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Taking Control of a To Do List Gone Wild

to do listThe fact that To Do lists are endless isn’t a news flash. Every day of every week of every year you have tasks to handle.

Both a positive as well as a negative is that there are lots of ways to keep track of To Do’s. Various electronic options on the computer, laptop, iPad and smartphone.  Paper calendars,  notecards, legal pads and sticky notes. Yep.  Tons of options that can leave us with paper bits and lists everywhere we look.

We feel the need to use all the electronic resources we have since we have them, and using them is the whole point of having them. And sometimes we simply grab the closest piece of paper when we’re in a hurry. Despite our best intentions to follow a process for capturing ideas and tasks, it’s haphazard sometimes. Instead of a clear concise list, we get overwhelming, confusing, frustrating and inefficient.

So what to do when you brain is a Jiffy Pop bag of exploding ideas and To Do’s?

Do a brain dump. In 6 simple steps you can get back on track.  Here’s how…

  1. Gather all of your lists and random notes, both electronic and paper. It can — and probably should — include personal To Do’s as well, since this is a brain clearing exercise.
  2. Find a quiet spot and grab a glass of water.  The proper environment and hydration will maximize brain power.  You may need to be at your desk in order to access your electronic stuff, which is okay, but this is focus time.  Focus like a laser beam on the brain dump.
  3. Create one electronic, printable document listing ALL of your to do’s, separated into categories that make sense for you.
  4. Start with each resource and transfer all of the To Do’s from that resource onto the new document. Remember that your head is a resource, too.  As you are putting these To Do’s on the new document, ideas will occur to you, so get them down, too.  Toss any random papers and notes as you capture the information from them.  You needn’t erase the To Do’s from your electronic resources if you effectively use that resource to manage your tasks.
  5. Once all of all of the To Do’s are on the new document you can prioritize them by moving them around within their individual category. You can also decide which will stay on the paper list and which will be handled from your electronic resource.
  6. Print the document on brightly colored paper so when your desk gets cluttered you can find the list quickly among the other stuff.

As David Allen says, “You can’t be comfortable not doing something unless you know what it is you’re not doing.”  This method allows you to gather all your To Do’s in one spot and make prioritizing decisions based on knowing everything you have to get done.

7 Comments

  1. Marsia on July 17, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    Wow this came at the most appropriate time for me! Yes I would like to have a copy of the “to do template” I will email you for a copy. Thank you.



  2. Jan on July 17, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    Great timing, Mary! Today is a designated rest day. We have been moving from an old weekend place to a new one. All the ToDo’s are on hold in order to restore and re-listen to my body. The To Do’s will wait, Self-care is NOW.



  3. Mary Kutheis (kooth-ice) on July 17, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    It’s on the way!



  4. Mary Kutheis (kooth-ice) on July 17, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    Love the idea of putting To Do’s aside. Enjoy the rest!



  5. Laurie Vincent on July 18, 2012 at 1:18 am

    The brain dump/gathering/capturing step is one of life’s most amazing anxiety reducers! Thank you.



  6. Mary Kutheis (kooth-ice) on July 18, 2012 at 9:41 am

    I’m glad you’ve found it so. I sure have. I did one to start the week (after a short vacation) and it’s made a huge difference in both mental state and productivity.



  7. Deb Trautman on July 19, 2012 at 10:23 am

    Thanks for the Action process that is so straightforward! My usual mode is “I should…….”, It would be better if I would ……… , “I’ll deal with my disorganization and anxiety after I finish my “To Do List”. Hello???



  8. Stevaerory on September 23, 2019 at 6:22 pm

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