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Reality Check: I’m Obsessed With Lists

April 24, 2014

It’d be one thing if my daily lists looked like this:

  • Make Lexie purr
  • Hug J-slice
  • Kiss John
  • Call my Mom

I’d be all about that. They’re manageable tasks, it’s setting myself up for success, and I’d feel accomplished. Alas, that is not reality.

I make lists for everything: work to-dos, grocery items needed, things I need to do at home, goal breakdowns, blog post ideas, and things I need to remember. When I die, I’ll probably croak with a pen in my hand, a list scribbled in front of me, several in my phone (or whatever technology we’re up to at the time), and one in my pocket. And later you’ll find that I left my loved ones several lists for how to handle my affairs. haha. Probably not far from the truth!

My to-do lists are my biggest problem. They’re so ineffective!

At work, I’m five weeks into testing the “three goals” concept of setting three goals for a day and that’s it. Honestly… some days it works and some days it doesn’t. I haven’t figured out why except to say that my brain is wired differently than that type of list-making requires. So, I really don’t have an effective solution there.

I definitely don’t have an effective solution at home either. I start building my weekend to-do list on Thursday. (It’s a disease, I swear). My lists often end up containing 15-20 to-dos which is completely overwhelming. I try to add easy things like “go to work” (I work Saturday mornings) or “plan meals” (which I do every Sunday without fail). Crossing those off makes me feel great but it also makes me look for the easy tasks on the list and inevitably I end up avoiding the difficult, time-consuming tasks. I’m a procrastinator!

reality check

Here’s my reality check: my current to-do list methods are not working. Write down (read: make a list – hahaha) of what’s working and what’s not; ruthlessly scrap what isn’t working and try something new.

What works for me:

  • planning ahead
  • being able to see what’s coming up so that I can be ready for it
  • starting my to-do list items with a verb
  • prioritizing my list
  • figuring out when I can realistically do something before putting it on the list
  • working backwards
  • building in something fun or giving myself a reward

What doesn’t work for me:

  • brain-dump lists (they’ll never get done)
  • only doing the easy things
  • putting more items on the list than time allows for

So I’m on the hunt for to-do list tactics to attempt (ooooh alliteration!) What works for you? What doesn’t work for you? I’m hoping we can learn from each other here!

I do already have one method I’d like to try out and will hopefully report back to you. If you have tips and tricks, I’d love to hear from you!

Want more Reality Checks? Read I Had a Panic AttackI Have FearsSingle Parenthood is Not GlamorousI Need a Break, and I’m Too Damn Hard on Myself.

PS – Today is Hootie’s birthday! Four years ago, I was in Germany celebrating with her. I hope she gets a teleportation device for her birthday so we can make that happen again and again. Happy Birthday, Hootie! :)

7 Comments leave one →
  1. April 24, 2014 2:29 pm

    I’m a fan of lists myself. Usually they’re an effective tool for me. As I read through what works for you and what doesn’t work for you, the first thing that came to mind is that you could get a paper planner and write your to-do list on the week-at-a-glance or month-at-a-glance part. Or even day-at-a-glance if that works for you. And to prioritize you could do colors. Red means this is important – I have to get this done. Orange, Yellow, Green…on down to show different levels of urgency. Then (hopefully) your eye would be trained to go to the red stuff first and tackle those things before the less urgent stuff.

    I don’t know that this would work but it’s what came to my mind…I know you were just writing about how you have your planner on your phone. So this would be separate. A to-do planner.

    • April 29, 2014 8:28 pm

      The color suggestion is freakin brilliant. How have I not seen that before??? Could you just come run my life pretty please?!? ;)

  2. April 26, 2014 6:03 am

    I also sometimes have on my daily list: relax and have fun!

    • April 29, 2014 8:25 pm

      Smart. Very smart. Can you make sure I add that to mine too?? :)

  3. April 27, 2014 11:46 pm

    Ah, yes, backwards planning is essential for big to-do’s. When I started doing that for my lesson plans, woah guy – it made a big difference! These days, my to-do lists are long but it’s all odds and ends, so it’s just a matter of making the list and actually doing the damn stuff (that’s the hard part for me!).


  1. Color-Coding Your To-Do List | the20what
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