The Perfect To-Do List:Any Suggestions For Making One That Works?

cupofkindnessSeptember 30, 2006

Help! I need a to-do list that will facilitate progress in just about every area of my life. I am drowning in several areas: beginning of the school year paper flood; projects associated with school, like fund-raising; getting vehicles inspected/maintained; gardening work, like repairing the leaking sprinkler. Work like this, like most of us have to do in order to keep moving forward productively.

Also, I'm hoping to start a bathroom renovation this fall, but I simply don't have lots and lots of time to research and shop around to plan and remodel the master bathroom (I had about a year to plan the kitchen reno and another six or eight months to do the work. It took far longer than I really did have time/energy for, however, and I can't do that again, nor do I think I need to with a bathroom). Other things I must do are the usual de-junking that I eternally fall behind on, the management of the activities of my seven children, the college application process for my oldest, an Eagle project for my second oldest, maintaining our home, the development of a menu/shopping system, balancing a check book and finally, squeezing in the construction of four dollhouses that my daughters and I are building. I am somehow able to exercise every day with either my best friend or DH (which is a miracle that was a long time in coming). I try to do Flylady, but it's an uphill climb with a large family and a husband who travels extensively.

In short, I need a system that I can use in my Flylady control journal, so it needs to be one paper (but I can create the document or download a copy of another system). I need a way to refine the things that I need to do: some are projects or long term processes that need to be broken down into sub-tasks and deadlines, others are short "just do it" things that just don't get done.

I'd love to hear the suggestions people who've conquered the to-do list battle. Things that don't work for me include:

1. Jars with things to do written on pieces of paper.

2. Trying to remember things that I just don't really care about but still must be done.

3. Elaborate systems that require a lot of time to use each day or each week.

4. Expensive planners because I'm too cheap to buy them.

5. Delegating most of these projects because everyone in my family is busy too.

I do recognize that change takes baby steps. I'm willing to start simple, I just need to catch things that are falling through the cracks as I get deeper and deeper into the year. Not to mention Thanksgiving and Christmas!

Any helpful comments, on what works for you or what doesn't work, are helpful. All I want is control and the peace that comes from having things in order. Have a great day and thank you for your replies.

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I couldn't imagine going without a calender on the fridge. I use a paper one, but you could always purchase a larger calendar/planner either paper or dry-erase. A quick search brought up paper printable templates for calendars.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2006 at 11:13AM
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Thanks for the calendar suggestion. Fortunately, someone on this forum posted that Flylady had a great calendar, so I bought one. The individual daily squares are the largest I've seen short of purchasing one of those "movie screen" size office calendars.

I need some sort of system to help me manage the relentless flow of tasks that I'm dealing with every day. A way to break down irregular tasks that will help me complete them, rather than procrastinate. Procrastination is my usual way of dealing with too much pressure resulting from too many obligations. And I'm not in a position to say "no" to things, I feel that I do the minimum at this point, and it's overwhelming me to the point of not functioning.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2006 at 3:32PM
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Hi - I use the file card system rather than FLylady, but I still find I like to make lists. The link below is to a site that has a lot of useful printable forms - I hope one or more of them will help you out!

Here is a link that might be useful: Organized Home planning forms

    Bookmark   September 30, 2006 at 5:32PM
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Lordy Cup - I'm tired out just reading about all you have to do. LOL!! I do identify with the overwhelm feeling (and the often resultant procrastination) so I'll share some thots FWIW.

First I'd forget entirely about the bathroom until you feel much steadier and far more relaxed. I'm going thru what I believed to be a fairly simple kitchen reno, been going on for over a year, is still not done and I'm exhausted. From what you've listed you've more than enuf on your plate as it is. Create a page for 2008 and put that item there. :-))

There are only 16 possible hours in every day given 8 hours for sleep. Even of those 16, at least 1 needs to be TOTAL downtime for you. Of the remaining 15 - how many does meals/bedmaking/kitchen cleanup/general house tidy/blah blah take each day? I'd guess a minimum of 3 so no we're at 12 hours. With 7 kids (Oh My Gawd!!) I'd bet each of them take at least a minimum of 20 minutes a day (pick up this/find that/write note/talk or whatever) so that's about 2 1/2 hours a day. Now we're at 9 1/2 hours left and that's if your going full bore which we know doesn't happen for any number of reasons. In that amount of time you have to do all these *other things* you've listed (and which I'm sure isn't all).

For all these *other things* I'd write them all on one (or likely several pieces) of paper - just a very long list in no order whatsoever. Leave it for 24 + hours then come back to it with three hiliters. Prioritze the list - ABC or Now Soon Sometime or whatever works for you. Maybe somethings will be 4's or Never so just leave those uncolored. Then type/write it out again as *A* list . . . These sheets can go in your CJ. As you complete things hilite them and as more things appear, add them under the appropriate category.

The biggest things of all though are choosing ONE/TWO THING(S) and finishing it/them before going onto anything else. And sometimes - even often - it means learning to say NO as in no I can't fund raise or whatever. First in importance (it appears to me) is your involvement with your kids and in terms of priority - direct involvement with them (building doll houses / doing Eagle project . . .) is more important than raising funds. Let the Ma's with two kids do that. LOL!!

Menu/Grocery seems to me to be pretty simple. No offense meant. One sheet lists all the normal grocery items you buy with a few blank lines for those oddities that crop up now and then. Print off several sheets - put them in your CJ & mark off everything as it comes up - like your running out of Strawberry Jam . . . - then plan your menus one day of the week, do the shopping the next. Issue over & done. Personally I keep a spiral notebook in a drawer in the kitchen and write stuff on that as I notice I need it. Then add whatever else I need for the week, rip the page & go. When I come home I write anything I didn't get/forgot . . . on a clean page & do again. Cooking for 8 (and sometimes 9) must mean a lot of crock pot feed a bunch kinda recipes. I hope you have a freezer. :))

Cheque books + Balancing: Assuming you are reasonably puter literate, use Quicken or similar, download your statements monthly, . . . pretty much a done for you deal which should take maybe an hour a month once it's set up.

With Projects - from my experiences ( particularly of late! ) what really works the very best is *Pick A Thing* - just one thing to work on & get that done. Even if the rest of the house kinda looks a mess, accomplishing one thing completely and using that hiliter on it to indicate its DONE creates very good feelings. As time passes one can actually see they did things. Otherwise those 7-8-9 hours in the day get frittered away (not on nonsense - yes you are doing things) and at the end of a day or week you/I are still filled with the same sense of frustration and confusion. Plus now your list is even longer! So *Pick A Thing* is my biggest strongest advice and I'd be well advised to follow my own thots. LOL!! When I do it works.

I don't know if this helps at all nor do I know where I got it though it may have been here on Organizing . . . Perhaps they have some lists that help or you can adapt.

My apologies for the dissertation. Hope something I've babbled at helps. You've an awful lot on your plate.

Here is a link that might be useful: Printable Checklists

    Bookmark   September 30, 2006 at 6:11PM
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There is a free downloadable program I've been wanting to use that has a lot of great features. It is called Mediabee ( It is a family dashboard and can keep track of tasks/events. Each family member's calendar entries can be color coded. Calendars & to do lists can be printed. Progress of tasks is monitored so you can track what needs to be done or what is finished (kids can enter their progress themselves). The program worked fine on my sister's PC and my husband's laptop, but my PC is too messed up to run the program (time for a new one maybe?)There are lots of other features. I think once you entered your recurring stuff, the program would be a breeze to keep up with. I am still bugging my DH to get this program installed for me (my PC is probably the problem). Check out the website and the demo to see if you think it could help you.

Here is a link that might be useful: Mediabee

    Bookmark   September 30, 2006 at 8:02PM
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I'm too electronic to be comfortable with this, but this method is low-tech and many people swear by it:

Here is a link that might be useful: Hipster

    Bookmark   September 30, 2006 at 11:34PM
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I just use my Flylady control journal basic daily schedule page. I don't use her wipe off suggestions, but print out three weeks at a time, 3 hole punch and put them in my notebook. In the left column I have my morning, afternoon and evening routines. On the right side, I put down whatever activities which does not routinely occur, calls I have to make and what's for supper.

Make bed
Start laundry
Unload dishwasher
Finish packing lunches
Sweep hallway

During the day:
Laundry to dryer
Hot Spot patrol
15 min. zone or WHB
One other thing (Procrastination task or other)
backpacks empty/homework

Fold/put away laundry
Room zooms/launch pad ready
Sink/set dishwasher
Plug in cell phone
Check calendar/make list
Fix coffeepot for am
lunch prep

I use the dividers just like I had in junior high. One section for my zone cleaning list, one for household to-do's like repairs or painting, things which are on my procrastination list. That's pretty much it.

I'm a bit confused by some of the things you listed. I would consider the college application and Scout stuff to be my kid's responsibility, so I wouldn't add it to my list unless they needed transportation and then they better put it on the calendar or it doesn't happen. I would consider the dollhouse building to be hobby time and I don't feel the need for a list for that.

I would start a file folder on remodeling, but if you really don't have time to research it, you realistically don't have time to deal with the remodel.

I do my meal planning on Sunday evening, hit the butcher on Monday and work in grocery shopping on Monday and Thursday.

I guess I'm not understanding what you mean by "relentless tasks." I only have four kids, but Flylady's system has worked for us for the past 5 years. It took us 6 months to really get it going, but I rarely feel overwhelmed. I get my housecleaning out of the way first thing most mornings and since I'm not punching a timeclock this year I have lots of time.

More information, please.


    Bookmark   October 1, 2006 at 3:24AM
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I like making my own lists. Some things need to be done daily in my house, like scoop the cat box, empty the dishwasher,sweep the kitchen. Then there are the less-regular chores,like changing bed linens, vacuuming,etc. I like making my own schedule. If I'm feeling really anxious, I add daily things I do routinely, like shower, brush teeth, get kids up,etc. I like crossing things off. There's a website with 15-minute cleanups for every room. I printed them out and put them in a folder. I like to look at them and rotate them throughout the week, ie kitchen Monday, bedroom Tuesdfay,etc. I also do a modified "Flylady" routine with three zones. My home has three floors (split level), so one floor= one zone.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2006 at 9:34PM
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steve o - Thanks for the Hipster link! I use a card system rather than Flylady, and this looks like it will be very helpful to me. I just took a glance - got to get back and check out all the neat ideas!
Thanks again!

    Bookmark   October 2, 2006 at 1:37AM
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The Eagles scout project is the responsibility of the SCOUT, not the mom. If the scout can't handle it, he/she isn't Eagle material yet. (except for transportaiton and funding)

Children should be taking care of most of the household chores for you, leaving you free to manage. Get them into the habit of doing and planning THEIR chores and you will have less to do yourself.

Take a real hard look at the bathrom remodel: if you don't have time to research, you are at the mercy of the contractor's ideas.

Examine your Thanksgiving and Christmas plans ... SIMPLIFY! The world will not end if you don't do a Martha Stewart holiday. The world will not end if you drop some of the school-related activities. You have SEVEN kids.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2006 at 10:46AM
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Thanks for all of the great replies and links. I developed a monthly "to-do" list that will help me keep track of all of the odd things that come up in my life that don't fit into other areas of my household organization. This way, I won't forget what I've got to do and can help remind my children of their obligations.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2006 at 3:21PM
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Good job on coming up with a plan so fast!

    Bookmark   October 3, 2006 at 7:25PM
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What has finally worked for me is having daily tasks:
I made a table using Word and put the tasks under each day of the week and stuck it on the wall in my familyroom. I don't look at it much now, as I have the routine ingrained.

swish and swipe each bathroom (DD8 often will do the main)
clean kitchen after each meal- any dishes that won't fit in the DW are hand washed
basic tidy up each day
DD8 bedroom tidy up

I have certain tasks on certain days:

Monday is the floors
Tuesday is change bedding and ironing
Wednesday is bathrooms and towels
Thursday is dust and cobwebs
Friday is floors and ironing
Weekends- gardening

How I worked out my weekly tasks was in reflection of the day- eg Monday the chn have swimming and we get home late- so I want and easy day. Wednesday is my day off, so I have the time to do the bathrooms.

I follow a specific menu plan which is a six week rotating cycle. (Again, consider daily needs- eg Monday is my busy day so I often choose fish and salad for that day as it is quick to prepare.)

DH is a computer nerd and used Access to make a menu/grocery program- each week he selects eg: 'Week 4' and the menu for week 4 generates a grocery list- with a quick check of the pantry/fridge we know what we need. The grocery list also includes store items (eg flour) and cleaning products (eg washing powder). One we check items as a quantity or a zero the program generates a grocery list. Now this is my super nerd hubby- the list is in aisle order and shelf order as you go down the aisle of our local grocery store. Sweet!
Sometimes I miss the old style of hit and miss cooking days (... mince... hmmm, do I have a tin of tomatoes? oh a carrot!... any basil? yes! Spaghetti? no... oh well penne will do!).

But overall, I love the fact that I can tell you that next Sunday I am having a beef roast with roasted beetroot, garlic, carrots, sweet potato and broccoli. With fruit and yoghurt for dessert!

My time organiser is my regular calendar- I bought one with a column for each child (harder for you I realise). I told them all- if it isn't on the calendar it won't happen. School assignments, social engagements, meetings, visitors, family time and anything that impacts on a specific day.

Good luck!
How do you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time!

In other words- keep goals realistic.


    Bookmark   October 8, 2006 at 9:14AM
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I swear by my $3 spiral academic calendar that fits in my purse and goes with me everywhere. It is now the only calendar I use (forget the wall calendar at home--I just went 14 consecutive nights not being home even an hour between work and bedtime). Everything is in there, including schedules for church, school, scouts, sports, prescription refills & future car maintenance.

Each day I fill out a post-it note and stick it to the outside of the calendar with the pertinent activities for the day, AND a list of regular to-do's. If I don't get the regular to-do's done after 2 days on the list, I get realistic and put it in the calendar for another day when I think I'll have more time. For example, if I had "fix sprinkler" on the list for Monday & Tuesday and never got to it, I would look through the week and see what day is realistic (the calendar would show I'm not home Wed & Thur, I know I would be too tired on Friday, so it would go on for Saturday).

One thing I've found helpful is to break down the to-do's into smaller things. For example, instead of "garden work" I might just put "cut back coneflowers". I can do that quick and it's not a big time commitment.

Another example--this fall I've been making football banners for my son's team. The to-do list went something like this:

Wednesday before work - design & print stencils
Thursday - pick up paint at lunch
Friday - pick up carabiner clips after work
Saturday - N/A
Sunday - cut fabric to size, install grommets, trace stencils
Monday before work - paint the fabric
Tuesday before work - touch up Monday's paint job & attach carabiner clipss
Wednesday after work - pack banners in the car
Thursday after work - hang up banners at the game

I love my calendar and use it faithfully, with the post-it note on the outside.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2006 at 5:10PM
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