07 September 2011


To-Do's Make the World Go Round

I like to organize.  I like to be organized.  It's getting harder with 3 children, but it's still my motivation for keeping things simple.  

If I were a gambler I would put money on the fact that one secret every organized person shares is that they all stay on top of things with a functional to-do list.

I cannot be without mine.  I visit it every day, at least twice.  It keeps me productive and moving forward. It allows me to multitask, and it maintains my sanity.

The format is unimportant, but the key word is functional.  I currently use Google calendar along with an app for my iPhone called Calengoo, which is a syncing app that has offline capabilities.  I am considering a switch to Cozi but am not sure yet if I like it enough to switch everything over.

But like I said, the details are unimportant.  A paper calendar can work too.  I like the computer format, so that's what I use.  I just make sure I follow a few rules:

1. Details, details, details.  Every step of every task goes on my list.  I have been known to write something on my list just so I can cross it off.  The sense of accomplishment that comes from seeing what has been done is critical for me to keep from being overwhelmed.  Often I write the end goal on top and put the step by step items underneath.  Then I get to cross off an extra item when all the "sub-items" are done.

2.  Make friends.  My list and I are on intimate terms.  I visit it at least every morning and every evening, and often in between too.  I must know what is on my list in order to know what to do next.

3.  Avoid arbitrary deadlines.  When I used to just pick a random date for something to be done, the deadline came and went without notice.  But having no deadlines didn't work for me either.  Obviously, if something has a concrete deadline, I mark the due date on the calendar.  But otherwise I simply try to...

4. Break it down.  Every morning when I visit my to-do list, I move 3-4 items from the master list into my calendar.  I avoid being overwhelmed by choosing the few most important things that must be done every day, and placing them on a smaller list for that day.  My current calendar system automatically puts to-do items on the top of the appointment schedule for the day they are due.  So while I don't pick arbitrary deadlines, I do move a deadline to "today" if I have deemed it a priority for that day.  If I accomplish all of those items and then some, bonus.  If I don't get everything done, I reevaluate the undone item's importance and either move it to the next day or just put it back on the master list.  And speaking of not getting everything done, my last rule is...

5. Know when to put it away.  We can all get caught up in the Tyranny of the Urgent, but then we miss out on the Important.  Like tea parties and book reading and family wrestling matches.  The To-Do will always be there tomorrow.

One last thing - I am dangerously addicted to Post-It Notes.  I love them.  But unless I limit my usage, I stop noticing their existence.  So, I use them only for an urgent item that must be done asap, and I stick it to my computer, telephone, or whatever item I need to complete the task.  The point is, whatever method you use, make sure you don't overuse.  Believe me, it is all too easy to simply tune out all the visual input from having lists everywhere, especially when you get overwhelmed and feel paralyzed.

This is what works for me - have any tips to make my system more efficient?

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