Saturday, April 17, 2010

My Enemy, the To-Do List

I always thought it would be interesting to walk down a row of cubicles and survey each person's (preferably, the working girls') to-do listing systems. Seriously, wouldn't that be fun? Think of how much you'd learn about someone that way.

My guess is that every working girl organizes her day differently. But how? Does she color code using her rainbow pen and highlighter collection? Does she make neat little boxes to the left of each to-do item so at the end of the day, she can put a satisfying check mark in it when completed? Or, does she type out her to-do's in a Word doc, not exactly list-style, but instead with everything organized by sub-category? In fact, this makes me laugh, but there was this one VP at my first job who would write things she needed to do or remember on post-it notes and have them spread out all over her office floor! But hey, I'm not one to judge. If it works, it works.

Unfortunately for me, I suck at making lists. My "system" consists of writing down what I think needs to get done on any given piece of paper, preferably in a notebook, but the problem is that I have paper lying around everywhere and there's usually more than one notebook lying around too. And I have terrible handwriting. Ugh. So because I have several notebooks and pieces of paper lying around, I end up getting lists mixed up or I'm unable to find something important I've written down. Sometimes I get so fed up with my lists that I've even gone down the dangerous path of not writing anything down at all and just going through what needs to get done ... by memory. No, not good.

I really think making a to-do list is a real live talent and skill, and in my case, probably something that takes a lot of patience. The ultimate goal of making a list may be to help you become organized, but I think list-making itself takes considerable organization to begin with.

Somehow, I've managed to survive being a working girl these past five or so years with horrible list-making skills. Oh, sometimes I'll have good days and actually go as far as not losing a list and writing down times next to each item telling me when to start and stop a project, or I'll keep my lists written down in a planner for a few weeks, but I'm in no way consistent. I need a system that jives with me, something that fits me, you know? I'm craving it!!

I'd love some tips from you ladies. What helps you create and stick to a to-do list? In your opinion, what are some fail-safe list-making manuevers? And, is there any way to make it fun?

16 comments:

Jenny said...

I have changed my to-do list strategy over the past year and a half since I started my job! Here is the way that I currently do it.

I am an Executive Director of a non-profit, so I wear many hats, from donor relations to fundraising chair to counselor and data entry! Soooo, to manage all of these duties at the same time, I have a program online (which is also our data entry, client, and donor software) that allows me to keep an electronic list of to-do's, as well as a due date. It only shows things that are due in the next 7 days, so on one hand, it's awesome to be able to click "completed" and have that task dissappear, but it's bad that I can't see ahead too far! But it's working so far!

I also write on my calendar things that need to be done on a regular basis so that I don't forget (I'm very forgetful)! Then I have a file labeled "today", "later", and "keep." The "today" file is what I go to every morning and get started on. I even put notes telling me to call back someone, or to purchase something. The "later" file is for stuff that needs to be done, but isn't urgent, such as a grant application. The "keep" file is for random bits of info for me to look at when I get spare time. Between those files and my electronic to-do list, I remember to get things done!

tris1978ton said...

I tried typing my todo's and writing them in a notebook, but nothing was as effective as writing the list, with a dark sharpie, on a sticky note and putting them right next to my monitor...at eye level. This way, I can see them all the time.

Hope this helps.

Amy said...

Everyone at my office uses their Entourage calendar but not me. I have an old-school page-a-day planner and I write my list in blue or black ink and check things off in red. I don't know why I have to do it that way, but I do.

The only electronic list system I use is teuxdeux.com...I love it for personal to-dos, errands, appointments, etc.

Freck said...

Oh man, I am so with you. I've found that ever since our office switched over to the latest version of windows, I've been able to keep my to-do list on the post-it note application where it remains and I can find it every time. I swear it's made me more productive. And the rainbow colors and pens? They end up just distracting me in the end so I tend to stay away from them :) Ha!

Krysten @ After 'I Do' said...

I have to have an old school calendar to work with my to-do list. Nothing else ever seems to work.

Stephanie said...

Hello new follower here...just got your friend request on 20 something bloggers page.
I make lists for everything! I recently have just been putting lists into my blackberry which now I have the motorola devour! Anytime I think of something that needs to be done I write it down or type it in my phone on a list.
When the day comes for me to get stuff done, I go through that list of things that I need to do and organize it into a list of what needs to be done first then so on...once done I cross it off and being able to cross it out gives me motivation to keep on going to the next until the whole list is usually crossed off :)

Katie said...

I'm definitely a checkbox type of girl, even throwing in some pink highlighter just to make it pretty. Though, I find my problem isn't in making the {long, dreary} list -- it's being able to prioritize my time well enough to get anything accomplished!

Sarah said...

I am a list girl, and my strategy includes writing in my Moleskin notebook and crossing items off upon completion. It's so scrumptiously satisfying.

Love your blog, by the way!

lisa said...

I use a notebook and my Outlook calendar at work, and for blog and fashion-related stuff I use Google tasks and my Google calendar.

Chelle said...

I love lists...sigh. I know I'm not a working girl at the moment, but I put in my time & it was fun to think about how organized life used to be before the rugrat showed up with all his messes. For items with specific due dates I would use Outlook & review the calendar once a week. I would then write notes about specific projects on peices of paper (and paperclip or rubberband any additional papers/files to it)& keep 2 stacks of paper on my desk. One short term to do pile & one for more long term projects. Each morning I would go through my piles & reorganize & work from the top down. Of course, some days the piles grew instead of shrinking, but at least they were organized by priority. That was probably my favorite thing about working...having my own space to indulge in my OCD tendencies.

Andrea said...

I would so love to be organized in the way that other people see you as being organized. I am not, however, anywhere near this threshold. My system includes a wide variety of colourful and multi-sized post-it notes arranged in no particular order on my desk, phone, computer screen, as well as stuck inside my day planner, to the back of whatever novel I'm reading, and in some more unfortunate moments, to the bottom of my shoe. It is important to note, however, that I tend to get more work done that about 83% of my co-workers.

Kimberly said...

There are so really great ideas on here that make we want to reconsider what I do!

I keep a weekly to do list and a daily to-do list at work. The weekly one is on a dry-erase board that is labeled monday - friday. I change the dates on it each week and put up post-it notes of what can be done each day. (the post-it notes are easier than trying to write on the wall!)

Then each morning when I come in I get out an index card and make a list of what I need to do. I also put boxes to check off but I just end up crossing them off. If it doesn't get done, it just rolls over to the next day...

Good luck coming up with a new system! :)

Cass said...

I have one notebook (one of of those multi-subject types) that sits directly in front of me at my desk. The 1st section is dedicated to my to-do lists, 2nd for meeting notes & 3 & 4 usually are the same two sections when I run out of space. Every day I come into work & start my to-do list, complete with checkboxes. :) This system was suggested by one of my old bosses and is probably the only good thing he ever did for me.

My list usually gets pretty long, but when writing it all down (even to remember to send soandso an email) it works for me. Now if I could only remember to implement it in my personal life more often I would be set!

Lose That Girl said...

My method is simple. I have a post-it on my desk near my phone listing all the tasks I need to do. I put larger, more labour intense tasks at the bottom. Just tick them off as I go. It might not be fancy or flashy but there's nothing worse that a to do list system that takes too much time to create and manage. The key is to get your tasks done, not ruminate over the list making it pretty.

Chelsea said...

Google Calendar for anything further out than one week.
Otherwise, I'm a list girl. Preferably an electronic file. Something as simple as a notebook file.

If there's anything left at the end of the day, I'll email myself the file. (I check email first thing every day.)

Marcie said...

I wish I made pretty to-do lists, but the reality is that i just rip a paper out of a notebook and tape it to my desk, right next to my computer. I scratch things out as they get done. This isn't a glamorous system, but it works for me.

I am your newest follower!

Marcie
www.lemonsandlaundry.blogspot.com