Take Control of the To-Do List

Most of us are carrying around scraps of paper with daily or weekly to-do lists. They are often a mix of urgent tasks and casual plans, things we want to do and things we would like to avoid. At the end of the day we probably have a few items crossed off, while others are carried over. In general, they are a jumble of good intentions that just need a bit of planning and organization to become accomplishments.

Begin with a look at what’s on the list

-Household items/ groceries needed: bread, light bulbs, copy paper
-Errands and daily goals: pick up dry cleaning, work out at gym, phone for appointment
-Projects for the home or office: get ready for garage sale, reorganize filing system
-Long-term goals and projects: landscape back yard, create new sales campaign

Make your list more efficient: consolidate and delegate

– Plan ahead to group errands or items you need to buy. Picking up bread, the dry cleaning, and a card for mother’s birthday will take up a lot of time if each item is a separate trip. Save time and energy by blocking such items together, and planning your route to make one big circle in the car. If you have a child in sports, music, or dance lessons, consider making that time your “errand hour” for the week. Drop him off, do the errand loop, and pick him up on the way back.

– Make all family members a part of the team by delegating; if it’s a well-planned list, perhaps your spouse can look after it while you do the grocery shopping. Maybe your teenager can do the errands after school one day a week. Others may be capable of changing the furnace filter, getting the oil changed, or returning library books.

– Keep a section of the list for ten-minute-or-less tasks. We waste an amazing amount of time waiting for someone to finish dressing before we can leave, for the kids to get out of school, for the pizza to be ready for pick-up. These are perfect opportunities to pick up the phone and make an appointment, to write a thank-you note, to make a quick walk to the mailbox, or to do some sit-ups.

If you’re not crossing off items, or are carrying over items too often, give them some special attention

– Maybe it’s too big an item for the daily or weekly list. Set up a separate list of big projects. Divide them into smaller steps which can be accomplished in 15 minutes to half an hour. Put one of those items on your list; it’s more likely to get started. Reduce “organize filing cabinet” to “clear out Travel file.”

– Sometimes things get postponed because we have no idea where to start. Booking a vacation in Italy, buying a car, finding a new recipe for the next dinner party, replacing the kitchen floor… sometimes the first step needs to be “get information.” Go to the library, phone for a brochure, set aside half an hour for research on the internet.

– If something has been postponed week after week, ask yourself: is it something you don’t want to do, or don’t need to do? If it’s something you know must be done, but you’d rather not (like the appointment for your mammogram) schedule it with a little reward (picking up travel brochures.) If it’s something you don’t really need to do (like ironing your bedsheets) give yourself permission to let it go. Sometimes it’s okay to drop things from the schedule.

“Well begun is half done,” says Aristotle, and Mary Poppins (How could you ignore such a dynamic duo?)

Shorten the daily list, and make it a commitment.
Have a weekly set of errands, and a scheduled time to do them.
Set a target date for long-term projects, and break each one down into manageable tasks that can go on the weekly list.

A Professional Organizer can help you:

– Reduce your stress
– Be more productive
– Have more free time
– Have more energy
– Enjoy the space you live and work in

Working together, we can replace the clutter in your home or office- and the chaos in your life- with calm and control.

How can I make your life easier today?

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