Tuesday | To Do Day

I’ve tried lots (read: dozens) of ways to make a “to do” list. I’ve bought several (read: dozens) of notebooks and cute journals to write down all of my “to dos”. I’ve bought red pens, and sparkly gold pens…I’ve converted to making lists on my iPhone and syncing to my computer.

All of these things work for a time, but then I lose the note book, or I don’t have my special pen, so I just don’t make the list that day and I get flustered because I don’t know what’s next. I remember that I can use my phone, but then it seems to be more hassle than it’s worth!

Since the beginning of this year, I’ve found several different methods that go beyond the traditional list. I haven’t completely stuck to any one of them, but I’ve found a hybrid that’s been working for me…

First, at the beginning of 2012 I began writing down everything that’s on my mind at the end of the day. These are things I want to accomplish in the next day, the next month, the next year. This is a concept from Lara Casey over at Making Things Happen  called “downloading”. I’ve used pen and paper, my phone and my computer. I ended up keeping a Google Doc of this running list. Now, that might seem unwieldy with all of those thoughts just upchucked onto a page, but what happens is, once I put it somewhere (not in my head), I all of a sudden experience clarity.

It doesn’t stop there though…

Once everything is out of your head, you can then get to work on what needs to be done. Choose three things on the list that either have to be done the next day, or you really want to work on first. I usually go to the low-hanging fruit first, but that’s not necessary because the things you’ve chosen to tackle don’t need to be fully completed…you just need to start them. (And we’ve established I’m really good at starting things (but not so much finishing them), so this part feels really easy. Essentially, take the first thing on your list, for me it might be: “Go run 4 miles today”. Then, break it down into steps …and not ALL of the steps, but the first 3 steps that you would need to do to start.

1. Find running shoes

2. put on running clothes

3. put on running shoes

Once I’ve done that I’m practically out the door.

Another (slightly more complex) example: Re-design website (yeah, told you…where do you even start with something like this?).

1. Think of colors I like

2. Write down colors I like

3. Look for combinations of these colors on Pinterest

That’s it! Now, that is far, far away from my site redesign being completed, but it is a start. Let me say that again, “it is a start”. And, as we know, just thinking about beginning a project is often enough to stop us from doing it at all. Ever. So why not trick your brain into it?

So what do you do from there? You keep making action steps until the task is complete. And then, you cross it off your list…the one on your desk and more importantly the one in your head. Then, your brain can move on!

As I said, this one was working smashingly well, but for some reason I stopped doing it. Maybe it just hadn’t quite become a habit yet? During that time I reverted to making list after jumbled list and often found myself just staring at it and then become annoyed when I didn’t finish everything on it in one day. That’s when I found another gem of a post on Justin & Mary’s site from guest blogger: Katelyn JamesWhat she does is create a master list of everything that needs to be done in her notebook. Then, she picks out the things she needs to do that day and writes them on a sticky note and places that sticky note on top of the master list. Once she finishes things, she crosses them off. By the end of the day everything is crossed off of the sticky and she can throw it away. She can then cross it off of the master list and move on.

I’ve begun to combine these two methods into one. And guess what? IT WORKS! I’ve gone back to writing the list out in a notebook. I look to this master list for the things I want to tackle the next day and write them on a sticky. Under each item, I make a list of the first 3 steps I need to do to begin to accomplish the task. If there are more steps that need to be done to complete the entire task, I re-write the list with the next steps. At the end of the day, I throw away the sticky and cross those things off of my master list. Finally, before I go to bed, I re-write the master list, so that I get that relief from getting everything off of my mind and onto that page!

Do you have any tricks for how you make a to-do list that gets you to actually DO the things on it? I’d love to hear them (because, as usual, this is a work in a progress)!



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