Thursday, August 27, 2009

to dos

My friend Mike doesn't do to-do lists. He is convinced that his former obsession with list making was one of the reasons his first marriage failed. My lovely husband keeps a long list of chores and projects on the computer, adding and deleting things as they come up or get done. He is perfectly content with his system.

I am always in to-do-list limbo. I am compelled to jot things down as I think of them, but these notes are scattered all over the house. If I am lucky enough to find them I will consolidate them into one list. Sometimes they get organized under random heading such as URGENT, BY MONDAY, LATER. But honestly, once a list is complete I rarely go back to check it. The longer the list, the more stress it induces. I don't like stress. Therefore I still keep my most pressing to-dos filed away in my brain, panic is never far away...

What is your relationship with to-do-lists? Do you add a recently completed task to the list, just to be able to cross it off? Do you use color codes? How do you organize your life? I would love some guidance and constructive advice on how to not let task lists overtake my life.

Check out my line drying post on the garden blog. I am in love with my clothes line and want to share that love with everyone. A special thanks to Jessica, who wrote so sweetly about inleaf and my work on her blog yesterday.


  1. if I had a nickel for everytime my husband said "stop making lists" I would be rich. I love clean pads of paper and a good pen, there's something calming about writing a list, until I realize all that I've jotted down and can't possibly finish in my life time. I reach for a simple organized life, yet it always seems just beyond my reach. I'd love to know how others do it, but for now I continue to make lists that tell me to check my other lists....and yes I do put completed tasks on them just for the sake of crossing them off :)

  2. i'm like you except that i've given up on trying to make those lists as i never end up following up on them. i'm too scatterbrained to focus like that. bummer. :)

  3. I keep all of my lists in one notebook. I usually make a new list each weekend. But having all of the old lists sitting in that same notebook, with things crossed off, makes me happy. Probably too happy. In a weird kinda way.

    I did abandon my list making for the first six months with a new baby. Because how many times could I write down "Wash hair" only to have it elude me more often than I cared to admit?

  4. Oh, I love lists and the satisfaction that comes from crossing things off. However, while the making of lists is sort of therapeutic to me (and often necessary to keep up with all the different directions I'm pulled for work), my tendency is to make lists that are completely impractical and unrealistic for the number of hours in the day (or months in a year or years in a lifetime!). And like you, this just adds more stress and anxiety into my life because then I feel like I'm not being productive enough. Vicious circle.

    So lately I've been trying to make my lists more focused and realistic and for shorter time frames. I have my 'everything I need to do for work/home/art lists' that are huge and stress and terrify me (which I keep on the computer in a word file) but I just use those as a base rather than a focus. Each month I use these to make a list of 'major goals' to accomplish which I post on two different dry erase boards (one for personal stuff and one for work stuff) that sit on my desk where I can see them easily every day. Then each night I make a list on paper for the next day that works toward those goals. I work very hard at making these month and day lists realistic for the hours in the day and with the knowledge that other stuff always comes along to interfere and take up time. This is not easy for me and take much restraint! When I'm successful at doing this (I'm not always), and can cross most things off, I have a huge sense of satisfaction and approach the next day with a better attitude and thus better productivity!

  5. I LOVE lists...but I really love being organized so that would probably tell you why I love list making so much!
    If I don't write things down I forget. I have the memory of a 90 year old woman ;)
    I keep my list out next to my big desk calendar. This way I can't forget my list of reminders...

  6. Thank you for all these amazing comments! Tracey's idea of keeping it all in one notebook is great, and I love Rachel's method of breaking it all down into (hopefully) manageable daily lists. I knew there was help to be had...

  7. I love making lists - I feel a great sense of accomplishment checking them off. Lists also keep me on track - I use a dry erase board to avoid having little bits of paper everywhere.

  8. Lotta, you need to frame that photo!

    I keep everything in one fancy, solid notebook or I will forget where I even put all the notes. And I have to write with a good pen. Otherwise I get sloppy! Haha!

  9. My husband would never make a list. He can barely remember where he placed his wallet a mere 3 minutes after setting it down. Lists for me, sound like your situation. Little notes, backs of important papers. But recently, I started writing them in my calendar. I have one with the whole month in front of me and space on either side. It also has day by day space that I usually organize my to do's in. Because I always have my calendar, this seems to be the best place to jot things down.

    And DEFINITELY write things down only to cross them out immediately - what better motivation?

  10. I am late to this, but I am also a to-do lister in some mode of reform. What I have now is a beautiful planner thingy (courtesy of etsy) that has a generous space on the page for every day of the week. I put things on the day when I think I can get to them, rather than smooshing them all together in an unrealistic and overwhelming list. It does me right, although if I lost my book I might have to freak out a little bit...

  11. I have this weird concept in my brain that I should be a list lover but in fact, I rarely ever make a list. I think when I do make a list, it is so long that it just becomes all too obvious that my expectations for myself are astronomically ridiculous. Therefore, it's easier to keep that little detail hidden in my brain. I really want to be one of those list people though. I'm silly that way.

    Sadly none of this is very helpful for your quest to manage the task lists of life.

  12. i am a HUUUUUGE lister. though i have learned to list in the immediate, or near immediate. things to get done tomorrow. or things to get done on saturday. i used to stress at the size of the list, but now they seem a bit more manageable. and i truly enjoy shredding a list once it's all crossed off!


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