Tie Your To-Do List in With Your Schedule for Greater Productivity

planner schedule and to-do list

planner schedule and to-do list

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I was reminded the other day that my to-do list must be tied in with my schedule in order for it to be effective.  Have you ever had one of those days when you were productive in spite of yourself?  That was my Monday.

I had a reasonable to-do list and actually got quite a bit done but I felt scattered all day.  I was easily distracted and flitted from one thing to another.  My mind felt unorganized.

It was like trying to make a recipe that only gives you a list of ingredients.  You might be able to combine the ingredients in such a way that you end up with something edible.  But you might not have a clue how to put them together.  And even if you get lucky and do it right, you go through the process unsure of yourself and what you’re doing.  The end result might be okay but the process is stressful.

For me, a to-do list centered around my schedule clears my head and makes me more productive.  It’s like having a recipe with a list of ingredients (to-do list) AND the instructions (how & when to get them done)!  I can’t always carry it out the way I planned, but it’s a lot easier to make a Plan B when you have a Plan A to work from.

In case you’re wondering, here’s how I usually do it:

1.       Using the schedule part of my daily page, I mark off what I KNOW I have to do.

planner page

2.       Then, in the prioritized daily task list section, I write what I need or want to do that day.  Currently I’m dividing my page into three sections:  MUST do; SHOULD do and Blog To-Do’s.  I didn’t list very many items on this day because I knew I wasn’t going to have much time.  That’s one benefit to tying your to-do list in with your schedule – if you see that you have a full schedule, you know it’s pointless to make a long list.

planner schedule & to-do

3.       Then I figure out when I’m going to do the items on my list.  One way of marking the items is to use numbers (this isn’t my favorite way).

planner page

Another way is to write the tasks directly on the schedule section.  In this example, I highlighted activities instead of using the diagonal lines.  Green represents errands.  Filled in yellow means the grandkids are here and awake.  “Here and awake” means I might be able to do some quick tasks or I might be on the floor building with Legos.  I just never know.  A yellow outline represents the times the grandkids are here but are sleeping.  During those times I should be able to get some things done.  Notice I said should.  It doesn’t always work out that way.

planner page

If you use this method, it’s helpful to mark the task list items in some way so you know you accounted for them on the schedule.  A very small check mark works well.

planner page

You don’t have to have a two page per day layout like I do to use this method.  It can work well with a vertical weekly, too.  You could even make it work with a horizontal weekly if you’re creative.  And, of course, there’s always the custom page option.  Something like this would work well (the first section on the left is morning, the second is afternoon and the third is evening):

Planner - blank page with 3 rows

But however you do it, your to-do list will work best if you tie it in with your schedule.  Then you’ll know what you need to do, whether you can actually get it done and when to do it.

Do you consider your schedule when you make your to-do list?

 More time management/planner articles are available in the Time Management Index.


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Born in Kentucky, I am a wife and mom to 1 son and 2 daughters . I have an ink pen obsession, as well as a love for all things planner. I have been married for 10 years to my high school crush. I am a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

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10 thoughts on “Tie Your To-Do List in With Your Schedule for Greater Productivity

  1. Slightly off topic but not really. .. how are you getting along in the classic size fc?
    Super post, Patty, as usual 🙂

    1. Thank you, Joanne.

      I’m struggling with the classic. I’m not positive I need that much room and I definitely don’t like carrying it. I think I just want something different. That doesn’t necessarily mean I “need” something different, though.

  2. You always have the best ideas! I usually do consider my schedule when planning my week ahead. One thing I’ve been struggling with lately is that my schedule has been fairly unpredictable since I’ve started subbing over at the preschool. I always hate to say no when my biggest commitments for a day they call might be clean house and go to the grocery store so I end up not getting very much done. Do you have any ideas for how to plan when your days are completely unpredictable?

    1. Jean: My life is unpredictable, too. I’ve been trying for a while to figure out the best way to handle planning since it definitely makes it more complicated. The worst part is that I like to piddle. So on days I don’t have anything scheduled, I tend to move slower and do things in the order I want to instead of working on priorities first. Then something happens and I end up working on my priorities at the end of the day when I’m exhausted or not getting them done at all.

      I’ve written a couple of posts about this:

      I think that when your life is unpredictable, you need to figure out what you HAVE to do that day and work on those tasks FIRST – even if you don’t want to. When the high priority tasks are done, you can work on the rest of your list. If you get nothing else done but those, at least the most important things are done. Obviously at some point the other things need done, too, but hopefully every day isn’t nuts.

      An important thing, though, is to have more on your list than just priorities (if you think you’ll have time to do more). Then if you get those priorities done, you know what to do next. One problem I had was that when I had a full day and no time to do tasks, I didn’t make a list. Then if my day fell apart and I suddenly had time, I didn’t know what to do. Other days when I had nothing planned and piddled, something came up and I wasn’t prepared and my priorities were abandoned or done late at night.

      So the only solution I’ve come up with for an unpredictable lifestyle is to have your lists ready and work on priorities first.

  3. Although I’m using (and loving) a FC 2 page per day with a time block column, I’ve had to make up a template showing an entire week of vertical timed days and block that out just to get the big picture. I tend to work from a weekly list and the weekly time blocks let me see the big chunks of time available for my projects. Then I put them on my daily pages at the beginning of the week. The days then fill up with “little rocks” but the big ones are already on the day page so I don’t forget. And because I use Frixion pens (or pencils) I can change my time blocks and reallocate tasks as life happens and things change.

    1. Christine: I do weekly planning like that, too – when my schedule is overwhelming. I have a template I use (from Franklin Covey) and once I put everything on my weekly page (kind of like working a puzzle), I switch it to my daily. I rarely look at the weekly again – it just helps me see the big picture. I wrote about it here:

      I need to get some of those Frixion pens. I’ve heard a lot about them and they seem like they could be very handy.

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