Creating A To Do List

Okay, so today I am talking about the dreaded “To Do” lists.  I have been avoiding writing out these lists for years now.  Every now and then I would try to start one up but it would quickly be forgotten within a day or two.   They kind of seemed like a waste of time and I really didn’t stick with them half the time anyways.
Unfortunately, as I have gotten older, I seem to have more things to do and less ability to remember everything.  Mommy brain has taken its toll and I have finally come to the realization that a written “To Do List” is needed.  I think one of the main reasons, that I have not followed through with a To Do list in the past, was because I was trying to follow someone else’s list.  I think that the best plans are ones that you create to work specifically for your lifestyle and your family. The more “custom” it is, the more likely you are to use it.
So….I have been working on creating my ideal “To Do List Method” {doesn’t that sound very official?} for the past month now and have finally figured out something that works for me.  Hopefully this all makes sense to you and will give you a starting point to create your own method.  Trust me, it sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is.
Find a fun To Do List binder.
If you are going to be looking at your To Do list daily, it might as well be pretty!  I love the Martha Stewart office line at Staples and purchased the 5 1/5 x 7 1/2 binder as well as a few of the colorful accessories.  I also hot glued a flower on to one of the elastic closures {left over from my Initial Wreath last year} to dress it up a bit.  I love pink and aqua together!  Keep this binder OUT AND VISIBLE at all times!!! Do not put it away in a drawer where it will be forgotten.
Create a daily task list.
I have a list of jobs that should be done daily no matter what.  I try to keep this list to 1 hour or less.  For me this includes:
  • making my bed and ensuring that the kids have made theirs
  • 1 complete load of laundry {wash, dry, fold and put away}
  • at least 15 minutes of tidying at the end of the day {that the kids do with me}
  • sweeping or vacuuming the kitchen floor
  • 10-15 minutes of organizing.  This can include collecting items for donation, cleaning out a drawer, sorting through paper, etc.
  • water outside flowers {one day I do the front and the next day I do the back}
Obviously, there are other things that get done daily around the house such as cleaning up after cooking, doing dishes, wiping down counters, etc. but I really don’t feel the need to write every little task down.
Create a “Master To Do List”
The Master To Do List is basically just a big, running list of things that need to be done.  Anytime I think of something that I need to do that is outside of my daily routines {no matter how small!}, I write it down on the Master To Do list.  This is what I refer to when I make my Daily To Do list.  Once it is transferred to my daily list, it gets crossed off {yay!}
Create a Daily To Do List
On top of my daily tasks, every night I write down three “Must Do” activities that need to be done the following day {these are pulled from the Master To Do List}.  Only having three things makes it less overwhelming and more likely that I will actually be able to achieve it.  Tasks can include something as simple as making a phone call or making an appointment to something more involved such as grocery shopping or a particular cleaning task.  On days that I work, I make sure the jobs are quick and something that I can easily accomplish in 15-20 minutes.   If I happen to have extra time {which is a rarity!!}, there is always plenty more on the Master To Do list that can be done.  There are days, of course, that even the “Must Dos” don’t get done – they are simply transferred to the next day at the top of the priority list!
When you are creating your daily list, make sure you keep things REALISTIC.  I cannot stress how important this is.  You want to set yourself up for success rather than failure.  Think about how much time you will have the next day, and pick your jobs accordingly.  If it is too hard to get done, you will not do it!!
Create a Basic Cleaning Schedule
Most of the cleaning schedules that I have come across have been way too detailed for me and often have many jobs that I rarely do. Too many things on the list just stress me out.  I just write down “clean the bathroom” rather than every little detail that needs to be done.  I’m pretty good at knowing that the toilet needs to be cleaned.
For the most part, I also don’t have Monday jobs, Tuesday jobs, etc. like most of the cleaning schedules do.  Far too often, something would come up on Monday and my whole week would be thrown off. Instead I have a rotating list of basic jobs that I work my way through.  Once I am done I start back at the beginning.  It’s not very exciting but here’s my list:
dust main floor
vacuum main floor
clean main floor bathroom
dust upstairs
vacuum upstairs
clean upstairs bathroom
clean ensuite
vacuum main floor {this gets done again since this is where the high traffic areas are and our dog lives!}
wash main floor where needed {this is often just the kitchen}
clean main floor bathroom {again, the most used bathroom and the one guests see!}
dust basement
vacuum basement
clean basement bathroom
It usually takes me about 1 1/2 weeks to get through everything and maybe even a bit longer.  With 4 boys in the house, the bathrooms often need quick touch ups in between, but I have all of the cleaning supplies in each bathroom so this can be done in a couple of minutes.
Create a Month at a Glance
I always like to be able to see the whole month at one glance and I try to fit as much information on here as I can.  Daily activities, appointments, blog posts, birthdays, work days, etc. all goes on here.
Now here is the one thing that irritated me with the Martha Stewart binder: the monthly calendars are not available in Canada for some reason.  I’m not sure if they think we use a different calendar up here or what, but there was no way {either ordering in stores or online} for me to purchase one.  And just to tease us a little more, ALL of the displays feature a big picture of the monthly calendars.  Oh the pitfalls of living in Canada!
{this is my Non-Martha Stewart calendar!}
Well, I really hope I haven’t scared you off with all of my lists.  It really is so much easier than it sounds. Once you have found what works for you, it only takes a couple of minutes per day to keep up with the plan.
Still don’t believe me that you need to come up with a “To Do List Method”?
In addition to keeping me much more organized and on task, here are some other added benefits that I have found.
  • Once you have written something down, you no longer have to think about it.  It is amazing how much clearer your mind can feel. Too many thoughts running around in your mind just creates a big jumbled mess!
  • Improved Sleep.  I seem to find that I fall asleep much quicker at night {rather than thinking in my mind about what I forgot to do today and what I need to do tomorrow}.  There have also been no episodes of waking up at 2:00 in the morning and realizing that I missed something important the day before!
  • Creating a daily “To Do” list helps you to prioritize what actually needs to be done.  Since the most important tasks have been done, it is easier to relax and not worry about the rest.
  • By creating and following a realistic plan, there is a much greater feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day.  The focus is more on what you have done rather than on what you haven’t done.  Just this simple change of mindset makes a big difference!
I am still tweaking a couple of things on my lists, but I will be sharing them {as well as some others that I have found around the web!} towards the end of the week. I am trying to make my lists to share as customizable as possible so you can tweak them to your own liking!
So who uses “To Do” lists on a regular basis?  What works for you?  I’d love to hear!  Have a great week!UPDATE: If you would like more ideas on how to make to do lists fun and my free printable, head on over HERE.

Want to stay connected?  You can always find me here…

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  1. says

    Thank your for sharing these fabulous tips! It’s always so rewarding to see all the items crossed of my list; it’s a visual reminder of how much I’ve accomplished. My schedule has undergone so many different changes lately that I’ve gotten a little behind in using my “system”. Your post has given me the shot-in-the-arm I needed. It couldn’t have come at a better time. Thanks again!

  2. says

    I LOVE your todo list binder! I am new to todo lists. But I have been getting better about writing down and marking off the list for about the last month. I must say, I am much more organized and am getting more done. Now I just need a cute binder like yours!

  3. says

    I live by my to do lists sometimes. It helps me remember everything that I have to do on a day that I am going to be busy. I have trouble on the days that I don’t necessarily have a lot to do cause I feel as though the days with to do lists need to be scheduled lol. Maybe I micromanage everything!

  4. Anonymous says

    Do you include meal planning on a list? How does that fit into your schedule? It always gets dropped on mine and I am always getting caught without well planned meals and scrambling at the last minute!

  5. says

    Hi Anonymous! I am easing into this list thing so meal planning will be a whole other project for me!! I have put it on my To Do list though! lol! I will hopefully get a chance to work on it over the next month or two.
    Jenn :)

  6. says

    What a great post! I know I need to create daily planner binder for myself. I have tried many times earlier, but just never found the correct system for me. I have tried both paper (notepad and filofax) and apps (on my ipad) but I just keep forgetting about it.

    I do LOVE your idea about a rotating list! That is something I shall incorperate in my not-yet-exsisting planner!

  7. says

    I am a huge list maker Jenn, so I love this! I really like the idea of separating things in your binder by category and not just putting everything on a daily sheet… the blog section, the kids section, etc… I may have to steal that idea!!! Thanks again! Love your blog!!

  8. says

    I will also add that I have been a long time user of Franklin Covey products, for work, school and home to-do’s… but I may check out the Martha Stewart line!

  9. says

    I love this post even though I am not a list maker. I do have a wonderful friend that even makes lists to go to yard sales….I am sending her this post :)


  10. says

    Oh this is excellent! I have been using my day timer for a similar idea but it is not as detailed; I really love your binder and need to get myself a bigger book and a good “command center” to place it! I also love how you shared what you do for chores, makes me realize it is possible to have a manageable day haha. I’m definitely going to try to hop on this to do list bandwagon!

  11. says

    My to do lists are usually scattered around my house on various sheets of paper! This is definitely a much better alternative. It’s more enjoyable to complete a checklist when it looks this adorable! I would love it if you’d link up at Off the Hook.

  12. says

    That binder is beautiful, I love it! I still haven’t been to Staples to see Martha’s line, but this makes me really want to go and see it! Thanks for the tips!

  13. says

    this makes wonderful sense! lists are how i operate.. but i have yet to really figure out a system that works for me on an everyday basis. i have tried so many different things. i have kind of given up on the cleaning list.. but i like your rotating idea. thanks!

  14. Karen says

    I just bought a Greenroom small binder from Target. I really wanted to Filofax, but they are too expensive. This is a great post that’s giving me ideas of how I can really flesh out what I need to do! I was wondering also where you got your monthly pages? They looks so simple, and don’t involve a lot of color. I go for a more minimalist look in my calendar because color just eats up my expensive printer ink!

  15. Melaina says

    Awesome post!! I can’t wait to go to Walmart/Staple to get mine started, where did you find the first thing in your binder that you keep your sticky notes and tabs on?? That’s exactly the kind of thing I need/look for!!

  16. Sarah says

    Thanks for sharing this! Do you mind if I share this file with a genealogy group? We love anything to help us stay organized! I’ll be sure to link give credit to you!

  17. Jenn says

    Could you post an example of each tab and what your master list and daily list look like. I’d like to see pictures if you don’t mind. I really want to do this, but I am starting from scratch. How do you keep from missing things, do you keep flipping back and forth?

    • says

      This is an older post and I have adapted my method somewhat. I am going to be posting my new To Do list that I have been using for the last couple of months soon. For this method, the master list is just a running list of things that I want to get done. It is generally pesky tasks {like replace the lightbulbs} or bigger household tasks. I use a binder so more pages can be added if needed. I just cross off what I have done and move down the list. For the daily list, I do flip back to the master list to see what I plan to get done on that day from the list or I add things that have come up that need to be done {such as call for a doctor appointment or vacuum the main floor}. I also have a daily cleaning routine that I follow that you can read about here…
      I don’t put these on my to-do list as they are more just daily habits that I do automatically. Hope that helps!


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