” guy. I think that so much can be done on the powerful basic things like Word/Excel (or the free or Mac versions of these tools)

One of the things I like about this system is the time chunks. If you can do 10 little things in you time block it is fine. If it takes 10 time blocks to finish something, that is also fine. The important thing is that you do the tasks by the time you want to take them.

Within that framework you can also work on improving yourself.

For instance I often list my word count in time blocks. I don’t stress on it. Some days will be lower based on the material. But I try to work at getting -more- words done per block for writing efforts over time. And it works. I have generally been getting faster in my writing with this concentration.

Just another reason why it can help!

Reply

Hawk

Good post, its very remarkable! Making the to do list help to organize the tasks and plan the strategies accordingly. We live in very busy life and forget the things so if we have the list, it can help to remember the things to be done.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: