I’m a little overwhelmed these days with all that needs to be done before I move at the end of the month. I can feel my anxiety levels rising with each passing day. However there is one thing that helps me manage life, not only on a regular basis, but especially each time I go through a phase like this and let’s face it, these phases hit all of us at some point or another.
Not just multiple lists or post it notes stuck to every nook and cranny contributing to the chaos but a list notebook that keeps all my to-do’s in one place. You know how I love to contain things :) I’m an old fashion pen and paper kind of girl so this is what I keep going back to time and time again. It’s simple and easy to use.
My list notebook is my container for my sanity and not only would I be lost without it but I definitely wouldn’t be sleeping at night either.
Here’s how it works for me and maybe it’ll help you out as well.
The Right Notebook
My lined spiral bound notebook of choice is 7 x 5 inches big. I prefer this size because it’s big enough that I can get 23 tasks per page yet small enough to be left out right beside my computer or to fit into my purse if I want to take it places with me (and right now that’s not such a bad idea!). It’s also important to me that it lays flat when opened and as well folds so I only have to see one side at a time if I want to narrow my focus. Chose whatever works best for you.
Detail Your Tasks
I always start by writing the date at the top of the page. Then I write down every single task that is taking up more space than it needs to in my head. The trick to this brain dump is to list your tasks in detail and this comes in handy for batching tasks which I’ll talk about in a minute. So for example if you want to make end of the year teacher gifts your list might include the various steps required to make that happen: buy craft supplies, have kids make cards, make craft, buy packaging, etc.. The more detailed I am, the less stress I feel. Mental clutter is bad news. It’s why I we start forgetting appointments and locking my our keys in the van…ahem…I’m just saying.
Having a running master list like this makes it very easy now to batch tasks as you need to saving you all sorts of time, energy and money. When I need to run downtown to do an errand I can quickly scan my list to see anywhere I noted that I needed to purchase or pick up something saving myself multiple trips. Or if after reviewing my detailed list I see that I have multiple phone calls to make, I can clear a space in my day to make them all at once.
I don’t have to remember many things, I only need to remember to check my notebook.
Highlight Completed Tasks
As I complete my tasks I will make a notation of the date completed and highlight the line item so I know it is done. It provides visual interest to the page and makes it perfectly clear which items are still outstanding. It also means I can still read the completed task. So many times I have gone back in my notebook to double check a date or task and this makes it easy to do so.
Starting a New Page
Every week or two I’ll start a new page in my notebook with a new date at the top. Any outstanding tasks are carried forward to this new date so now all the outstanding tasks are clustered together at the top. The reason I don’t start a new page every day is because I would be constantly carrying items forward which is not a practical use of my time.
Cross Reference with Your Calendar
Once you have your list of tasks laid out like this, take it to your calendar and start scheduling these tasks in. If we aren’t intentional about this step it is much too easy to procrastinate the tasks believing that we have more time than we really do or put things off simply because we are overwhelmed with the volume of items that need to get done. This is where I’m at.
When You Run out of Time
Logically I know that with less than 30 days to go there is no way I’m going to be able to accomplish all the things on my list that I have such lofty goals of completing. My options are.
- Ask friends for help (not always easy to do)
- Hire tasks out (is it worth my time to pay someone else to do it)
- Simplify (eg: I will buy teacher gifts rather than make them myself)
- Re-prioritize and delete (what can I cut from the list altogether)
Too many decisions in such a short amount of time is stressful. Having a list definitely helps keep the insanity in check and alleviates some of the tension that results when we are overwhelmed with everything on our plates.
Anyone else feeling overwhelmed right now and in need of making a list notebook?
First image credit: DeaPeaJay
Third image credit: Merete