To Do List 101
A Simple Approach to Managing Your Personal To Do List
I think one of the toughest parts of our duties of “home” is actually just keeping up with what we have to get done. Keeping up with a to do list is one thing, but actually working a to do list is another. Whether you keep it electronically, on paper or a combination of the two, if you don’t have a clear plan to check items off, add things to it and evaluate it at certain intervals it will seem like a never ending and overwhelming process.
Last week I shared how I keep up with my work task list using the GoodToDo.com site and app. For a little more info about my take on to do lists and the GoodToDo Site and app, you can read that post here. I also have a personal category in my GoodToDo list that helps me keep up with recurring weekly personal tasks such as cutting coupons, grocery shopping, cleaning house, laundry, etc. and monthly tasks such as the month’s menu, my son’s picture calendar, pay bills, etc. I also use the GoodToDo list to keep up with personal tasks that are farther out than one week so that when I get to that week I will remember to take care of them. For example, if we get an invitation to a wedding I will put a task saying “purchase wedding present for so-and-so” on the Friday of the week it needs to be purchased. I put all my personal tasks on Fridays so I that when I go to make my to do lists on paper for the week I know where to look and have one master list to go off.
So, each Sunday afternoon I make my to do list for the week on paper. I use paper for my personal to do list for a couple of reasons.
- First, I found that when I kept it in my app, I was on my phone a lot around my family trying to check on my list. This made my son want my phone constantly when he was younger and it made me feel like I was giving a bad impression. (I’m still bad about being on my phone too much but at least this way I’m not on it more!)
- Second, I need to be able to see my whole list on one page so that I can quickly scan it to see what I can get done in the time available. The GoodToDo site and app are great in a work setting, but harder to see as big picture.
- Third, I don’t need a record of my accomplished tasks like I do in my work setting. I love that I can track what I’ve accomplished every day using the GoodToDo app, but no one is going to ask when I wrote the grocery list, so it’s not as important to have the electronic preciseness for my personal tasks.
Instead of outlining what I need to do each day, I make my list by categories of activity. My categories are:
- Phone Calls
- Computer Work
- Active Tasks – I count these tasks as ones that will require energy and me to be up and moving at the house such as cleaning, doing laundry, yardwork, cleaning the frog tank, etc.
- Non-Active Tasks – I count these tasks as ones that will not require a lot of energy or could even be done while sitting on the couch such as cutting coupons, sending a text, making the grocery list, etc.
Having categories helps me use every spare moment of time rather than staring at a jumbled list of 20 tasks and trying to figure out what I could get done next. If I have a larger chunk of time I can look at the active list and get one of those tasks done. But, if I only have a few minutes before my son wakes up in the morning or if I’m tired at the end of the day and ready to sit on the couch, I can just pick one or two things off the non-active list to get done. That way I still get a couple things accomplished but without a lot of effort. In the same thought, I make phone calls when I have downtime in the car or if I’m in waiting room. To help speed these calls up, I write down the numbers on my to do list on Sunday when I’m making the list so as soon as I have a few minutes the number is right there for me and I don’t waste time looking for it. I also look at my errand list and assign each task a day of the week if I know that I’ll be in the area of that area already one day in order to save time. Then, the rest of the errands get fit in when possible or on the weekend. It’s important to look at your list each morning and evening to remind yourself what’s left and to try to do a couple of things each day so that you don’t leave yourself a long list on the weekend. You have to shape your list to your family’s needs and your family’s schedule.
I try to accomplish everything on my to do list by Saturday evening so I have Sunday to relax and enjoy downtime. This creates less pressure than a daily to do list because some days are harder than others and I just want to do nothing by the time dinner and the bedtime routine is over. Other nights I have enough energy to accomplish a few extra tasks. By working a weekly list, I have flexibility without feeling guilty or pressure. Sometimes it works, other times life happens and it doesn’t work, but it’s a good way to look at your list as having a beginning and an end so it doesn’t feel like it just keeps getting added to week after week. Each Sunday, I make a new list and add anything from the previous week that didn’t get done to it so I always start with a clean list.