Mapping my weeks: my current favorite productivity hack.


*image cred.

I’ll just start by being honest: I went through a series of weeks at the beginning of this year where I wasn’t getting anything done. The slump didn’t last all that long but while I was inside of it, feeling like I was just treading water but not making an impact, it felt eternal. My time felt spread too thin. I felt chaotic whenever I would go over what needed to be done in my mind. I wasn’t making progress and I was getting sucked up by distractions.

I was wasting time on social media. I wasn’t writing. I was doing a series of menial tasks and making no real advancement towards projects that actually mattered to me. But in the last few weeks, everything changed.

I’m a sucker for productivity hacks. I live for them. However, I am learning that everyone operates differently. What works for me may not work well for you. Regardless, I think we all need some systems in our lives. Systems stabilize. Systems clear out the chaos. Systems help us get stuff done. 

I believe we are living in an interesting time where people talk (really loudly) about life and living life but aren’t actually doing it. I feel like we’ve become spectators. Some of us have stopped doing the work. We’ve lost hours to social media and it’s time to claim back that precious time. At the end of the day, I believe the most valuable resource I have at my fingertips is time. I plan to use it wisely. I plan to be a doer, not getting to the end of my life and having to say, “I watched too many people live. I never thought to put down the phone and own my life instead.”

You being here matters. You get a designated load that has your name on it. You get the chance to leave your fingerprints on the lives of people and projects. But no one will know if you never wake up and live. No one will bother to write an article about you or thank you for your service if all you ever do is sit back and scroll. I’m not trying to be harsh, I’m just needing to be honest.

One system I’ve been implementing every Sunday is taking an hour or so to map my week out and make a massive to-do list. This happens before I do anything else.

It looks like this:

 

And this halfway through a week:

What the colors mean:

Yellow highlights: There are a few tasks I will highlight in yellow before I go over them in orange. The yellow tells me something: this is a task you are planning to get done today. It helps me to see what takes priority on a Monday or a Thursday. It’s a bit of a roadmap in a sea of tasks.

Orange highlights: Plain and simple, orange means completed. I get so much satisfaction out of getting to check something off the list.

What gets listed:

It’s basic. There’s no huge science to it. I only include what is necessary for that week and I do not allow myself to overflow into the next set of pages. My whole week exists on two pages and it allows me to believe I can conquer what is to come.

Tasks & projects:

I write down all my work-based and personal tasks that are necessary enough to make the to-do list. I dump my brain out onto the pages of a bullet journal (yes, I am obsessed) and I get to it. Sometimes I miss things that needed to be added to the list but if the task is something that can happen the following week then I slot it away for next week’s workload.

Where to be: 

I keep a running list of places where I need to be throughout the week. Mind you, I use a monthly calendar on a daily basis. I don’t leave home without it. I am proud to say I am still functioning with a monthly paper planner in an iPhone world! This monthly planner is my roadmap for the week but the “where to be” section of my list preps me to show up for these events, meetings, and occasions.

If you introvert hard like me then it can seem like getting over a mountain just to jump on a phone meeting. The homebody inside of me wants to stay in my creative zone all day and talk to absolutely no one. Being able to highlight these meetings off my list upon completion helps me breathe knowing I showed up and made it happen when I wanted to stay in sweatpants all day.

Self-care:

I can guarantee that no self-care would happen if I didn’t add it to the bottom of my weekly lists. I list simple things like a workout, a study session with my Bible, and personal tasks that are good for my heart. Last week I challenged myself to mail two love letters to people in my life. This week I’ve been tracking all the foods I’ve been consuming to get extra protein into my diet.

I used to struggle with self-care because it seemed selfish to me. I now believe self-care is the opposite of being selfish. When you take care of yourself, you are able to take better care of others. By getting a workout in, studying my Bible in the morning, and checking a number of water bottles off my list, I can give people the best version of myself. Taking care of yourself matters. Don’t be afraid to make it a priority.

A note to the hustlers with anxiety:

I feel you. And this productivity system of mine was largely created because of all the anxiety I deal with throughout a given week. Yes, I face anxiety but I refuse to let that anxiety hold me back from all this week has to offer me. What this system does, more than anything else, is give me a map. I need a map. Otherwise, I tread water. I fill the air with self-deprecating words about myself. I fail before I even begin.

I can honestly say that since beginning this system, my productivity has doubled. I’ve yet to have an unproductive workday with this list in front of me.

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset
Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

Some tips to get you feeling productive:

What you likely don’t need right now: It’s very likely that you don’t need another planner. I love planners and I love supporting planner companies. But I used to be a chronic planner purchaser. I would buy a planner whenever I felt like I wasn’t being productive enough. I would blame my old planner and think the solution was a new planner. Turns out, the planner wasn’t the key to the productivity. The key to productivity is simply putting your head down and doing the work. Easier said than done, right?

Start before the week begins: I’ve reoriented my weekends in the last few months. Sunday used to be my day of ultimate rest but I’ve recently shifted that day to Saturday. Saturday is my actual sabbath where I don’t do any work, don’t bother checking email or being “on.” I relax. I eat brunch. I sip my coffee slowly (after sleeping in). I spend time with Lane and friends.

It’s honestly my own fault that Sunday became more of a workday. A few months ago, I was failing to write the Monday Morning Email in advance and it ended up being a Sunday night task. I don’t recommend waiting until the last-minute but establishing Saturday as my Sabbath has freed me up to do a little work on Sunday. That might seem crazy but a) I love my work and I am happy to do it any day of the week and b) I really love getting a head start on a Sunday evening. It relieves the pressure that so often comes with a Monday.

Diversify the tasks: I write it all down. Everything. Writing down only the big tasks can be overwhelming and writing down just the little ones seems trivial. When I look at my list, I am able to choose. I can choose to dive into a big task I know I want to tackle or I can start getting into the workflow by tackling something little. I don’t scale my tasks in order of importance. If it makes the list then that means it is important to try and accomplish the task that week.

People, Plans & Projects: This is what matters most to me. I wrote a blog about it last year if you want to know more about how I manage my priorities in these 3 areas!

Eat the frog: My friend Christina told me about this method and it really is a game changer. Look at your own to-do list (if you’ve got one). Locate the task that is the most important but also the one you’re most likely to procrastinate on. That’s your frog. Your frog is the thing that NEEDS to get done and may even take only 10 minutes to do but you’ve been dreading it. Don’t delay any longer. Do that thing. Make it happen. I try to “eat the frog” every week, early in the week. It helps me look forward to the tasks on my to-do list rather than dreading the things I have to do that week.

Airplane mode: This is a huge key to having a productive week. Be willing to turn off the noise to plug-in and be productive. Social media is great but does it really make you more productive? When was the last time watching other people live their “best lives” helped you go out there and tackle Monday? I use airplane mode heavily throughout my weeks. Social media can wait.

I am very productive: Ever get to the end of the week and feel like you’ve done nothing? This hack helps you defeat that feeling. I can look back on the last few weeks and see all I’ve done, all I’ve accomplished, and all I’ve managed to steward well. It’s pure proof that I am productive, moving forward, and making little dents in my corner of the world.

 

 

I am planning to let this system evolve and change in the next few weeks so let me know in the comments if this was helpful or you want me to write more about these productivity hacks and systems. I am always happy to share my process as I grow and learn! 

 

113 thoughts on “Mapping my weeks: my current favorite productivity hack.

  1. This is great, Hannah! I’ve been struggling lately with getting stuff done but this sure does help! Holding on tight to Eat The Frog! Definitely more posts on productivity! 💛

  2. Thank you! I feel so encouraged and motivated after reading this. As a fellow to-do list lover, this system seems really manageable, and I’d love to keep hearing how you adapt it.

  3. Thanks for sharing this, Hannah! I love seeing how other people handle productivity, especially when they are also battling anxiety. I learned the “eat the frog” trick from a friend at a job in college, and it has permanently changed how I approach my personal and work tasks!

  4. I have a different system. It’s similar. But I type everything in word. I type everything in Microsoft Word. Then I print it then I crumple it up after I do it and I crossed it off. I would never ahead and write anything and less it was last minute. I like to be able to read things. My hand writing is an issue. You are very brave to put your hand writing on there.

  5. Thank you, Hannah! I struggle with the whole introverted thing….. even writing (typing, whatever!) a list is overwhelming to me. This is the first time I’ve read your blog but it resonated in my soul. I used planners for years, writing my ‘to-do’ list right on the pages…. but I let it slide a couple of years ago. Thanks for the inspiration. I have LOTS of blank notebooks 😁 . My ‘frog’ for the day is to dig one out and get started. Looking forward to more ✍ inspiration. Better than a kick in the pants!!

  6. I found this to be one of the most helpful ways to get things accomplished through the week! Thank you!!

  7. I Love it! I also take a Sabbath rest, usually on Saturday, I tackle hard chores first and last but certainly not least, I have an entire “frog family” of chores on my to-do list! Thanks for sharing these tips. I felt they were both informative and entertaining.

  8. We will definitely start doing this! It’s so tough to keep it all balanced but this would definitely help☺️ thanks for sharing and I hope you’ll check out our site if you have a chance!

  9. I was thinking last night in bed i need a to-do list what a perfect timing to read this! and the list will be mine no interference from any apps…. weekly planner wow! why didn’t I think of it 😛 but really good post especially the frog antidote

  10. This is very helpful. Over the past month I’ve been doing a lot of procrastination and I could say whatever I had planned out is not where I thought it would be. I’m putting this in practice. I’m Eating The Frog. Thank you Hannah.

  11. I simply love these easy hacks to apply in daily life and specially those colour highlighters. Thank you soo much for writing something like this its really like a buck up machine to push others.

  12. Really great post! There are so many of us who needed this. I am inspired to take more control of my days

  13. Reblogged this on Debby's Domain and commented:
    I love your idea! I used to do this for myself and then depression set in and I found it hard to do anything! I’ve been trying to do this, again, for the past two years, and someone has had something or took upon themselves to add THEIR items to do ONTO MY list to disrupt my schedule. So what’s the point. I have got to do something because I’m trying to start a website and those daily duties can not be put off!

  14. Hey! This is a really helpful post! Thanks for sharing with us and posting your journal! Productivity can be a tricky one. I definitely enjoy new “hacks” but my favorite like you said is just writing in a notebook. I also am totally guilty of wanting new fancy planners and the like. 🙂 they really are quite addicting!! Anyway wishing you the best and don’t worry too much if some weeks aren’t as productive as others. Maybe your brain just needed the rest!! Cheers, Lara

  15. I think i need to apply this productivity system. I am often waste my time for hour just scrolling on instagram and youtube. Now i’m try to not open instagram and youtube for 30 day on 7:00-16:00 . Then i make a journal and publish on my blog to make me accountable. But i still can’t achieve anything because i dont have a list of what should i do tomorrow.

  16. I absolutely love this post! I’ve tried organizing my life over and over just to fail each time.

    I’d love for you to check out my blog!
    justagirlandhercat596359289.wordpress.com

  17. Love this, Hannah! I am really organized and have my lists at work, but I don’t do any planning for my days/weeks outside of work. I particularly like your last point – how empowering it is to be able to look back on your physical list and see before your eyes how much you’ve gotten done. What a powerful tool!

  18. Great post, like you I have a paper calendar and been a planner purchaser junkie. The frog reminder, I like it! Today’s Sunday so no time like the present!

  19. So much to like about this post!! I like how you use “introvert” as a verb… and I I LOVE “eat the frog!” And planners!! Me too. Just a great all around post that I plan to bookmark and keep on speed-dial. I wish I had read this yesterday (Sunday) so I could have made my own “to do” list! *Next Week*

  20. I love that you put this in a bullet journal instead of just a basic notebook, it makes things look so neat and organized! I love how you made a simple to do list look so much more functional!

  21. What a great idea! As a new mum I’ve been struggling to get done everything I want to get done in the week. Creating content for 3 sites, looking after the house, being a wife, and being a new mum to a very active 3.5month old is a huge juggling act. Writing a list like this is such a simple idea, and so is not scrolling through social media when I have a few spare minutes. I’m going to try this week-long list out next week and see what happens. Wish me luck!

  22. I have a similar system, though for work I include planned tasks as well as those which are injected into my week so I can see where the week has actually gone — when I’m not making headway on my projects, it’s often because I’ve had a lot of injections that have diverted me from my weekly and monthly planned tasks. And at the end of each work week I have a narrative of how the week went, how I felt, where I let myself down, and where I did work I’m proud of. I find it’s helpful both to force a reflection on what went on while, also, providing a narrative to the week that is helpful for making more sense of whatever the tasks for the week really meant to me. I have a similar system for tracking weekly personal goals; that personal journal travels with me, whereas I try to keep the work journal where it belongs: at work.

  23. Wow it is good to see there are people like you 🙂 this is a great idea to get your shit together 😉 I mean get your life together! Great artilce Hannah!

  24. “Eat the frog!” That made me laugh. Great advice, super motivational! Will be giving that a go on Sunday!

  25. It took me a while to read through this article but it was well worth the time spent. These are such great and honest tips – and I’m guilty of planner purchase too. *puts hands up* I’m using a planner that has a monthly and weekly sections, a journal to put ideas and a notepad for lists. Seems to be working so far so good.

  26. this is so helpful and I am right there with you about the feeling of crossing things of your list. If it’s not written down then I won’t want to do it. I have come to realize that about myself and have taken the initiative to make it happen! Thank you for your tip and hacks!

  27. This is such a great post. Thanks for sharing. For me I like big Xs on my big calendar. My todo list is consist of task to do everyday almost as organized as yours. This post was refreshing. I’m not alone in my madness.

  28. I love the “eat the frog” idea! I often fall into a trap where I’m being “productive” by keeping busy and checking off tasks, but I’m not really accomplishing the big things that would bring me closer to my goals. Going to try to eat the frog. 🙂

  29. Loved the post too, bravo. Finally I understood why many calendars start on Sundays instead of Mondays. 😉

    Also, have been searching for the best to do list app, while, for me the best solution is still paper. Currently I’m using Microsoft Outlook, Tasks, and once the list is completed I print it and scotch it to my desk.

    Nice thing about your system is that you can watch back and check when you did what. I usually eliminate my lists once completed, which is not so savvy, maybe.

    The one thing I struggle with, is when a task requires multiple steps before being completed. And maybe you don’t know before it was a multistep task… So you have actually done what you wrote, but in reality the task is not finished yet. So what do you do, you cross it as completed or you keep it open until you finish all the steps?!

    Anyhow, great post, thanks for sharing. Motivational too!

  30. I know this sounds silly, but I never really thought of constricting my to-do list to a couple of pages till now. Thanks so much for the tip. Will definitely carry this on from now!

  31. This is awesome! I’ve started using a to do list for my job inside my planner and it has helped me tremendously! I get so much done! Now I just need to transfer to my personal life so I won’t be so much of a homebody and get out there to live Love! Thanks for This! This post was awesome!

  32. Lately I’ve been feeling really unproductive and lazy. I aimlessly meander through my days and I know I need to be productive I know I need to go back to old habits… This is a great reminder… lovely post…

  33. This is a great post. Thank you. I just made a to-do list in my planner right now, and I’m going to eat the frog.

  34. Thank you for this, your so right the todo list always makes you more productive otherwise the day seems to slip by. The next thing you know the weeks gone and you’ve got nothing done.

  35. This great, can definitely relate. I Saw that you like productivity hacks. Mel Robbins shows a short trick that takes 5 seconds. You literally count backwards from five (like a rocket launch) and physically move to the task you want to do. For me I used to be a massive procrastinator even with the knowledge of Mel Robbins. I then watched a Jordan peterson lecture and this helped tremendously. If a slump happens again, watching these two is well worth it

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