I’m a big fan of the To Do list. There’s too much stuff to do every day, and my notoriously ADD-addled brain can’t remember what I’m doing from minute to minute, let alone hours or days in advance. (The ADD portion of that previous sentence is an observation of my wife’s, and not a medical condition.)
To help that, I always carry a piece of paper in my pocket to remind me of what’s going on. In an attempt to draft off the success of all of those websites out there that tell you how to hack your life, carry a Hipster PDA, or become zen through organization, I thought I’d share how my To Do list is made.
First step: buy a Chunky Pad at CVS. You can likely get such a thing at any stationery or office supply store. The important thing is that the pages are 4 x 6 inches (10.2 x 15.2 cm).
Second Step: Rip out a sheet and fold it in half along a vertical line. On the left side, I write down things I want to do as I think of them, at ANY time of the day. There’s always a pen within reach. I’m at my desk all day at work where I have pens. I have a couple more in the car. I have one in my jacket pocket. They’re laying about the house all over, though they seem to go missing from there a lot more often.
The right side of the page is for recurring things, or things that can be categorized. Evenly spaced down that side, I write “Pipeline,” “VandS,” and “Food Store.” When I have an idea for a column or something to research for one, I put it under Pipeline. There’s always room there. When I have an idea for a blog post, or want to remember to do something for the website, I write it under VandS. We’re always running out of something at the house, so the food store entry is a given. Today, we’re almost out of sandwich bags. I’d never remember that the next time I go for the weekly food order. If I stop by the store after work for something else tonight, I’ll be smart enough to quickly glance at my To Do list and look like a genius to my wife when I get home.
I can fold the paper in half horizontally next and it tucks neatly into my shirt pocket, wallet, or pants pocket.
Just cross the items off as you do them, and then — here’s another big key — rewrite the list every three days or so. Those items that are still lingering on the list after three days? They might not be strictly necessary. They may not be important. Feel free to drop them off your list of things you want to do with your precious time. Everything else? Write it again. Just the annoyance of knowing you’ll be writing it again in a few days if you don’t actually do it will be enough to make you compete a task just to strike it off your list.
It’s very rare that this list grows past half the sheet of paper, but I do write small. The dead zone in the bottom left is often used to write down this week’s comics that I want to pick up at the shop when I get there. If I need to write down a quick phone number or address, I can always use the back of the To Do list, too. It’s very handy and very sturdy. Surprisingly so.
That’s how I keep track of most things I need to do from day to day.
Writer early and write often. That’ll make your To Do list a part of your routine and an essential one in no time.
If you have an iPhone and are looking for something digital, I’d suggest TaDaList.com.
One final note: My anniversary and my wife’s birthday are burnt into my brain. If you need help remembering that, I can’t help you. Try Google Calendar or something.