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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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):
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.