Wednesday, January 2, 2019

3 Kinds of To-Do Lists That Will Actually Work For You

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Trying to run a household while simultaneously trying to keep all the people in it alive is no small feat. In fact, it's overwhelming.

I don't know how other people manage it, but I'm an organizer. I have systems for everything, but most of the time it feels like organizing my to-do list is the thing that makes or breaks a day.

I hate to-do lists. Do I have to keep one?

I'm sorry, but yes.

On any given day, there's an infinite number of emails to send, errands to run, paperwork to be filled out, kids' activities to register and pay for, and things to fix/clean around the house.

Simply trying to remember it all causes anxiety. When I feel totally overwhelmed, it's usually because I've been trying to keep it all in my head.

Putting all your to-dos in writing frees up brain space to actually work on those tasks instead of worry about them, and you'll usually find once you write it all down that it's not as bad as you thought.

Do a brain dump if you feel stressed right now, and then every time the thought "Oh, I have to remember to do that!" pops into your head, add it to the list. It doesn't matter if you keep it on your phone or on paper  I use a whiteboard on my kitchen wall.

3 Types of Daily To-Do Lists That Actually Get Done


I used to make that gigantic master list and then work like crazy, picking items at random and checking off as many as I could. I'd end the day exhausted, but even worse I'd feel like I'd wasted time on the wrong tasks while the more important ones were left undone.

After you do a brain dump, you need to prioritize everything into small, manageable chunks you can actually accomplish in a day. Here are my three favorite ways to do that:

Busy moms are often overwhelmed by a mile-long to do list. But did you know there’s a right and wrong way to make an effective to-do list? Here are the top three ways you can use a to-do lists to lower your stress and increase your productivity! #timemanagementformoms #getorganized #sahm #parentingtips #lifehacks

1. Hourly To-Do List

If you're an optimist like me, you'll probably find an hourly to-do list helpful. Research suggests optimists are chronically late because they think they can squeeze in "one more thing" before they leave, which is the same reason we overload our to-do lists with an unrealistic number of tasks.

In the morning, I write out my waking hours for the day and block off time in hour-long increments. You could buy a snazzy day planner for this, or you could just use scratch paper and throw it away at the end of the day.

Either way, writing it down forces you to acknowledge how long things actually take, and you'll be more realistic about your time.

2. Category To-Do List

When I'm particularly struggling with balancing the various parts of my life, I find a category to-do list most helpful.

Think of your main areas of responsibility and write them down. Mine are: God, self, spouse, kids, house, blog, and church. Under each category, I write 1-2 items.

That's it. That's really all I can do in a day.

It's kind of frustrating not to be able to write down 20 things under each heading like I want to, but once I know it's all I can realistically finish anyway, it becomes easier to accept.

3. Contextual To-Do List

This suggestion comes from David Allen's productivity book Getting Things Done, which truly changed my life and lowered my stress level.

The idea behind a contextual to-do list is that you can only do certain things in certain contexts: you can't run errands if you're stuck at home with a napping baby, and you can't talk to your partner about refinishing the deck if he's at work. So why not make a list of things you can do at that moment?

When I make a contextual to-do list, everything gets sorted into the appropriate column:

  • Emails/Texts
  • Errands
  • Phone Calls
  • At Computer
  • At Home
  • To Discuss With Spouse

Now I have a bunch of lists of things I can do right now, whatever "right now" looks like. For example, if the kids are quietly occupied it's a good time to bust through a few items in the"phone calls" column. Before leaving the house, I check at the "errands" column to see what else I can do while I'm out.

Effective to-do lists not only remind you of all the things you need to do, they keep you organized and help you accomplish more with less stress. If your current to-do list is leaving you frustrated, demotivated, or burned out, you should definitely give one of these a try.

Moms, do you ever feel like you work hard all day and get nothing accomplished? I used to be overwhelmed on a daily basis, but the simple act of writing these 3 lists helped me get organized, manage my time better, and actually get my to-do list finished by the end of the day! #mom #todolist
Moms, do you ever feel like you work hard all day and get nothing accomplished? I used to be overwhelmed on a daily basis, but the simple act of writing these 3 lists helped me get organized, manage my time better, and actually get my to-do list finished by the end of the day! #mom #todolist #timemanagementformoms #sahm #parentingtips

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Diana Dye said...

This speaks to my list loving heart. I have about 6 post-its on my cabinet at a given time--places I need to go, deep cleaning, kids' stuff, etc so I like your no frills approach. I also have a list for each of the 3 stores I shop at and add things as I think of them.

I agree, it always looks like less when you write it down.

Jenny Evans said...

Ooh, I love having lists of things by store. We have a running grocery list but that takes it a step further.