5 tips for making to-do lists

I am an unabashed fan of lists. I like to count things, and I like to see visible progress of my activity by marking things off. Making lists helps me organize my thoughts, keeps me motivated, and helps me to make sure I carve out the time I need. Here are my top tips for lists:

1. keep items clean

This means that “edge lawn” and “mow lawn” are two different items on a list. They are separate tasks that can be done independently and require different tools. I like to keep the items on my list simple. If I’m going to be pruning a variety of plants, I list them separately – this also means if I don’t get to one of them the whole item isn’t left un-done.

2. don’t worry about the order

I make a list as items occur to me. I don’t order them in the order in which I plan to do them because plans change. I can do any item on the list in any order and mark it off.

3. consider groups or sub-lists

This may seem a little counter to #2, but stay with me. I have a front yard and a back yard. The back yard has a pond. The items related to the pond are distinct – so I sometimes make sub-lists of things that are in the house (“wash towels”) the back yard (“treat for algae”) and the front yard (“edge lawn”). By having them in groups, when I finish a sublist I get the joy of marking the whole sub-list done – and I stop thinking about tasks that involve that area. I don’t worry about ordering things in the sub-list.

4. include things you want to do, not just things you need to do

I put “take walk” on my list. I put “ride bike” on my list. Do these things accomplish cleaning my kitchen or making sure I have clothes to wear? No. But they sure make me happy and they are as much of a priority to me as mowing the lawn. By putting them on the list, they become equally weighted to all the other things I plan to do, and not expendable. If you want to put “relax with a book” on your list, you should do so!

5. feel free to make your own rules

Do you want to put “make list” on your list and mark it off when done? Do it! Do you want to add something to your list that you did but wasn’t on it just so you can mark it off? Do it! This is about tracking what you want to get done AND about keeping you motivated. I add things to the list during the day as they come to me and sometimes I add something I already did because it was a big deal to me and I want to celebrate it in my own personal way. Whatever keeps you motivated to get things done and feel good works for me.

Do you have a tip about making lists and keeping organized? Share it in the comments!

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