Toss the To-Do List and Make a Checklist Instead

Allwords.com defines a to-do list this way:

          To-do list, noun

1.  A list of errands and other tasks – often written on a piece of paper as a memory aid – that one needs or intends to accomplish.

I get discouraged making a to-do list every day because I rarely get much or any of it done.  I want to.  I need to.  But life happens and I’m constantly changing my plans.  The end result is a to-do list that’s not done, or even close to done.  And on top of fighting “life”, I’m fighting myself because a to-do list sometimes makes me feel a bit claustrophobic.  It’s like part of me says:  “I’m not doing that list and you can’t make me.”  My husband always says:  “But you made the list!”  It doesn’t matter who made it – it’s still telling me what to do.

So if you’re like me and a to-do list makes you want to run the other way, maybe you should re-think your planning strategy and try a little mind game I came up with to accommodate my distaste for a bossy to-do list.  Instead of a to-do list, I have a “checklist”.  My homemade planner pages are divided into three sections:  daily chores, other things do today, and need to do sometime.  The daily chores are the tasks I need to do every day, like read my Bible, tidy the house, do laundry, make dinner, etc.  That’s where the checklist comes in.  The list of daily chores is typed and is on every page.  I think of it more as a “checklist” than a to-do list.  If I don’t get one or all of those things done, my life won’t fall apart.  However, life does go a lot better if I get most of them done most of the time.  But I don’t have to.  That’s the key – it’s not a to-do list but a checklist.  Instead of a list telling me what to do, it’s like a gentle suggestion.

The second section, other things do today, is definitely bossing me.  But hey, some things just have to be done whether you like it or not.  I try to keep that list short; just a little bossing.

The third section is for things that need done sometime.  I mark the more important ones with a star to indicate they should probably be done this week.  But it’s still more of a suggestion than an order.  I fit them in when I can.

So maybe you need to try the checklist strategy, too.  Maybe a to-do list is actually having the opposite effect and making you less productive.  Try a checklist and see what you think.  And I’d love to know if there’s anyone else out there in planner land who doesn’t like being bossed by a list.

Comments

  1. I don’t like being bossed by a list either so my (non-working) strategy has been to try to keep it all in my head but as my kids get older (and perhaps as I get older as well), the amount of items in my head is exceeding my memory capacity! I really like this idea and may have to give it a try.

    • It works well for me. I analyzed my life and realized that my days are really unpredictable. Sometimes I have more time than I thought but I don’t have a list made. Other times I have less time than I thought and I have too much on my list. And other times I don’t want to work from a list. So this list gives me the best of all worlds. It really does work well for my psycho time management style.

  2. Yep. Definitely needed this today :)

  3. I really like this idea. Too many times I find my to do list ends up being a list of things I did not do and/or a list of things I don’t want to do now that I added them to the list … (Stopping by from SITS)

  4. Great idea. Stupid, bossy to-do list. Ugh!

    One thing I’ve started doing lately is more for those when-I-get-to-it or when-I-have-a-few-minutes-and-am-feeling-productive moments. I have a magnetic board in my room with things that make me happy. It also has a few things I want to remember. And it has small, multi-colored post-it notes with only one thing on each. A thank you note I need to write. The nylons I need to remember to buy. I like the bright colors; they make me happy. And because there is only one thing on each note, when I have done it I get to throw it away. Instant satisfaction!

    Happy Sharefest. Have a great weekend.

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