The Art of Setting Weekly Goals and Daily To-Do Lists

Over the years, learning what works for me and what doesn’t, I’ve drastically pared down my system to consist mostly of a sheet or two of goals to achieve annually, and then smaller goals and to-do lists that I craft from week to week. This works well in conjunction with my calendar for appointments and important dates.

The biggest challenge has been learning how to set daily and weekly goals, and create to-do lists that are achievable instead of overwhelming and frustrating.

Here are some thoughts on the art of setting daily and weekly goals and to-do lists.

Always Begin with the End in Mind

I stole that phrase from one of my favorite books of all time, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.

To begin with the end in mind means, essentially, to work backwards from where you want to be ultimately, when this project, job, role, or season of life comes to an end.

In my life, this involves three important things:

  1. My Personal Mission Statement
  2. My Long Term Goals
  3. My Annual Goals

When deciding on what to do from week to week, I always consult my annual goals (those things I want to accomplish this year, Lord willing).

This way, I’m working smaller steps towards a larger end goal.

Some of Your To-Do List Each Week Should be Working Towards Long Term Goals

Each week, there are always those daily, unglamorous necessary bits to life. Things like washing the sheets, washing the floors, sorting out season clothes, and all of the other things that we do that make up what my husband refers to as “Climbing Mount Neverrest”.

If we aren’t deliberate, all of that Mt. Neverrest stuff will snuff out our long term goals.

If we aren’t deliberate, all of that Mt. Neverrest stuff will snuff out our long term goals. Click To Tweet

So, if part of your long term goals involve teaching your children valuable life skills, you may not ever “find the time” to do it without planning to. You have to decide to teach your daughter how to, say, check the fluids in a car (as we’ve been teaching some of our teens).  If you get so wrapped up in getting through each day, you may just quickly run through a check on your car yourself instead of taking extra time to teach your kid something we all need to know but rarely learn. It does take longer to teach your kids where to check the oil, the coolant, and how to refill the window washer fluid.

Base Your Weekly Goals on Your Weekly Schedule

No matter what our good intentions are, we all have the same 24 hours in a day. On a week where everyone in the family has a dentist appointment, you’re probably not going to get as much done as on a week with nothing on the horizon.

Plan your week realistically, based on what must be done, and what you can realistically add to that, instead of what you hope you can get done.

Plan Each Week as it Comes Up

When it comes to your to-do list, and swatting away at your annual goals with short term weekly goals, make your plans little bit little, as each week comes up.

Some weeks, you’ll have more time, and other weeks you’ll have less. You need to keep your weekly plans and goals manageable by being flexible based on the circumstances of that week.

Work Slow and Steady Towards Your Goals

Life isn’t a race. I love checking things off of my to-do lists, but I’ve also had to learn that as long as I’m making progress in the right direction, I’m doing great. Some weeks are going to be too packed to pack anything else into them, and that’s okay.

The point of these goals is not to make your to-do list your master and slave driver, but rather to help you remember what you want to ultimately accomplish in life.

Don't make your to-do list your master but a help remind you where you want to go Click To Tweet

For example, if your goal for the year is to lose weight, that’s pretty general. But, you can work towards it in your weekly goals (such as setting a goal to spend a certain amount of time on the treadmill or to work out so many minutes this week total). You can work towards it in your daily to-do lists (what you eat, starting your day with a work out, etc.).

Writing a goal down does no good for you if you don’t put it into action. Click To Tweet

Now, simply writing this down as a goal does no good for you if you don’t put it into action. Work towards that work out goal. Eat towards you goal. When the opportunity arises to eat junk food, you already decided your answer in your goals, and that answer is no. If you fall off the wagon, you get back on because the goal was not to be perfect, but to keep moving towards the target of weight loss and getting in shape.

Goals work this way no matter what they are for, helping you and I to move towards the mark as much as possible with every related choice each day.

Summing Up Goals

To Sum up the whole point of goals: be deliberate and take aim. If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it each time. By aiming at something, even if you don’t hit it exactly, you’ll at least be closer than you were before.

In other words, focus on progress not perfection, slowing working towards the end goal.

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