I might as well start with the painful truth. There is no way to get it “all done” unless you have very low standards and no goals, which I’m sure doesn’t apply to my readers. Still, we can’t let that cause us to simply throw in the towel and settle in for yet another Netflix marathon. The key to feeling at least a modest amount of satisfaction in our daily accomplishments is a well-crafted to-do list.
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How To Create a To-Do List
I know there are those who don’t make to-do lists but I honestly don’t understand how that works. They either have a much better memory or far less to do than I. But hey, if it works…
For the rest of us, though, a to-do list can make life a lot less stressful. I know that when that “OMG! I have so much to do!” thing is swirling around my head like a swarm of irritating gnats, simply sitting down with a pen and piece of paper to make a list can help calm the crazies. At least a little bit.
Here is my step-by-step guide to creating a to-do list:
Choose Your Format
There are paper-people and digital-people. I happen to be a paper-person, despite my general love of technology. I find something cathartic in the physical act of taking pen to paper. On the other hand, having your lists with you on your phone and other devices can certainly be handy. You just have to decide which works best for you.
If you prefer keeping your to-do list digitally, I’ve included a few popular list apps a bit further down in this post. There are many, many others. You may have to try a few until you find one you like.
For those of us who prefer paper, there are several methods. Even the old “back of an envelope” system can work if your daily lists are short and simple. However, since I’m all about “creating a beautiful life” I think there are better options.
- There are pre-printed to-do lists available in notepad form. Simply tear off a sheet each day and write your list.
- Use one of the many free, printable lists available online.
- Create your own form online and print them. (I designed one many years ago but it didn’t transfer when I switched from a P.C. to a Mac)
- Use a spiral bound notebook or a bullet journal.
- Use an index card. These are cheap and easy to tuck in your purse or pocket.
- Sticky notes. If your daily to-do list is short you can jot it on a sticky note and put it on your computer, refrigerator or some other place where you’ll see it.
- Use a full-size piece of paper on a clipboard.
Consider Your Roles
When you sit down to create your list, consider the various roles you play. Mom, wife, employee, volunteer, etc. This will help you remember what you need to do. Your list may include such things as:
- soccer practice or music lessons for kids
- pick up husband’s dry cleaning
- outline project at work
- make phone calls for upcoming charity
If you’re like most of us, each day holds the possibility of more tasks than you’ll have time for. Or something unexpected comes up and all of a sudden you have less time than you thought you’d have.
That’s why it’s important to prioritize your list. There are a variety of ways to do this. Some people like to assign a priority number or letter to each item on their list. I write the most important items within each category at the top or maybe put a star by them. In addition to indicating priority within each category, I also will often pick the top three things I have to do for the day, no matter which category they are in. It doesn’t matter how you do it but by focusing on your priority items first, you’ll at least have the important things done if (when?) the day gets away from you for one reason or another.
A Balanced Life
Be sure to include time for yourself on your list. This might be time for a hobby, working on a personal goal or simply downtime. Be intentional about setting aside a little time for something just for you.
When to Make Your Daily List
It’s best to make your to-do list the night before. I like to sit down with a cup of tea, look over that day’s list and then create tomorrow’s. I can check with my husband and coordinate plans for the next day. I can take something from the freezer for the next day’s dinner. If I have a meeting or appointment of some type I can gather any materials I might need. Most importantly for me, I get things off my mind and onto paper before I go to bed. This is extremely important for insomniacs.
How I Make My List
I use the clipboard method, something I started doing back in the mid-90s when I was working as a hospice nurse. I needed something to write nursing notes on when in patient homes and a clipboard worked well. Over the years I’ve tried various methods but always come back to the clipboard.
The clipboard I’m using right now is aqua with white polka dots and I use lavender computer paper. It doesn’t cost any more to use a pretty color so why not?
I use a full sheet for each day. At the top I write “Create a Beautiful Life” which serves as a daily reminder. Under that I write the date. I then divide the page into sections:
- Home (cleaning tasks, laundry, cooking)
- Work (blog-related tasks, volunteer work, our music business)
- Dinner (from the weekly menu I have already created)
- To Go (appointments, errands, etc.)
- To Buy (I jot down things as I think of them and later transfer to Any List, an app on my phone)
- “Pour Moi” which is French for “For Me” (play the piano, afternoon tea, porch time, etc.)
Sometimes I have a group of related tasks which need to be done over the course of the week but not on any specific day. Instead of writing all of them every day, several days in a row, I will list them on a sticky note and then transfer that note each day until all are crossed off.
Tip: Take a picture of your list. If I am going to be away from home and have things on my list that I may want access to, I simply take a picture of my list with my phone. I then have it with me without taking my clipboard.
To Do List Apps
What about you? Do you make a daily to-do list? If so, do you prefer digital or paper? I’m always looking for ways to improve my productivity systems so if you have any suggestions please leave me a comment.
Just for fun: