Using “To-Do” Lists to Organize Yourself

Don't Let the Details Get You Down

Using “To-Do” Lists to Organize Yourself

If you find yourself overwhelmed by everything on your plate, turn to the tried and true “To-Do” list to get on track.

I’m drowning in details. I have a lot on the go, as most of us can relate to. Summer is shifting into the busy-ness of Fall. The Kid has started Grade One and we’re gearing up for a full extra-curricular schedule. And work continues to be busy. Ridiculously busy.

My job is heavy on details and lots of ‘em. Trying to tame the tornado of details flying around me is not for the faint of heart. So when I’m inundated by it all, I go back to basics to get a handle on everything…

Write it All Down

The “To-Do” list is the basis of all organizing for me. I feel better when things are noted down on paper or into my computer. When things are officially recorded I know they won’t be forgotten. This quiets the little voice inside my head that is constantly reminding me of things that need to be done. The result is many super duper long “To-Do” lists for all of the various parts of my life.

Make a List Within a List Within a List

Looking at these lists every day really freaks me out. They are totally overwhelming. So I break them down into bite-sized chunks. I take the huge lists and organize them into a set of somewhat smaller sub-lists based around time or around a particular project. Then I create another sub-set that is relevant for a shorter amount of time, like a week. And lastly, I make daily task lists that cut across the different projects.

Try to be Realistic

I try to keep daily lists to a number of items that are *somewhat* realistic to get done in a day (or two). This way my list seems doable and I am not setting myself up to fail. I want to focus on the things that can and should be accomplished in a day, not bummed about the 5,000 incomplete items on my bigger lists.

Get Priorities Straight

To create these daily lists, I need to prioritize. Sometimes these priorities scream out at me, “Complete me today since I am overdue!” Other things have just been on the list for so long that their time has come to be done. But whichever way you slice it, something’s gotta give. Some things make the cut and others are put on the back burner for another day.

Focus on What You’re Doing

The key to feeling ok about setting priorities is to accept your choices and not focus on what isn’t getting done. This is much easier said than done. I have a really hard time with this. I have to keep reminding myself that I can’t do it all. If I put off emailing a good friend for another day (or week… or two…) to get one more work item checked off the list, I try not to worry about it and trust my decisions.

Take a Look at the Big Picture

It’s hard to know when to step back and take a look at the big picture. There never seems to be a good time to do it. Sometimes I just wish I could hit the pause button on life to be able to have a moment to regroup. But even though that’s not going to happen, I find that I really need to take time to gain some perspective on all that has to be done.

When I do take the time to step back, I find it really helpful to put systems in place for things that happen on a regular basis. It makes it easier to get them done and ultimately saves me time in the end. Ironically is it often the times when I am the busiest that I really need to do this. Fingers crossed I’ll be able to do a bit of this in the coming week!