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I’ve always been a sucker for a to-do-list. I make lists for EVERYTHING. It’s really the only way I can get things done. For those of you who know me personally, you know I’m a busy bee. I always have at least one project on the go and rarely have absolutely nothing to do. Plus, being a mom of 2 boys always keeps my mind running a million miles an hour.
That’s why keeping my life organized and managing my time effectively is key to keeping the sanity in our home. However, having long to-do-lists can be very overwhelming. It can actually make it harder to tackle tasks!
I’m sure I’m not the only one!
As parents, our brains often fill up with things to do to keep our families happy. We often don’t know where to begin to make sense of it all.
After a few years of trial and error, I’ve finally found a method that works to keep me from going insane.
As a two-part method, I’ll describe the practical steps I take to help make sense of my to-do-list. Hopefully this method will help you and you’ll feel less overwhelmed by all your tasks.
Let’s get started!
PART 1: LAYING THE GROUNDWORK
STEP 1: GATHER YOUR TOOLS
I used to have to-do-lists scattered on different pieces of paper around my house, in addition to having some on my phone. It was hard for me to keep track of which list was the most up to date. So now, I use a few tools to keep my lists more consolidated:
- Agenda: When I first started figuring out the best method to organize my life, I fell in love with the concept of the bullet journal (a.k.a. bujo). If you have NO IDEA what the heck I’m taking about, check out this website: https://bulletjournal.com/. It was a great way to combine my creativity and my need for organization. But after a few months of using that method, I came to realize that I didn’t have the time or energy to design my weekly spreads. I’d just end up writing down the date and then my tasks. So, I opted to transfer to an agenda.
I have a preference for a weekly planner that provides the weekly glance on the same page spread. Using that type of planner also means that I’m less stressed because my tasks are not attached to specific times.
I got mine at HomeSense for $9.99, so it’s definitely on the low-cost end. Plus, it fits in my purse, which is a bonus for me.
An agenda can be a good place to start if you’re on a tighter budget.
- Pen and Highlighters: Use a pen that you love writing with (nerd alert: it’ll give you the motivation to actually write things out) and get a set of basic highlighters.
I use 2 main apps to organize my weeks:
Yes. They require a Google account. You can use any apps that work best for you, as long as they have the ability to create lists, and the ability to keep a calendar of events.
For the sake of this post, I will refer to these two apps.
STEP 2: CREATE A MASTER TO-DO-LIST
Now that you have all your tools at the ready, put them all aside and grab a pen and paper. Let’s do this old school!
Write down every single one of the tasks that is haunting your brain. Whether it be for today, for next week, for next month, or for next year!
This will act as your master to-do-list to get you started.
STEP 3: SPLIT YOUR MASTER TO-DO-LIST
Once you have your master to-do-list ready, open Google Keep.
Create lists based on your needs. I mainly use “Things To Do this Week” and “Things To Do Next Week” lists. But you can also use “Things to do Today” and/or “Things To Do This Month”, etc. It’s really up to you how you want to organize your tasks.
Once you’ve created your to-do-lists, place each task from your master list into these specific Google Keep lists.
The neat thing about Google Keep is that not only do I have access to the lists both on my phone and my computer, but I also have the option to pin important notes. In this instance, both my lists are pinned, along with a running “To Buy” and “Costco” list.
STEP 4: ASSIGN THEMES TO WEEKDAYS
Now that your lists are ready, it’s time to start organizing them into your daily life.
At this point, it might still be overwhelming to see all these tasks that need to get done. We’ve made it a little better by splitting the tasks into various priority lists.
Next, assign a theme do each weekday to make it easier to distribute tasks across the week. This is what my weekday themes look like:
- Monday – Learning/Planning: I use this day to plan out any upcoming events and/or to do any research I’ve been meaning to do and/or attend an online workshop I signed up for, etc.
- Tuesday – Cleaning: This is separate from my regular cleaning chores. Each month I focus on an area of the house to clean out (closets, drawers, play room, etc.)
- Wednesday – Blogging
- Thursday – Errands/Beauty: I set a day dedicated to running errands – mainly for things I don’t need urgently (birthday gifts, Costco run, etc.). This is also the day I make sure to focus on feminine activities (ladies, gotta suffer to be beautiful, imma right?).
- Friday – Blogging
I don’t assign themes to the weekend because plans change too often.
The great thing about this particular system is that it’s flexible. Once I’ve decided on my days, I use post-its to mark each day. That way if I need to switch days around (if I need to go shopping on the Wednesday instead of the Thursday for example), then I just switch everything on that day over to the new day.
PART 2: CALENDAR PLANNING
Now that you’ve laid out the ground work, it’s time to plan out your week, making each day less and less overwhelming.
I usually sit down on either Sunday night or early Monday morning and plan my whole week in one sitting, knowing full well that nothing is set in stone.
I like knowing what my week will look like and prepare mentally for the tasks I’ll be tackling that week.
STEP 5: DEVELOP A KEY
Before you get excited and start writing into your agenda, you need to develop a legend for the items you’ll be including (also known as a key in bujo lingo). I personally like to use a version of the basic bujo key, but you can use whatever system you prefer. Pinterest can provide a lot of inspiration.
Stick your key at the beginning of your agenda so you can easily reference it.
STEP 6: CHECK YOUR CALENDAR
The first items you want to enter into your weekly plan are any appointments and/or events you have coming up this week. So, go ahead and open Google Calendar and write those out first.
Once you know what your appointments are for the week, you’ll be able to distribute your tasks accordingly. If you have a 3-hour appointment on Tuesday for example, you’ll know that you can’t assign 15 tasks for that day – you just won’t be able to tackle them all.
STEP 7: DISTRIBUTE YOUR TASKS
Now that you’ve entered all your appointments, go back to your Google Keep lists. Start with the tasks you have to do this week and distribute them throughout your week. Using the themes should make this easier.
Don’t worry about messing up. The wonderful thing about this whole system is that its meant to be adapted to your needs.
Once you’ve marked all your tasks for this week into your agenda, move the tasks from next week into this week on Google Keep.
If there are things to do beyond next week or if you have specific projects you’re working on, you can keep a “To Do This Month” list or use an app like Trello for special projects.
If you have a new task that needs to be scheduled, assign a deadline right away and insert it as a task in Google Calendar. That way you don’t have to start out with a master to-do-list every week.
A quick note on Trello: I use it for all my event planning or major projects and assign deadlines once my lists are written out. I then include each item as a task into Google Calendar so that when it’s time to plan my week, it’s already in my calendar.
STEP 8: COLOUR CODE YOUR DAILY TO-DO-LIST
Now that you have your week planned out, you have 2 tasks to do every morning:
- Review your to-do-list for the day: Do you have new appointments that you need to add? Are there tasks that you know you won’t be able to tackle today and need to move for later in the week? Did new tasks come up that you need to add to your daily list? If so, use your key to add or move any tasks as required.
- Colour code your tasks by priority: The system I use is very simple:
- Blue: appointments
- Yellow: priority 1
- Orange: priority 2
- Pink: priority 3
- Green: priority 4
Essentially, highlight in yellow the tasks that are an absolute priority for the day.
Then, move on to the tasks that should get done next once the yellow tasks are done, those are in orange; followed by pink; then green (feel free to use whatever colour coding system you want).
As a visual person, this is a great way for me to quickly know what I should do first. If I only get my yellow tasks done for the day, I’ll feel like I’ve accomplished something. The other tasks I redistribute across the week or add back into my “next week” list. It also makes my to-do-list for the day look less daunting because I only have 2-3 things that I need to focus on at a time.
Now that you have your system in place, it should be easier for you to tackle your to-do-list!
I’m sure it’s not the ultimate method out there, but it’s the method that works best for me. I hope it helps you tackle your massive to-do-list!
Remember: this is a method that YOU will be using, not anyone else. There is no right or wrong way. So make the system yours!
Let me know how it works out for you!