Is your to-do list overwhelming???
Mine was for years. Then I learned a practice that changed my approach to task management.
Thanks for joining me today if you are visiting from Encouragement for Today, where I’ve written a devotion on procrastination. In it, I promised to share how I manage my to-do list. I’ll get right to it.
For years I tried to manage all I had to do on one list. I tried to prioritize that to-do list using various methods, all without success. I had huge projects next to phone calls. It was just too much to put on one sheet of paper. It was like trying to squeeze my size 9 feet into cute little size 6 shoes. It wasn’t happening.
With one to-do list, I never had an accurate view of all my responsibilities because I instinctively knew certain things didn’t belong there And so I kept piling more on to an already overloaded schedule.
I bought planner after planner, hoping another professional system would help me organize my life. But I couldn’t customize them to my needs, and I ended up investing in a stack of expensive pretty binders. Project management seemed like the answer at one point, and I checked into specialized software – but that wasn’t what I needed.
Finally, inspired again by David’s Allen’s Getting Things Done philosophy, I created something to meet my needs. I made a project management notebook using a 3-ring binder. (yes, I know there is an app for this)
This notebook contains everything I need to do – now and in the future. And then I use an inexpensive spiral notebook for my to-do list. I’ve been using this system for about two years and it is perfect for me. Let me explain how it works.
In the front of my 3-ring binder I have a master list of projects and tasks. A project is anything that requires more than one step to complete. And tasks take just one step. My master list includes things like organizing the writer’s track at She Speaks, making appointments for three of my kids to have their wisdom teeth pulled and writing a small group study for my church.
Behind that, I have full sheets to keep notes for individual projects (included on the master project list) depending on their complexity. This notebook has evolved into a place to keep prayer requests, ideas for future devotions and blog posts, and lists of things I want to do in the future. Basically it keeps lists of things I don’t want to forget. All this is my Project Management Planner.
My to-do list, which is in a cute spiral notebook, only includes the next task needed to move a project forward. And only what I can manage that day or week. These are one-step tasks I choose from the project list based on deadlines. And I normally only include 4-6 items on my to-do list.
By only pulling tasks that I have to get done, my to-do list stays manageable. But I never forget what has to be done because it’s on the master project list.
Then, once a month (or as needed) I update my master list of projects – crossing some off and adding others. Once a week (or as needed), I pull out my current project list notebook and create a to-do list.
Does this sound like it might help you? It’s affordable and it becomes a place to store all those little pieces of paper with scribbled on notes you’ve got cluttering up your fridge, desk and kitchen counter.
You might not need a binder. Maybe you just need that spiral notebook and can dedicate one page to your projects and the following pages to-do lists. Really it all depends on how much you have to do. The concept can be applied in many ways.
So in summary, here’s a step by step approach for you:
1) Get some fresh paper (or blank page on the computer if you insist) and start listing the major projects you’ve already identified and put on your master list. For you this might be put away Christmas decorations. Or organize taxes. These are your project titles.
2) Then list tasks relating to that project below the heading. You may not have all the tasks identified and that’s ok. But if you do, put them with this project. Then go to the next project.
Some things might not seem like a project, but they are similar enough to qualify for one. Let’s say you have lots of mending, and you listed 10 things that need to be mended. Make “Mending” your project heading and list your items under that. Or you might have lots of phone calls. Make “Phone Calls” your project and list who you need to call under that. You also might have one list for random one-step tasks that don’t have anything in common. All this comprises your Project List.
3) Once that’s done, pull 5-10 tasks to put on your to-do list for that day or week depending on the task and how much you can get done.
Using this system, you can add pages for anything you want to remember … books you want to read (or write) someday, places you want to visit, projects you want to tackle someday. This notebook becomes your “safe place” for all those notes you don’t want to forget. And it’s so personalized! If you are really creative (which I’m not) you can even decorate the cover.
I hope this idea is helpful. My friend Julie tried it for herself and here’s what she told me: “I’ve implemented your project notebook idea. … I absolutely love, love love it! It’s helping me stay focused and organized and keeps all my ideas in one place. It’s literally changed my life.”
It’s changed mine too.
Grace & Peace,