Creating the Ideal To-Do List

Middle Sister WineMy stepsister brought this wine over on Christmas, by way of celebrating my three-book deal. Isn’t it great? Just love it! Thank you, Hope!

You all know how much I love my lists. And spreadsheets. Over the holiday, I was comparing To Do lists with Stepdad Dave, who shares my Virgo inclinations and loves a good To Do list. We discussed the merits of various approaches – the long-term To Do list versus the short-term one. We gave him a Boogie Board a while back – an electronic listmaker – and he complained that, because of the way it erases, that he has to write down important tasks that he won’t do later (like after the holidays) over and over again.

What? This is so interesting!

Plus, there were cookies.

At any rate, I’ve been thinking about my lists and how I have them set up. The long-term vs. short-term thing can be an issue. Especially when a long-term task is something like “write this novel.” Of course, that kind of thing one breaks out into daily word counts, but it’s still on the list, at least mentally. Hovering out there, like a grinning hot air balloon on the horizon. Other long-term tasks are things I’ve been meaning to do – like contacting certain bloggers for reviews, or putting tax information together. No deadline (yet), but needing to get done.

My big problem is that I tend to load too many tasks onto a single day. With an entire day ahead of me, I become flush with ambitious optimism. I truly believe that I will accomplish All The Things. The problem then is that, if I don’t, I get all sad. It doesn’t matter that I finished ten tasks, those two things still lurking on my list, undone, taunt me. Worse, I have to move them to the next day, or back to my long-term list.

What I’m thinking of for the New Year is making a tiered list, one that reflects priorities. I might make a Must Do list, followed by and optional list. I wonder, though, if the stuff on the optional list will *ever* get done, if they’re not prioritized enough…

What – you’re still reading? If so, you might be a listmaker, too. What are your secrets for prioritizing tasks??

6 Replies to “Creating the Ideal To-Do List”

  1. I do my “to do” list in my week-at-a-glance calendar. That way, I don’t get depressed if I don’t tick off all the items in a given day. Even better, by Friday, I don’t care that I didn’t get to everything.

    Like your stepdad, I find electronic to do lists don’t work well for me. If you cross it off, the item disappears and you lose it. I want to keep a record for time entry etc. If you don’t cross it off, it doesn’t automatically move to the next day or the next week. If I don’t move it manually, I forget about it.

    Of course, half the time, my lists are on post-it notes, back of envelops and scrawled along the margins of my note book.

    1. Ooh, that’s interesting. I don’t know if I could stand to move my “lens” out to a full week – though I can certainly see the benefit of that approach. I will consider that!

  2. Hi Jeffe – I love to make lists! I also love to make lists on paper. Now, my tech geek network engineer husband has finally got me using an app called Remember The Milk. You can create any list you want and can even have smart lists so different lists come together in one, only show up on your phone for this or that, etc. It is cloud based so it updates anywhere you are. Well, I try hard to look at that but I don’t. I use it for long term things and for groceries or if I need to make a list of what we need when going on vacation, etc. But for everyday stuff, I still like my paper lists. Sometimes my list is just somethign I email to myself. I think I have more fun making the lists than I do actually crossing the things OFF the list. Go figure. And prioritizing? What is that? 🙂 Happy New Year!

  3. Not a huge list maker myself, but I do know that if I want to get a set of things done, I need to write them down or I’ll never do them. I go through phases where I’ll write a to-do list every day for a week or two, but then I forget.

    And yeah, like you, I can get 8 out of 10 things done and still feel bad about the 2 I didn’t.

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