Organizing your To-Do list

Have you ever had a to-do list so long you needed another list just to figure out what you were going to do off the first? I love walking into someone’s office/cubical and seeing all the post-it notes covering the walls and desk. Or the kitchen counter with the one list that includes everything: groceries, errands, reminders, even goals.

I recently came across an article discussing Thomas Edison’s to-do list from January 3, 1888.

Thomas Edison to do list

{Photo Credit: Rutgers}

And while I doubt you plan on developing a long distance telephone transmitter (thank goodness for Edison), this list shows you how all encompassing a to-do list might become.

If I were to make a To-do list, it would look something like this…

Organizing Time management

Yikes! Just looking at that list overwhelms me!

{Time Matters} The biggest problem I have with these lists is it doesn’t account for time.  When and how you are going to complete these tasks is important. So instead of using a to do list, I recommend a calendar based system. This eliminates the confusion as to what needs to get done and when. Assigning specific times to each errand and event eliminates the constant mental run down of the entire list, and allows you to focus on the task at hand.

{Keep it Simple} The easier your calendar system, the more likely you are to actually use it. I recommend Google Calendar because it easily syncs with most cell phones and you can share specific events with multiple people.  I also like Google Calendar because you can make specific task lists.  For example on my to-do list, I have several items that require making a phone call.

Organizing Time Management

{Break it Down} With Google Tasks, I’m able to create a list of those calls and assign deadlines that are incorporated into my calendar. This way I can view one list of just phone calls and not be distracted by any other items.

Task categories might include business administration, household administration, errands, and phone calls.

Organizing Time Management

These task lists help break down that big to-do list and allow you to see what might be accomplished together, such as the errands that are located near each other. This grouping of similar task will ultimately save you time and money.

Organizing time management

Here is a picture of a the to-do list via calendar form. Much more manageable than the long list pictured above. Notice you can select different colors for tasks, appointments, and holidays. The only draw back is the inability to view multiple task lists at one time. Even with this drawback I would still recommend using Google Tasks.

If you need a printed version, Google allows you to print your task list and/or calendar. And thanks to Edison’s early work in electric power distribution, you will have  power to your printer.

9 thoughts on “Organizing your To-Do list

  1. Emily Counts

    Great suggestions! I use Google calendar but haven’t tried tasks. I’ll look into it. I started using the Todoist app last summer and it works really well for all my work tasks. I’d recommend it for anyone with massive to do lists with deadlines that spread over several months.

    1. Organizational Specialist Post author

      I do like Todoist, but reminders are a premium feature, and I like to make the transition to a calendar based system as easy as possible for my clients. One place for everything makes it more likely that they will use it and maintain it! I just wish Google Calendar would incorporate some of the features of Todoist like being able to view multiple lists at one time. Thanks for the suggestion and Happy New Year!

  2. Maeve

    I’m a bit of a googlephobe, but this tools looks really good. I am frequently overwhelmed by the to-do list. Add in the “Project list” and it all feels very overwhelming. Of course, I’m the girl who still can’t get a regular housekeeping schedule put together – but its good to have goals. 🙂

    1. Organizational Specialist Post author

      You can still use the calendar based system and tasks by category principles even if google isn’t for you. I just like being able to sync across multiple platforms. And I am pretty sure your shortbread is a testimony to your amazing housekeeping skills 🙂

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