In the last post we talked about why productivity routines are necessary and then discussed the daily routines that I recommend. But daily routines are not the only type of routines you need to have. There are also weekly, monthly, quarter, and yearly routines. In this post we will cover weekly routines.
One quick aside before diving in: Again, I’m only talking about productivity routines here. There are other types of routines you can also use this system to build into your life. There are lots of possibilities that are opened up by creating a system for managing your recurring actions and routines.
Daily Routines Pertain to Your Job, Weekly Routines Pertain to Your Personal Work
To begin, a quick word on the nature of weekly routines versus the nature of daily routines.
My weekly routines pertain almost exclusively to my ordinary life as opposed to work life. Most of my daily routines, on the other hand, pertain to my work life. I have found that balance to be very helpful.
It is not that I don’t do any household stuff or personal work during the week (far, far from it actually), but I have segmented my repeating tasks into a once a week routine that I do every Saturday morning. This allows me to be more free during the rest of the week to do other actions and projects, or just relax and play with my kids.
Also note that when I talk about routines here, I’m not counting here things like “do the dishes,” “set the table,” “snow blow the driveway” because those are the types of things that don’t need to go on a list. They are event-triggered (“we need to have supper, let’s set the table”), so a list isn’t needed. There are lots of things like that every day that I also do (and thank you, Heidi, for the far longer list of things that you do every day to keep things running well!). I’m talking here about non-event-triggered stuff: the stuff which if you don’t remember to do, won’t get done.
Note also, and very significantly, if you are a stay-at-home mom (or stay-at-home dad), you may have many personal and household routines that are indeed daily. It would not be possible to segment all of your routines into a Saturday morning. In that case, those things would be built into your daily routines because managing the household is your job.
The Weekly Routines You Should Have (Or, One Example of Weekly Routines)
Everyone is going to have different routines here. Here is what I do to make sure I “cover all my bases” each week and make sure things aren’t slipping through the cracks:
- Process personal inbox (i.e., the one at home — yes, you should have an inbox at home, not just work).
- Process personal email. I actually do this every day as part of my daily routines. But if you prefer to think about your personal email less than your work email, you can build a different routine: every other day, or every week.
- Process notes I’ve jotted down to myself and put into my inbox at home.
- Process voice notes.
- Process OmniFocus in.
- Enter receipts into Quicken (OK, you may not use Quicken, but however you keep track of your checking account and other balances, I recommend doing it in your weekly routines).
- Reconcile bank statements (if any) and process other financial stuff.
- Write check for offering.
- Give allowance to kids.
- Distribute out-box.
Some of this is self-explanatory: For example, have an inbox at home as well as work, and process that home inbox at least once a week. More if you prefer.
I talked about voice notes in the previous post on daily routines, as well as jotting notes to yourself on paper when you have an idea you can’t act on right away. The notes that you jot on paper go into your inbox. Then, when processing your inbox, it’s useful to group those into a pile and create the next actions from them all together. For voice notes I use a program on my iPhone to collect action items I think of when I’m away from my computer or paper.
Entering receipts into Quicken is the way we keep track of our account balances. You can also just have that all downloaded into Quicken, but I’ve never been able to get that working. It’s not hard, anyway, just to type in what we’ve spent and keep our account balances current.
When I receive a bank or credit card statement, I put it in a pending file called “financial to enter.” Then on Saturday mornings when I get to that task, I go to that folder and, if I received a bank or credit card statement that week, I take it out and reconcile it in Quicken. If I receive a check in the mail I also put it into this file. I usually can’t just go to the bank right when I open the mail, but I don’t want to leave it to memory to cash the check, either. So I put it in my “financial to enter” file and take care of it with my routines on Saturday.
I give my kids their allowance because I have kids. If you don’t have kids, or they are grown up, then obviously you can skip that one! What’s noteworthy here, perhaps, is that I actually put this into my routine. This might seem like something to “just remember.” But again, I don’t like just having to remember stuff because (1) I won’t remember it and (2) I don’t like having to sort through my mind to recall what I have to do that day. I write it down, get through it, and then I’m done and can focus on other things.
Same with writing the check for our offering at church. I don’t want to just leave it to chance to remember to do that Sunday morning. So I build it into this weekly routine along with the other financial stuff. (If you do direct withdrawal, you don’t need to worry about this.)
In regard to distributing your out-box: As you go through your inbox, there is often stuff that needs to go somewhere else in your house. Or you need to give it to your wife or husband or a roommate. It’s not efficient to get up and take it where it needs to go right away. So I start a pile for this stuff. Then, when I’m done with everything, I take that stuff where it needs to go.
I also handle stuff that needs to be filed in that way. I group it together with my other “out” stuff, and then file it all in a batch after distributing the other out-box stuff. I find it inefficient to file each document needing filing as I come across it in my inbox.
There are some tasks that don’t need to be done every week. Some of those are monthly, quarterly, and yearly tasks — which I’ll also be posting on. But some of them are in between weekly and monthly. The key with those is to make them hit on Saturdays as well.
This is important, so I’ll say it again: You want these other routines to hit on the same day that you do your weekly routines so that you only have one day on which you have to think “I have to do some routine tasks today.” Make everything hit the same day. (This applies to monthly, quarterly and yearly tasks as well as the bi-weekly routines — make them hit on Saturday also, so that you just do them right along with your weekly routines.)
Here are some bi-weekly and every-three-week routines I have:
- Pay bills (anything that is not automatic; this comes up in my action calendar every two weeks).
- Pay mortgage (I single this out because the consequences of missing a payment would be so dire).
- Check softener salt (for our water softener).
- Review digital pictures. Heidi takes them off the camera, and if I don’t have this task months might go by before I remember to look at our latest pictures.
- Review notes on this or that. (If I take notes on a book that I want to remember very well, I’ll create a repeating task to review them every few weeks for a while.)
The Broader Principle Here
Everyone will have different tasks here, but the key principle to see is that you don’t have to leave things to chance. When there is something that needs to be done regularly, build it into your routine. And the way to do that is by having a task list that is designated specifically to hold all of your repeating tasks. Anything that needs to be done on a schedule goes in here, and the result is that it is easy to find and it will actually get done.
The usefulness of this is very large. Take my water softener. It needs to be filled with salt about every 3-4 weeks. I’m not going to remember to do that. But I don’t want to wait until the salt is all gone and the water becomes hard to realize it needs to be filled. So I just created “check softener salt” as an every-three-week task in my action calendar. It comes up on Saturday, when I’m doing my other routines, so it doesn’t get in the way but does get easily done.
Speaking of household appliances, this concept of an action calendar is far more effective (to me, at least) than the other way I’ve seen. For example, on the furnace filter that I just bought it came with a sticker that you can put on the furnace telling you when you changed the filter last.
That is not helpful. Am I just going to happen to be walking around in my furnace room, at just the right time, to realize that my furnace filter is due for being changed? That is not going to work.
Even things that aren’t repeating, but are time-based, can go into the action calendar. For example, our mortgage was just sold to some other company. The actual effective date of the change is January 1. But I wanted to send my payment in during December so that I get the interest tax deduction for that payment this year rather than next. Yet I wasn’t going to send it to the old company when they are only holding the mortgage for another few days, risking that a big mix-up is created. But the new company could also be confused by receiving the payment before the change in ownership.
Maybe I just shouldn’t think to that level of detail! But here’s what I did: I sent the payment to the new company to arrive the last week of December, but then created an action to come up the first Saturday in January to follow-up and make sure the company processed it, even though they received it before the actual change. Without my action calendar, it would have been hard (or, at least annoying) to remember to check up on that.
And again, I group these all onto Saturday morning because I find that when I get home in the evening, the last thing that I want to do is look at my action calendar and see three things that I need to do. By grouping them onto Saturday mornings, they actually get done.
Now we’ve covered daily routines and weekly routines. Coming up we’ll cover monthly routines, quarterly routines, and yearly routines.