pulling it together
Managing Your To Do List
Whether you’re planning your day, or planning your future, nothing beats a well organized To Do list for getting all your tasks, large and small laid out in front of you.
The way you manage your To Do list says a lot about you. Are you efficient and orderly, or spontaneous and creative? Do you have one master list that is the outline for all of your plans, or do you keep a number of short lists that somehow all fit together? Do you make your list everyday, or only as needed? Maybe your styles overlap, or vary depending on the day.
Whatever your approach to getting through your daily, weekly and monthly tasks, we have some tips on ways to make your To Do list suit your organizational style.
Where to keep your “To Do” list
Bulletin or Magnet Boards. Your list is only helpful if you can find it, and for some of us, that means having it staring us in the face. A prominently placed bulletin or magnet board can be an excellent way to manage multiple lists. If you don’t have the desk or counter space, go ahead and use the fridge or the side of a steel file cabinet. A set of coordinating magnets will keep even busy surfaces from looking cluttered.
- Remember to edit frequently. If your board is full of old lists, reminders for events that have passed, and expired coupons, urgent items are likely to get lost.
- Divide and conquer. Use magnets or push pins to separate your board into categories. If your shopping lists are all in one area it will be easier to take them with you or recopy them before you head out the door.
- Think before you tack. A bulletin board should be used for items that require immediate action. Don’t use it to hold items that really just need to be filed.
- Consider your needs. If you spend your day in the car, a bulletin board on your desk is probably not for you. Consider a pad of sticky notes or a portable agenda instead.
Electronic or Paper Planners. Keeping your To Do list with you at all times is one way to make sure critical tasks are not overlooked. An electronic calendar or paper planner makes it easy to check items off your list whenever there is a lull in the day. You can also add and schedule tasks as they come up instead of trying to remember them later.
- Don’t use a method that’s not suited for you. If you find programming your cell phone frustrating, an electronic PDA is probably not the right tool for you, even if your co-worker claims she can’t live without her’s.
- Keep your organizer organized. In an electronic planner one list works best, but in a paper planner there are usually categorized sections. Keep your correspondence list, shopping list, work tasks, and home tasks separate.
Notepads and notebooks. For those who prefer a more informal scheduling system, a few pages of lined, or even blank, paper can be a flexible, versatile To Do list.
- A small notebook or composition book that you can take with you to appointments lets you jot down contact info and items for follow-up.
- Notepads or sticky notes in your car, tote or briefcase can help you stay on track. Pair them with a master calendar on the wall in your office or home for scheduling items with a specific due date.
Organizing the stuff that is attached to your To Do list
Sometimes a To Do list isn’t just a list…it’s a bag of stuff that needs to be returned, or letter that requires a reply. Keeping the things that go with your list orderly ensures you’ll have what you need when you need it.
- Returns. Avoid making a special trip by keeping a bin in your car for items you need to return to the store along with the receipts. If you find yourself in the area, you can easily swing by the store and take care of the return.
- Invitations. Whenever possible respond to invitations as soon as they arrive. If you’re not sure of your schedule yet, attach the invitation to your task list so you won’t forget. Once you’ve accepted an invitation, place it in a tickler file labeled by month, so that you’ll be reminded to purchase a gift if necessary and you’ll have the location and directions handy on the day of the party.
- Correspondence. Keep a Jane Marvel pouch filled with correspondence items including a pen, note cards and stamps. Grab the pouch on your way out to appointments or take it with you when you travel. Use time spent sitting in the car, waiting room, or on an airplane to get caught up.
- Errand Day. If you’ve got more than a few errands to run, consider making a day of it. Load up your car with the dry cleaning you need to drop off, the packages you need to mail, and items that need to be dropped off or returned the night before. Take a minute to plan an efficient route on paper before heading out on the road. Double-check store hours so you don’t drive all the way there just to find out they are closed on Mondays.
- Phone calls. When making phone calls it helps to take a few minutes to organize the calls. If Aunt Mary has a habit of keeping you on the phone for an hour, call her last, and then make sure your time is limited. Start the call by explaining that you have an appointment in twenty minutes and won’t be able to talk for too long.
Keep it Fun
Your To Do list needn’t be all about chores and errands.
Finally, if a particular task never seems to get done, no matter how many times you put it on the list, it’s okay to occasionally admit defeat and cross it off for good. If you can’t delegate it to someone else, or hire help you may just need to forgo the task. If you’ve managed this long without re-painting the baseboards, maybe they’re actually fine the way they are.
- Give yourself a little lift by adding a few items to your “to do” list that can be done quickly and nearly effortlessly, or which you’ve nearly completed. It will make you feel good to cross them off your list.
- Don’t forget to add some enjoyable tasks to the list. Schedule a pedicure immediately after your dentist appointment, and make having lunch with a friend a weekly goal.
If one of our ideas or products works for you, or if you have a solution you’d like to share, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.