To-do lists. The thought makes some of us cringe, while it fills others with joy. Maybe you’re the type that has them posted everywhere you turn. Maybe you keep a handy note open on your phone for your to do list. Maybe you’re the type that makes all the lists and then loses them. And maybe you just forego the lists altogether.
This time of year always seems extra busy with the changing seasons, new routines beginning, and general school time busyness. You can be sure that I have to-do lists out the wazoo 🙂 But lately I have noticed that while some to-do lists are effective, others fall pitifully to the wayside.
This got me thinking. What makes a good to-do list strategy? Obviously, we will all have different tendencies and methods, and my goal isn’t to tell you to do exactly what works for me – because chances are your personality is different and you’ll need a different system anyway.
But there are principles that are consistent when it comes to making a to-do list effective….
1. Be realistic. I am the queen of unrealistic to-do lists. Which brought me to the realization that a one-size-fits-all list just won’t work. So I now have a list for the day, week, month, foreseeable future (those things that aren’t urgent that I just hate doing 😉 ), etc. This keeps me from stressing when the whole list doesn’t get done, and helps me to prioritize and ensure that the necessary items are completed on time.
2. Keep it visible. I had requested that my husband make a phone call that was mundane and not interesting. But it definitely needed done. After asking several times over several weeks, I requested that he write it down so that it would get done. He proceeded to write it at the bottom of our meal list for the week that was hanging on the fridge. The problem with this? He never looks at the meal list … he usually just asks me what the plan is for dinner and if he’s on tap to cook that evening. Needless to say, the phone call was not made because of the note on the fridge that only I saw. It did however get made when he finally made a list for himself one day with that item on it. Hooray!
3. Don’t conform. Just because I keep a running list on my phone of my to-do list doesn’t mean you need to. Just because the ladies at church all talk about their strategy for keeping it straight, or the PTA parents all seem to have the same system, this doesn’t mean you have to follow it! It is critical that you use to-do lists that work for you – or else they just won’t work.
My calendar sometimes serves as a pseudo-list. But if you asked me to keep my calendar on a phone that could die or get lost or stolen, my stress levels rise unreasonably high. So I’m one of those old souls that still keep a hand-written planner, that is sometimes full of sticky notes as well. The point? I have different notes for lists based on when the items need done, my lists are visible because I look at my planner OFTEN, and I’m doing what works for me, not what you’ve told me I should be doing.
As we seek to keep a balance in our lives this fall, make sure to evaluate how you structure your to-do lists, and make sure that your system is as effective as possible for helping you enjoy life instead of being bound to stressful to-do lists 🙂