Updated on 02.04.08

Monday Morning: Setting Goals for the Week Ahead

Trent Hamm

One thing I often do early in the morning on Mondays is make a list of the things I want to accomplish during the week. Some of them are simple enough that I can get them done in a half an hour when I find the time – others require some continuous effort throughout the week, so I often break it down into a big handful of steps that I can do throughout the week.

I find it’s always better to actually write down your goals for several reasons. First, it actually helps tease them out of my mind and make them concrete, instead of the nebulous nature that they often take in my head. Second, it gives me a nice checklist to work on throughout the week. Third, at the end of the week, I can look at that list of things that I accomplished and realize that I did indeed get some things done this week.

To give you an idea, I thought I’d share my personal “week ahead” list with you, perhaps to inspire you to make your own.

Clean the laundry room. There’s a big pile of unfolded children’s clothes in there, along with what appears to be some spilled laundry detergent and a couple baskets of miscellaneous things (dish towels and the like) that need to be washed as well. A good half an hour should take care of this issue.

Go through the “unsorted” mail stack and file what needs to be filed. Our mail routine goes something like this: we get the mail out of the mailbox, open everything, toss the junk, determine if the rest is actually important, and if it’s not urgent, we put it in a stack that needs to be sorted and filed. Once a month, I go through this stack and file it, a task I would normally do on the first weekend of the month, but we had a number of houseguests this weekend.

Take a careful look at the dryer and likely call a repairman before the end of the week. The heating element is about shot with our dryer, meaning a normal load of clothes takes about two hours to dry. This means a call to the repairman is likely in the future unless it’s something very simple that I can discern with some inspection.

Reorganize the pantry. Our pantry starts off organized, then slowly descends into chaos over a period of time. It’s pretty chaotic right now, so I need to pull everything out of it, then put everything back. Another part of this is that I’m going to assemble a proper spice rack as well – our current “spice rack” consists of a good-sized cardboard box with a lot of small jars and canisters tossed in it.

Give a detailed reading of the prospectuses for my retirement plan. I’m currently in a Target Retirement fund that isn’t perfectly clear on how it’s managed, so I’m hoping to read through the prospectuses and really understand what it’s made up of. I would actually like it to be more aggressive than it currently is, so if it’s just made up of other funds I have access to, I may split things up.

Polish the first three chapters of my book. I think it’s time to get out the book and start polishing it. I hope to shine up the first three chapters by the end of the week. This means print them off, sit in a quiet room with a red pen, read them, and mark everything that looks wrong. Then, I’ll take this marked-up stuff, return to my computer, and do some heavy document editing based on those notes. If it’s still not right, I’ll put the chapters back away and revise it again in another month or two.

Try making a checklist of goals for this week, and make a concerted effort to get them done. You’ll feel really productive next Sunday when you glance at that list and realize that you’ve accomplished some things this week.

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  1. This is a great way to start your week. I have never really done this and sometimes wonder what I have really accomplished during my week. I set goals for the month and goals for the year but weekly goals seem like they would be really productive.

  2. 1WineDude says:

    Great post. I’m going through personal development plans with my staff at my day job this week, and the best advice I can give them is to not show up to the session unless they have their long term goals written down, with short term goals drafted up (ie., also written down) to support the long term goals.

    Not only that, but those goals are most effective when written in an active voice with active verbs – they just *feel* like they have more commitment behind them – passive verbs just aren’t that motivational.

  3. Allie says:

    I do this also. On Monday I take out a piece of paper and start listing all of the things I’d like to finsih, usually it’s menial tasks that are boring but do require attention (an odd bill to pay, call the insurance company, things like that). Usually by the end of the day I have a fairly large list. Then I prioritize and set certains things to do on certain days. This way the list doesn’t seem overwhelming. Anything that requires more time than my lunch hours I save for Saturday but make sure to also build some ‘me’ time into the weekend so it doesn’t get bogged down and I wonder where the week went.

    Trent, thanks for sharing your list. It’s good to know I’m not the only one with lots of little things throughout the house and life that need attention.

  4. Lurker Carl says:

    Trent, I’m impressed with your ability to set and meet goals AND articulate them. Did you structure your time and activities this way on the Road to Financial Armageddon or is this a skill you’ve honed on the Road to Recovery?

    Before you call a repairman to fix the dryer, clean out the exhaust vent. It may be restricted air flow rather than the heating element causing the problem.

  5. Amy says:

    My dryer wasn’t working well, and it turned out to be a cap that had fallen off a hole in the dryer. The more expensive version has a light in it, but mine just had this plastic plug/cap thing. The hole, which just went to the interior of the dryer, screwed up the airflow inside the tumbler. Ordering a new plug to cover the hole fixed my problem for $4.

    So yeah, clean the exhaust vent. And check for missing plugs. Mine was over the door on the inside so you couldn’t see it without sticking your head inside.

  6. Joane says:

    I agree with Lurker Carl on the vent issue. My own dryer was taking four hours to dry jeans. I also thought the dryer was going. However, the vent had been covered up by the previous owner, and the vent was FILLED with lint that was then backing up into the ceiling of the laundry room. A total mess to clean up and fix. And it is very hard on the dryer – not to mention the possible fire. Get a dryer vent brush and use it.

  7. KC says:

    I’m glad to see I’m not the only person who does this. I make out the list weekly and try to assign chores on certain days (like never get an oil change on Monday – everyone else is). And I spread them out so I’m not overwhelmed. It’s the only way I can get those menial tasks done. It’s also the only way I can not “conveienantly” forget about something I didn’t want to do :)

    Also, as mentioned above, check the exaust vent. Mine was full of lint and it took me forever to dry clothes (plus it was a fire hazard). If that’s your problem you may have to disasseble some of the hose from the back of the dryer and clean it out good. Heck, I even had a bird’s next at the end of mine! I bought one of those plastic baskets at Lowe’s and attatched it over the exhaust vent on the outside of the house to prevent this from happening in the future.

  8. Amanda says:

    My dryer was having issues a while back. I googled it and discovered that if you use dryer sheets, they can leave an invisible film on your lint screen. To test if that is your problem, try to run water through the lint screen. If the water stream is uninterrupted, that’s NOT the problem. But if the water stream gets caught and little puddles form and don’t drip through, there’s residue on your screen that affects airflow. Just scrub it with dishwashing soap using a brush and rinse it well and the film is gone. Hope this helps. :)

  9. Fran says:

    I do this every morning…let dog out, make tea, let dog in, feed dog and then we sit on the sofa in the quiet. I also make sure that I include a reward for getting through my list, such as an episode of “Monty Python” on DVD. :)

  10. Frances says:

    While you’re waiting for the dryer to be fixed, why not try hanging some of your clothes to dry? When it’s too cold outside you can work up a temporary line in a lesser-used room in the house. Added bonus: the clothes add moisture to the air!

    We got an over-the-back-of-the-pantry-door rack like this one


    for our spices and we’re loving it!

  11. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    I was somewhat goal oriented before I had my financial meltdown, but I never articulated it much or focused on setting shorter-term goals. I started setting little goals for myself to help turn things around – and they worked really well. So I started applying them to other areas of my life, and they still work really well.

  12. Keter says:

    Oh, Trent…that looks like my to-do list for a DAY…

  13. Anna says:

    A good time to do this is Sunday evening. It contributes to a good night’s sleep and gives you a running start Monday morning.

  14. Deena says:

    Thank you for posting this. It’s a great idea. I don’t know why I’ve never thought of it. I love lists and goals, and setting short term goals for the week might help my productivity. Yay!

  15. Sarah says:

    If you’d like a more aggressive targeted-retirement fund, it may be simpler to make future contributions into the fund for a later year of retirement (aggressiveness is determined by length of time you plan to hold the investment).

  16. Mrs. Micah says:

    I put together a tadalist (tadalist.com, simple but effective) this weekend for this week’s goals. I haven’t done that in a while. Then I added it as a bookmark to my toolbar, so I can get to it easily to check things off. So far I’m on schedule which feels great! :)

    Good luck with your list.

  17. Paul says:

    Trent – I agree with Amy’s comment regarding check your dryer vent. Years ago I had an experience with a dryer where I thought the heating element needed to be replaced. I even replaced it, and it still took 2 hours to dry. Turned out the vent hose was clogged. Lack of air flow was preventing the clothes from drying.

  18. Ben says:

    REMEMBER THE MILK is an awesome, FREE on line to-do listmanager. Great for this sort of thing. What I like best is since it’s online, I can access it from work, home or anywhere else.


    This is not spam, just a PLUG for an awesome free service out there. Check it out!

  19. Baker says:

    also is your dryer gas or electric? The solenoids on the valves on gas dryers are the most common thing to go bad. They are fairly easy to change and cost between $20-80.

  20. @Keter – “Oh, Trent…that looks like my to-do list for a DAY…”

    Well, I balance things out; I’d be lucky to get all that done in a year. :-)

  21. j says:

    i do this as well. however, it intrigued me that you don’t have any goals pertaining to your job. it just shows me that you put family and your personal life first – sometime i am aiming to do. thanks for the inside look :)

  22. Liz says:

    I usually do this on Monday as well. I type up a list of about 15-20 items and usually make it through them by mid week. Some are work related (update my students’ grades) and some are personal (phone calls, appointments, dinner reservations, conversations I need to have with someone, etc.). I find great satisfaction in crossing things OFF my list and also find that by putting things on my list, I am much more compelled to actaully DO them. An uncrossed off item makes me crazy. Once all items are crossed off, I discard the list and start again. A bit OCD ish it works for me!

  23. vh says:

    Great list. I blogged yesterday on the Dark Side of the To-Do List: to-do’s breed, like wire coathangers in the back of a closet. The 17 chores I ticked off my Saturday to-do list spawned 18 new chores to be done on Sunday!

  24. Trent – if you are looking for some feedback on your first three chapters i would love to look em over..

    Thanks – Rick

  25. Louise says:

    I also make a weekly to do list, but make it Sunday evening instead. This way I am ready to start work on Monday feeling that everything is already in place and I have a plan. I do the same thing at work. Many people get to work and then work out what will be done that day. I find it easier to do it the day before. I am a night person and take a little time to get going in the morning, so by taking 5 minutes at the end of the day to work out what I want to accomplish the next day I am more likely to be better organised, and less stressed. This tip may help people who find that they are rushed in the morning, or whose brains don’t come online until the third cup of coffee.

  26. Kristen says:

    A little off-topic, but have you considered air-drying your laundry? It would certainly be cheaper than paying for two hours of dryer-running time. Even after you get it fixed, it would be a good frugal thing to do.

  27. I’m a somewhat faithful GTD practitioner, so I do my weekly review every Friday afternoon at my day job and Saturday morning for my home life (although it’s not a clean separation). It really does help clear my head and help me keep on top of things.

    One question for you, Trent, how do you avoid overloading your lists? This is a problem for me and lots of other people I know. It would be great if you could share your methods in a follow-up post.

  28. KarenFla says:

    http://www.repairclinic.com offers discounted appliance parts and instructions. We saved several hundred dollars on our refrigerator part and repair.

  29. Devin Miller says:

    You sound like my wife, she is the master of the task list in my family! Do you have a process for managing your daily finances? I saw in the post you set time to sort mail, what about in how you manage your finances or budget? Do you have a weekly or monthly program that works well for you?


  30. Lisa says:

    Gosh, your goals look a LOT like mine! Thanks for the reminder to write them down…

  31. Alice says:

    Repairing the dryer…

    Check out repairclinic.com. I’ve used their diagnostic info several times to find out what part was broken. I have still had to pull up instructions on the internet to figure out how to get the front cover off my washer. However I have a fully working washer now, that only cost me about $40 to repair. (The on switch disintegrated and needed replacement.)

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