Back in January, I launched a playlist on the Practical Family YouTube Channel called “Intentionalize.”
Each video is about anticipating the most common problems within a specific aspect of home-management, and solving them before they begin. Although the solutions might be different, they always require being intentional, so I made up the word “Intentionalize.”
One very common source of stress and frustration is staying on top of the To-Do List.
I’ve been wanting to do an Intentionalize video on this topic for a while now. But as I began writing the script, I realized I wanted to include a freebie template, so this round will be an article instead.
How To Intentionalize Your To-Do List
Since our goal is to make life easier, we begin by anticipating the difficulties. What specifically makes staying on top of your To-Do List hard? Well let’s see . . .
For one thing, the tasks are constantly changing.
Yesterday, the most urgent item was paying that bill for the toll road. Today it’s shipping that package. Tomorrow, it will be something else. Often tasks that don’t have a deadline are the hardest to keep track of. Someday soon I really should write to my sponsor children. But since there’s no strict deadline, it’s easy to let other tasks continually take priority.
Another problem is that the papers and information I need to do the tasks is scattered.
The invitation to my son’s friend’s birthday party is a paper card, but the gift ideas are in a text, and the waiver to the trampoline place needs to be submitted online. Not only do I need to remember to do all of these things, I need to remember where everything is.
But I think the hardest part for most of us is forcing ourselves to stop what we’re doing, sit down, and just get the stuff done.
I was working with a client on this very topic who had given up hope. She essentially told me, “I know what I’m doing now isn’t working well. But I’m not an organized person, there’s really no point in trying.” Many of us feel that way. As if staying on top of things is a personality trait we’re born with, and there’s no way to change.
As my client found out, this is absolutely not true! When I shared with her my ideas for how she could Intentionalize her to-do list, she said . . .
“That’s all? Well, I can do that!”
Now I’m going to share that same system with you! Ready? Here we go!
STEP 1 – Download the free template and print a copy.
You will be printing out a fresh copy regularly, so save the file to your desktop where it’s easy to find.
STEP 2 – Make a list of the most urgent tasks in the left-hand column.
These are the tasks that you must get done before the end of the week. I’ve given you a limited amount of space on purpose to help you prioritize and focus. I’ve also given you room to write the details of each task. The more you write, the less you have to remember!
STEP 3 – In the right-hand column, list the tasks that can wait.
These are all the tasks that can wait until you are done with the urgent ones. Some of them might become urgent soon, and others will never be urgent.
STEP 4 – Keep all papers with the list.
Gather everything needed for these tasks – the bill to be paid, the birthday invitation, the shipping label, etc., and store them together with the To-Do List. It could be as simple as stapling the list to a manila envelope! Whatever makes your job easier. If the information is in my phone or computer, I like to make a note to myself of where to find it.
STEP 5 – Force yourself to get it done!
I’ll just go ahead and say it – I don’t enjoy this part of home management. I will never be “in the mood” to stop what I’m doing and take care of business. I have to designate a chunk of time in my schedule and set an alarm on my phone so I don’t forget.
I might hate getting started, but I absolutely love finishing!
In fact, often when I finish all of the urgent tasks, I take advantage of that focused momentum, and take care of a couple non-urgent tasks while I’m at it.
STEP 6 – Re-Print, Re-Write, and Keep Going!
There is something incredibly powerful about physically writing down your tasks. You are far more likely to remember to do something if you write with pencil and paper. You see the big-picture scope of your workload so there are no surprises.
Also, when you find yourself rewriting that same lingering task yet again, you feel how long it’s been sitting there, and you’ll be motivated to just get it over with.
Skeptical? That’s okay!
But I challenge you to give it a try it for one month and see how it feels.
- The first week will be awkward because starting a new system is … well … awkward. And you’ll probably have a larger pile of work on your hands.
- The second and third weeks will be easier as the list shrinks and the rhythm falls into place.
- By the end of the fourth week, you will be enjoying the calm confidence of a predictable, prioritized, and manageable to-do list.
Your To-Do List does not have to be intimidating anymore.