5 Easy Ways To Manage Your To-Do List

As seen in Huffington Post

To-do lists.  Some people swear by them, some hate them and some obsess over them.    

They have become synonymous with being organized.  I personally have been a to-do list flip-flopper for most of my life.  I go through periods where the physical process of writing things down really helps me to be focused, yet there are other times when I find them a giant waste of time. I know what I have to get done, and in the five minutes I’ve taken to sit down and write this list I could have spent it actually getting one of my tasks done.

Fortunately or unfortunately (I’m still not sure which side I’m landing on) I’ve been going through a to-do list phase.  I blame this phase entirely on my pregnancy.  While not a complete disaster, my brain is indisputably functioning at a slightly lower level than what I’m used to.   On more than one occasion I have gotten into the car with my home phone and wondered why my bluetooth wasn’t connecting.  This is just where I’m at right now.

I always have a list in my head of what needs to get done in a given day or week, but lately I’ve noticed that’s where it stays.  In my head.  Stuck in some foggy part that knows something needs to happen and yet I’m just not quite sure what it is.  Hence the reason for my to-do list phase.

Like most of you out there, the list of things that need to be done is very, very long.  If I were to combine all the tasks I would like to accomplish for work, for home, for my family and for me, I would end up sitting around for days writing and completely aggravate my carpal tunnel (thank you pregnancy for that one too!).  I would also lose my mind by the end of it because the list would be so daunting that I would never able to move forward. With this in mind let’s look at a few ways to make your list manageable.

Be realistic with your time

Unless you are writing down every single thing you need to do in a day (like brush your teeth and put on socks) you have a limited time to get these “extra” tasks done.  If it helps try jotting down how long each task will take, try to be realistic.  “Clean out closet” isn’t a 5 minute project.  Scheduling time into your day to actually accomplish these tasks can also help.  Set aside 30 minutes (or whatever works for you) in the morning or the evening to tackle your list.  Defining a realistic amount of time can help you to stay on track.

Differentiate between long term and short term

Again, you need to reign yourself back into the real world.  Paint room, clean out garage, organize photos and replace old sofa have no business being anywhere near your to-do list.  If it helps, have a separate paper or place to keep track of long term projects.


This is where the difference between wants and needs comes in.  Be critical of what you have written down.  Do I really NEED to get this done today or would it just be nice to cross it off my list.  If there is a deadline to mail something in or you are out of milk then it needs to move to the top of the list.

Stop making them so damn long

I mean, really, if you’ve read the three above this then you won’t really have this problem but I still feel like it needs to be said.  Having an 8 x 11 sheet full of all the things you plan on doing in a day is just too much.  You’re setting yourself up for failure and you deserve better.  You want to end the day with a sense of accomplishment not inadequacy.   

Don’t Beat Yourself Up

Kids get sick.  Cars break down.  Friends call to chat and it turns into an hour long conversation.  Life happens.  There is always tomorrow.  I have had many days go completely off the rails because of the unexpected.    I had such realistic goals for my day and what needed to get done, yet for one reason or another, it just didn’t happen.  While it can be hard in the moment (and I do still occasionally beat myself up) I try to take a deep breath and focus on what did get done that day.  It’s not the end of the world that the sheets didn’t get changed and the blog post didn’t get written.  I’ve managed to keep my kids alive another day, there is still a roof over our heads, they’ve eaten (relatively) healthily and no bones were broken.  Some days that’s just what you have to call a win.

Happy Organizing (and List Making)!