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I Can't Live Without My Daily "To Do" List

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“How do you do it all?” I get asked this question a lot. And the answer will always be that I don’t do it ALL… not even close to it all. You can check out this video for details on me not doing it all! ๐Ÿ˜‰

I thought, though, I would let you in on one way I maintain my sanity… because there are days when I want to pull out my hair, scream and yell and kick my legs (yes, just like my children do – it’s what I call an adult temper tantrum). There are even days when I just don’t want to get my butt out of bed. We have all been there. Whether we care to admit it or not, everyone has a bad day or two or three. Or if you’re like me, it may be a weekly occurrence.

Besides trying to laugh at myself on these “Off” days of mine, I make lists. Yes, I get out a piece of paper and a pencil to make a list. It’s a very simple task, but one that works wonders for me. It all started last year…

I would tell my hubby that I was stressed out and that there just wasn’t enough time in the day. I would then start going on and on about all the things I needed to do. From cleaning out the fridge to making dental appointments for the kiddos to getting my coupons organized and keeping up with my blog. I felt as if these tasks were huge and overwhelming. Now as I write this, I sit back and laugh at myself. I mean these tasks seem so little compared to what so many people have to deal with on a daily basis.

Every single time I get in these “poor me” funks, my hubby looks at me, trying so hard to force away a smirk ( as I know he finds it quite funny that I am so upset and frustrated over all these little tasks I feel I have to do). Now to clarify, he’s not smiling because he finds it funny that I’m upset… but he’s smiling because he doesn’t quite understand why I am so upset. To him these “Big” deals really aren’t “Big” deals at all.

One day, when I was going on and on about all I had to do, he said “Make a list”. That’s all it took and my light bulb turned on.

List making is one thing that has helped me tremendously. I feel more organized, not so overwhelmed and I am getting stuff done in a more efficient manner. I make a new list every single morning. I also have a monthly list for ongoing projects I am trying to accomplish. I cannot tell you how much making these simple lists has changed my outlook and freed up much needed time I thought I didn’t have.

When I write stuff down on paper, I see it clearly! And for some reason when it’s all written, it seems like there’s a lot less to do then when I am thinking about it all in my head. And I absolutely LOVE crossing through the “To Dos” on my list. It feels like such an accomplishment.

Do you make lists? I’d love to hear! If you don’t, I strongly encourage you to give it a try.

Join The Discussion

Comments 224

  1. Peggy B

    Well, I used to love lists and then I determined that the numerous lists I had laying around the house stressed me out too. Now, I use wunderlist on my iPhone and am loving it. I started a list there for grocery items, general shopping, menu plans, our household projects/goals and my personal to-dos. The best part is that its syncs with my hubby’s phone and our laptop at home so we can always be updating information to stay on top of things.

  2. Kari

    Collin,

    Please please please check out
    Getting Things Done (book)
    by David Allen.

    I guarantee some major lightbulbs will go on for you. GTD is *the* way to manage life, and since you already grasp the power of lists, you are READY for GTD.

    • Collin

      Sounds like a great read! Thanks for passing this along… I need all the help I can get! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Marissa

      I checked out the book and have started reading it but I don’t have much time (I have a sick 2 year old and a 4 week old) is it necessary to read the whole book (I feel like the beginning is all about work life and Im a full time mom) or can I skip to how to use his system?

    • Marissa

      I checked out the book and have started reading it but I don’t have much time (I have a sick 2 year old and a 4 week old) is it necessary to read the whole book (I feel like the beginning is all about work life and Im a full time mom) or can I cheat and skip to how to use his system or do I have to read it all?

  3. Brenda

    I make lists for tasks at work. I am usually responsible for managing multiple projects, so I make a list and at the end of the day I count up what I’ve accomplished and give myself a percentage grade — yes, like in school. If I get more than 50% I’ve had a good day.

  4. Del

    I also love marking things off my lists. I write down EVERYTHING I need to do…even if its a tiny thing. Crossing off one or two things motivates me to get more done. I will sometimes keep the same list for a week though and just add to it each day so that if there is something I didn’t get done on Monday its just still on the list the next day. Definitely makes me feel less overwhelmed when I can see everything I need to do and prioritize. Without my lists I will just sit around somedays thinking “omg, I have so much to do and no idea where to start”.

  5. are318

    i strugle between my work days and school…my major is Nursing… not enough time for anything…gona try this to do list …to get into the habit…cause cant imagine myself having a family like these…the feeling is so frustrating ๐Ÿ™

    • MA

      Try Flylady.net to get yourself and your home back on track, babysteps at a time. Don’t beat yourself up, you’ve got a full load! ๐Ÿ™‚

      • are318

        Love it! thks so much MA…This site will be extremely helpfull…here we go yay! thks again and trust me … cant wait to start getting things done and finally have some me time ๐Ÿ™‚

    • krista

      and if you want an iphone app that goes along with flylady, try Home Routines. It is AWESOME! Besides giving you daily reminders of things that need to be done, there is a “to do” list section and you can add things to the catagories of things to do today, things to do this week, and things to do later. It does cost $4.99, but it is worth every penny for me! It has helped me keep me house clean (and I have four kids, so its always a disaster) and it helps me remember everything I need to get done without feeling stressed about it. Also, since its on my phone, I never lose my list and I can add things as I think of them since I always have my phone with me.

      • are318

        awesome! ill check that out! Sonds like just what i need ๐Ÿ™‚ Thks so much for all the advices girls… i became a member of the website already…yay ….i appreciatte it a lot !!!

  6. Alicia

    I make lists, I always have. My mom told me when I was about 11 I had all my lists in a binder with a master list in the front. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I have one great tip for those recurring things. I keep my items that recurr monthly, quarterly, and annually in a 3×5 card file divided by those tabs. I pull out the ones I need for that time period and put them in front, then file them back when I’ve finished them. For example, right now I have just pulled my week 1 monthly card, and the March card from my annual pile, and my march/June/September/December quarterly card and put them in front. I have one more thing to do on my week 1 card and I can put it back.

    • Annie

      Wow! that’s impressive. I’ll have to try that.

  7. Lori

    I feel like I’ve just stumbled into my own support group…My name is Lori, and I am a list addict. My mom and husband joke that I have so many lists going that I now have a list of my lists. Someone on here mentioned Motivated Mom and I like that they make the lists for me with plenty of room to add my things. I haven’t been able to read through everyone’s comments so I will put that on my list to do later.

    • michelle

      You are funny! I was thinking the same thing about a ‘support group’ as I read Alicias comment above. Although I find the ‘list making since 11’ a little anal… but since i am the extreme opposite, a little “anal” in my life could be a good thing..(oops! you know what I mean…lists!) So tomorrow I start my list. someone wish me luck…anyone..I will check back. hehe….I am so intrigued by Alicias wk 1 monthly card March annual and the quarterly card? I cannot fathom what all that means…now that is organization!
      I have just been blaming Collin and her hip2save blog is the reason I cannot get ANYTHING done..hehe…really, I am checking the site like every 1/2 hr when I’m home!!. Not complaining Collin I love ya, YOU have saved me more time and money than I can ever thank you for!!
      XOXO
      Aaaah..I feel so much better! What a great support group!!!!

    • krista

      This is so funny to me because I relate totally! Just the other day my husband was making fun of me for something similar. The first thing on my “to do” list was, “make a list of……”. Too funny!

  8. love2savemoney

    I make a list…of things I already have done. I did the ” to do list “, but still felt overwhelmed with it. So, I started writing down things I’ve already done, like: made breakfast for the girls, did a load of laundry from start to putting it away, vaccuumed living rm, etc. etc. This kept me more movitated, and at the end of the day… I felt pretty good with the things I’ve accomplished, and the fact I could show my husband what I did that day as well ( he thinks I’m either on the computer or watching tv non stop…hello, we have a 2 yr old ๐Ÿ™‚ )

  9. MIA

    Lists are a great tool. I am a mother of four children six and under and lists help me feel like I won’t drowned in everyday tasks. Not everything gets done, but it allows me to have a general idea of tasks at hand and something to base my day on. List Plan It is a good web site. I also keep a home management binder with recipes and our family schedule and monthly budget just to keep me on track. Remember to make it fun!!!!

  10. Jalene Soto

    I don’t have a daily list, but when I feel I have a lot to do I like to use a dry erase marker and put my list right onto the fridge. No paper, No clutter.

  11. Gracie

    I do. For me, its much better to actually WRITE them down as opposed to doing it on my iPad or laptop. I ususally use the chalkboard in the kitchen. That way, when I go to the kitchen after surfing for too long, I feel guilty and try to knock a few items on the list!
    I wrote out a tongue in cheek version the other day ๐Ÿ˜‰

    http://allthosethingsilove.blogspot.com/2011/02/thursday-to-do-list.html

    • michelle

      I read it! That is hilarious! You are ME…right down to jeopardy and scoping out the nivea placement for next sale! haha although I like Robin Mead in the am…Good Morning Sunshine!!

    • krista

      That list is hilarious! It is my life exactly! Well, with a few “change diapers” and “yell at the kids to clean” scattered throughout. LOL! LOVE IT!

  12. Dana

    I sure do make lists! And often things get carried over and over and over to the next one,lol. One thing I do,lol,is if I do something that is not on my list,I write it in and cross it off ๐Ÿ™‚ It does feel good to cross things off!

  13. kysgran

    Hi Collin,
    I absolutely live by my “to do” lists. On my shopping days I use envelopes with the name of the store, the items I need and the coupons I have for each store. I also keep a notebook on my nightstand for those last minute things I think about, the next day I just add them to my list.

  14. Emily

    I make lists, but they don’t always help me be less stressed. Sometimes there really are more things on the list than can be done in the hours available! When that happens, I try NOT to look at the list, and I just keep telling myself “one thing at a time. Do the next thing.”

    • Janice Greene

      I read somewhere that you should only put 6 things on your “to do” list at a time. Then you feel a sense of accomplishment when you complete the list. IDK, maybe it would help ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. kysgran

    Hi Collin,
    This is the third time I’ve tried to post this. I hope it doesn’t show up three times. I absolutely live by my lists. On shopping days I use envelopes with the names of the stores, the items I need are written on the outside of the envelope and the coupons I have are in each envelope for each store. I also keep a notebook on my nightstand for those last minute things I think about; the next day I just add them to my list.

  16. Alyssa

    I make weekly dinner lists on 3X6 notecards, with the groceries I’d need for those meals on the back. I keep every single one that I do in a binder with clear covers, so that when it comes time to plan my dinner for the week, I can just pull one out instead of trying to rethink everything. It’s great because I’ve done it long enough now that I have worked out a system that allows me to use leftovers and/or to roll over the meat/produce into the next meal. It keeps my grocery lists simple because I’ve already written them down! Of course, I have to change a few things here and there to accommodate coupons, staples or specialty items, but all in all it’s really simplified my cooking life!

    • MA

      Great idea! Love the do it once principle.

    • carr

      Love this idea!

  17. Angel

    That’s the funniest thing that you posted this today b/c I was searching all over the web for a chic weekly dinner menu, and I just ended up making myself one off my computer. I’m putting it in a frame, and writing on the glass with marker (it’ll clean off with glass cleaner) so I can re-use it! Anyhow I’m tired of saying to myself… What am I going to cook for dinner?! Now I’ll make the list on Sunday night, and I’ll know what I have to shop for during the week ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Bridgette

      Great idea….what exacly did you print out because i want to steal your idea? ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Angel

        All it said was “Weekly Dinner Menu” at the top. Then I wrote the days and made a line underneath. I used some pretty font and printed it out. I’ll be putting a border on it when I figure out how lol!

        It’s really cool because of my hubby’s craving a dish, he will write it on the menu, and I’ll fit it into the week. Did I mention I can fit it in with my decor too? LOOOVE IT!

    • Melissa

      I made one of these a couple of weeks ago – love it cause the family knows what to expect too.

  18. Shelly

    I like to use tadalist.com. You can keep lists online to access from anywhere, print them out if you want, and it’s FREE!

  19. sHARON

    I have a white board on the fridge that I live by! And I also use a calendar program on my phone to have reoccuring things to do on a weekly basis.

  20. Steph

    If you are ever feeling overwhelmed and stressed out by a lot of things going on in your life make a list of everything you feel is weighing you down. I’m talking about more than drop off mail, make appointment, buy groceries. I am talking about all the things that bother you. Like right now mine would include some stress I am feeling from my family. Then cross out every thing on the list you cannot change. When you are left when the things you can change, prioritize them and start at the top or start with the easiest/quickest. It may seem small but it will help you feel like you are a little more in control. I am a college student and I bear the emotional weight of all things going wrong in everyone’s life I know. As my mom puts it…my heart is just too big. Doing this is how I survive.

    • Collin

      Hi Steph,

      You sound wise beyond your years! I love what you said and am so making a list like this… exactly what I needed. Thanks, Steph! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Jean

      I love this idea!!! So much that we worry about is beyond our control.

    • Mara @ Super Savings

      Oh, I LOVE this idea!! What a great way to physically/visually get rid of those things that are stressing you out and you can’t do anything about! Thanks Steph!!

      Mara @ Super Savings

  21. Heather

    I keep a notebook of dinners! I list the date and then write the main dish for dinner next to it. I have been keeping this notebook for the past 2 1/2 years and love it. When I get in a dinner rut, it is great to flip through and get some new ideas!!!

  22. Lisa G.

    Yes, I make lists, all kinds of them. I would not survive without my lists. I also find that when I really start getting stressed about the things I need to do, just writing them down (probably so I won’t forget anything) helps me tremendously. And there’s nothing better than crossing something off my list.

  23. AshATL

    I keep paper and pen next to my bed and next to my computer at work, so that instead of having all my unfinished tasks distract me from sleeping or working, I can write them down and forget about them for now. I keep a notebook full of tasks I eventually want to accomplish sorted by room of the house and areas of life, and I try to go over the list now and again for project ideas. However, I find that often I write lists and never go back to them and actually accomplish anything! I write myself a weekend to-do list on Friday at work, and I forget about it until Sunday night!

  24. Dani

    I love writing lists!! It’s like an “OCD” thing for me. I always tell my mom that she gave me an aweful trait of making lists about everything…but I do feel that they help me get things done and I love crossing off all the things I’ve accomplished. I make lists for what to do for the day, week, or month. Menu lists for the week along with the grocery lists of the different places I go. I have chore lists. I basically make a list for everything. And when I’m really not having a good day…I write down all my favorite things and it always makes me smile and appreciate all that I have.
    I love lists! LOL!

  25. Cris

    I use 4×6 index cards. I staple 3 together (I use one side each for M-F, and the last card divided for Sat/Sun; not my most busy days) I divide each card into 3 columns: things I need to go out to do, (errands) things I need to do at home,(cleaning, etc) and phone calls I need to make. (dr appt, etc) If it’s really important and must be done that day, I write it in red. As I complete a task, I cross it off. I also add things that I think of throughout the day. It frees my mind to write the things down; then I don’t have to remember them! If I don’t get everything done, I don’t cross the day off, and try to complete it the next day. (sometimes tasks get carried over to the next week!) Now, if I could just find that list……. (LOL , I am always losing it!)

  26. hollydolly

    I’m a total list maker. There’s always so much to do that it becomes overwhelming if your trying to remember everything. Getting it out of your head and onto a piece of paper always makes me feel so much better and once something is completed and you get to cross it off feels great. Sometimes if I’ve done something that wasn’t on the list I will write it on there just so I can cross it off. Its even a joke among family and friends about my compulsive list making. My young kids even make pretend lists. One time we were in a store and my four year old wanted a toy and I told him no, he told me, “mom, it’s on my list we have to.”

  27. couponlovingmommy

    So from the comments I gather lists and coupons go together. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m a list addict too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  28. lorid

    Hi Collin,
    I am a working mom to three young children (the oldest in 1st grade) and my life has gotten particularly hectic lately. I couldn’t keep it all straight, and everything was rattling around when I was in bed trying to sleep! I recently found the Arc notebook from Staples and I LOVE it. I couldn’t afford Levenger, and Staples pretty much copied their concept at a MUCH more affordable price. Basically, it is a notebook that has lots of different types of paper (To Do lists, Project planners, etc.) along with tabs, pockets, and other cool add-ons. The cool thing is that it is totally customizable and you can move the pages in and out and around. I have the smaller size and I use the To Do list up front. I have Short-term and Long-term lists, as well as sticky notes for Today lists. I actually got the calendar from Levenger b/c Staples doesn’t carry that insert…but it fits perfectly! I also have the project planner paper at the back, so I can take notes about anything wherever I am. Plus a pocket in the back to put coupons that I come across, to keep them safe until I get them in my coupon notebook ๐Ÿ™‚ Getting organized has been the best thing for me…just writing it down helps get it out of my head. Now I am off to sleep ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • heather

      Lorid- Can you please come to my house and organize me??? ๐Ÿ™‚

  29. Valerie

    I love lists! I keep my grocery list in an excel spreadsheet. It is divided into a few simple categories like Cold Things, Meat, Product, Pantry Items. Before I go shopping, I delete the individual items that were on the list from last time if I don’t need to buy them again. I like having it divided into categories when I’m in the store. Once I’m past the freezer section, I can scan that part of my list to make sure I got everything in that part of the store. Since it’s in a spreadsheet, I can make a little note in the column beside an item to remind myself to buy two or whatever I need to get for my coupons to work.

  30. Esther

    I like lists too. I even give my children lists for them to do every day after school. When they complete their list before bedtime 8 different times, they get to grab a ticket out of a jar with a prize written on it; such as…a dollar, or fifty cents, or a pack of gum etc. This idea works great and I don’t have to nag them to get their school work done or chores done! ๐Ÿ™‚

  31. ROBIN

    Yes, I totally live by my lists….shopping, chores, errands, bills, meals…….It’s funny though because my friend has never made a list and she pokes fun of me and my lists. I’m envious that she just remembers everything. But I have to say that I am way more organized than she is. Love all the ideas!

  32. tthomp4701

    Hi Collin!
    I swear by lists! I’m just like you..I feel soo much better if I see it on paper and I can think clearer about what needs to be done and then I don’t feel so scatter brained! I usually have 3 lists going at once, one for grocery/health items, a weekly dinner menu, and house cleaning. Keeps me organized and not feeling stressed out all the time! My family reaps the benefits as well, LOL! ๐Ÿ™‚

  33. Laury

    I was just telling a friend of mine today that if I make a list and then do a task that is not on the list already, I write it on the list so I can cross it off. : ) There is nothing more satisfying than seeing a list all crossed off. Of course that doesn’t happen very often but I still like seeing the crossed off items. I just made a list of all the stores that I have to return things to and I was so happy as I crossed off the stores. I call this reverse shopping, returning stuff to stores. I have to stop buying my 11 year old daughter clothes as she never likes what I buy for her. Of course, she loves my clothes and wears them all the time.

  34. Nanci

    I love lists, but I have 6 children and I homeschool and some days nothing on my “to do” list gets done. A friend wisely suggested on those days to make a list at the end of the day of all the things that you DID get done that wasn’t on the list…I was amazed at how much I did even though I hadn’t checked off anything on my “to do” list for the day.

  35. bentleymommy

    Collin-
    Thank you for this post. Please Please Please write more like them. This is what sets you apart from other blogs. You are a real live person! And you dont mind that we know that!

    Thanks for all you do!

    Another great resource is the FlyLady. FlyLady.net
    She is a big promoter of the fact that you can do anything in 15 min.

    Laura

  36. Tanya

    I make a form to do list on excel. I number the rows to fill a sheet. I put a long blank line to pencil in my items and then I make a small line right next to it for a place to check things off. I save it so I can just print one each time I need it. Then I hand write everything in.
    Then I try to make a game of it. As I get things done on it, I calculate out what percentage I’ve gotten done(this is why I number it.). This way its like getting a “grade” in school. It motivates me to get things done. I don’t want a “D”..lol
    Some times I just get so overwhelmed with things that I just have to sit down and write a list.

  37. Sophie

    you truly are my type of blogger! I love making lists! Oh the satisfaction when you cross something off. Sometimes i’m a little bummed when I do something I forgot to write on my list b/c I can’t cross it off. ^^

  38. heather

    So WHAT do you write your lists on? and WHERE do you keep them? I know it sounds crazy, but I keep TRYING to make lists. But then I lose them. So I bought a cute little notebook for them. That was too big. I didn’t like carrying it around. So I bought a smaller one. It was too small. I kept loosing it. (I feel like Goldilocks!). Then I bought a calendar to make lists in so I had the dates of things with me. If I take it to work, I forget to bring it home, etc. So then I bought a tote bag to carry back and forth to work with all my stuff in it. I have a black berry and I’ve tried that. Maybe…it’s just not in my ‘genes’ to be organized or efficient at all!!!
    I’m looking for that ‘just right’ Goldilocks list!

    • holly

      Heather i am just like you i keep trying this list thing but i make the list and either loose it or just never look at it again how do you make your self keep up with the list uggg…….

    • Melissa

      Me, too!!! I make lists but then end up with a million tiny scraps of paper….somewhere…. or a large calendar that is too bulky to tote around.

  39. krysnbrad

    I have a very busy schedule. (I work multiple part time jobs) I make up my shopping list on Sunday, usually for 4-5 stores. I cut all the coupons and put them in envelopes for each store. I then carry this with me. Then, during the week, I end up passing by the stores that I want to shop at, and since I have the list and coupons with me, I stop in and make my purchases. I don’t always make it to all of the stores depending on my schedule, but I know which ones are my main priority and put them first.

  40. Ellen

    There are numerous studies out there that have said that list-makers are more productive, more successful people… you go, Collin!

    Sometimes I add silly things like “eat breakfast” to my list so I can cross it off. It makes me feel soooo good! ๐Ÿ™‚

  41. Amy

    I have two small children, (and about to have 3). They still haven’t started school. Does anyone have a list of things to do for the kids as well as for themselves? I don’t want to turn cartoons on everytime I need to get something done!

  42. Jillo

    I love all the great feedback however I NEED help!!!! I work on the road (I do home care rehab and travel from patient to patient) and I ALWAYS think of things I need to do while I’m driving….. Any suggestions for how to keep a list while driving?

    • Amy Coffey

      If you have a smart phone, there are apps where you can make notes by speaking. I am not with my phone right now and can’t remember the name but I will be in a bit and will post the app i use. Works great!

    • Amy Coffey

      If you have a smart phone, there are apps where you can make notes by speaking. I am not with my phone right now and can’t remember the name but I will be in a bit and will post the app i use. Works great!

  43. renee m.

    I have always been a list person, but I confess I would many times leave my list at home on the fridge or on a counter. I just recently found a phone app that I actually use! It is called “Lister” and it was FREE! I currently have 3 lists going: Groceries, To Do, & Projects. I am adding a “Wish List” for future desires. (This is great when the kids or hubby wants to know what I want for Mother’s Day as I can’t ever think of anything when put on the spot!) I usually don’t forget to take my phone with me, so this phone app has me more organized when I am out. Also, I have my kids make lists before we go shopping. If it is not on their list, they can’t shop for it. It helps them learn not to make impulse purchases.

  44. Tara

    SimpleMom.net has a great daily docket system – for all those list lovers out there!

  45. Sam

    Me TOO!!! There are some days that I have so many things to do that I don’t even know where to start. I’ve even had to make a list to help me get the dishes done because I was so distracted!

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