I was reading a blog post last week about how “Busy” is the new “Fine”. When you used to ask people how they were doing they would say “Fine”, but now the common reply is “Busy”.
I laughed because I have heard myself say the same thing.
Anyway, we are all busy and have lots to do, so I thought I would share with you my way of keeping it together — My way of getting things done while maintaining priorities.
First, let me say that there have been several years of my life when I haven’t even made a “To Do” list. Just getting up and making it through the day was my idea of success. Last year was one of those years. At those funky times I preferred to make “Done” lists instead of “To Do” lists. You can read about that idea here.
Other years my “To Do” lists were just straight lists on a piece of paper. But a few years back I came up with a weekly “Things To Do” list that met all my needs. I chose to go with a weekly list vs. a daily one because I like to know what the whole week holds at a glance. And I want flexibility to choose what day I complete what tasks. I start filling out my chart on the weekend before the week starts so I am ready to hit it hard Monday morning.
I will walk you through my weekly “Things To Do” list and explain how it works:
Of course there is a place for the weekly date range. Then I have a place for my focus of the week. This spot is for what is most pressing that week. That means if I get nothing else done that week but my focus, I am okay. Declaring a focus helps me remember what is most important THAT week and this is where all my extra time and energy goes. This picture was Crew’s birthday week. His party, classroom visit, special breakfast, dinner out, etc. were the most important things on my list.
Some weeks I am lucky enough to just get to regroup. These weeks I have no particular big project or event so I have no particular focus; rather I get to play catch up and tie up a bunch of lose ends. This week is one of those weeks and it’s been wonderful!
Next I divided tasks into 3 categories: people I need to CONTACT, things I need to DO, and places I need to GO. Writing my to dos down in categories automatically helps consolidate the items and save time. So if I sit down at my computer all the emails I need to send are in one list, in one place. If I were heading out, I could see at a glance all the places I needed to go and plan a route accordingly. The items that go in these 3 categories can be done at any time during the week. They are not time or date specific.
My life was getting full of scheduled events so I included a Daily Planner where I broke down the week by each day. This is where I put calendar items that are date and time specific like appointments, games, lessons, etc. I included an FHE spot on Monday so I could write down the lesson topic as well.
I also included a space to record dinner options for the week. I have some difficulty sticking to a very rigid day to day schedule, so I prefer to just write down what I am planning to make that week, but I don’t assign the meal a specific day.
Perhaps my favorite section on my “Things To Do” list is the “Roles” column. It helps me keep in mind what is most important and serves as a reminder of who I need to be helping. I look for ways throughout the week to do something in each of my roles. It is the one section that I try to fill in if it is blank.
As I brainstormed the different roles in my life, I came up with 8 that I felt were most important to me. Here is a brief explanation of each:
Self is anything that benefits me personally and doesn’t involve anyone else. It is usually the temple, a pedicure, or a trip to my therapist 🙂
Wife and mother are pretty self explanatory. But I don’t write things in there like ‘make breakfast’ or ‘help with homework’. It is usually something out of the ordinary like lunch dates, parties, one on one time, or suprises in Chad’s suitcase. Sometimes, if I can’t think of anything, I will even ask Chad, “How can I help you this week?”
Stenson and Erickson are my more immediate family roles. These are my brothers, sisters and parents or Chad’s brothers, sisters and parents. The ‘to do’ item might be a family dinner, a phone call, a park date or a birthday lunch.
Relative is for my more extended family like cousins, aunts, uncles, grandmas, etc. I try to make a small connection there each week too. Maybe it is a baby shower, a reunion or Facebook post, etc. This week we are visiting graves.
Friends is where I just try to do something for a friend like babysit her kids, send a text or help her with a project.
Neighbor / Ward. I put Neighbor and Ward in the same box because in Utah your neighborhood is your ward. If I were out of state I might separate them. This category may be taking a meal in or visiting someone or a going to an activity.
Delineating all my roles helps me keep balance in a busy week. You could do whatever roles work for you.
At the very bottom of my “Things To Do” list is a list of areas in my home to clean. They are written down there just as reminder of what I should do in a week. Believe me, they don’t always get crossed off.
My weekly planner has served me well for many years. I have tweaked it over and over as my life circumstances change. At one point my three columns were for Home, Job, and Church Calling (I was working from home and was Primary President at the time so I needed a whole column just for each.) Here is a link to a blank one if you would like to use it as an example to make your own. I just made a table in a word document.
Lately, I have added a companion notebook to my weekly planner. There are a lot of little things I want to write down because I am a little more forgetful, have a little more on my plate, and need a little extra motiviation to keep going. So I picked up a small notebook as it is more of a daily planner. This is where I write down every little thing I need to to do on ONE day — some stuff isn’t important enough to write on my weekly calendar, but I might need some motivation to get it done that day like “put away laundry”.
I like the notebook because I use it to take notes sometimes and write down extra details that I don’t necessarily need to remember long term but are part of my ‘to do’ list info. Here was Alphagraphics email and some notes on pricing for Teacher Appreciation Week.
I don’t get upset if I don’t cross everything off on one day. I just circle the item that didn’t get done and move it on to the next day. I might move the item a couple days in a row. Then it is even more satisfying to go cross it off of three different lists.
I don’t know if any of this made any sense, but my “Things To Do” lists works for me. I hope even a small part can work for one of you too!