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Quick Method to Get on Top of Your “To Do” List

It’s easy to get quite overwhelmed when you have a lot to do, especially if there are timelines involved and your list covers many different areas of your life.

Most of us have work stuff, house stuff, kid stuff, relationship stuff, and any number of other things that come up periodically like getting the oil changed in the car, renewing your auto tag, making brownies for the fund raiser at school, etc. You get the picture.All of this can swim around in your head, and can find yourself going over and over your mental list because you’re afraid your going to forget something. The process of reviewing the list repeatedly is usually an attempt to get on top of the anxiety the list produces. The problem is, the anxiety doesn’t go away and can in fact get worse using this method. Have you every dreamed your list? My point exactly!

Obviously there are books written on this problem and there are a number of systems available that can help organize your life. These systems go from simply keeping written checklists to more elaborate classifications and prioritizing of your “to do’s”. I’m all in favor of researching these various ideas and systems and finding the one that fits best for you. However, here’s a quick method you can use anytime either by itself or in conjunction with some other organization system.

Get a stack of index cards, or any type of cards you like, just so they are blank and you can write on them. You can even cut your own cards up from leftover scrap paper. Just make them all the same size. Then begin writing your to do’s on the cards. The trick is to place only one item on each card. That’s very important because what we’re aiming for here is to reduce the anxiety that occurs when we try to hold more than one thing in our head at a time. Once you have your list down on your cards, begin putting them in order by priority with the most urgent items on the top. Now you can begin doing your tasks in whatever timeframe you like. When you finish something, toss that card! Feels good actually.

One young woman I know purchased a key ring type contraption at an office supply store that has small index cards attached. She keeps all of her “to do’s” on the key ring, and when she finishes a task, she rips the appropriate card off and throws it away. She is a student and finds very helpful to just focus on one task at a time without thinking of her entire list while she’s working. Her favorite part is tearing off the card and tossing it!

This method is not elaborate at all and may not work for more complex organizing tasks, but the simplicity of it makes it very useful on a daily or weekly basis, and even longer. I originally used it mostly with kids that have tendencies towards ADD. By giving them one task at a time on one card, they have less problems with forgetting or becoming distracted when they are trying to accomplish something. It is even helpful with kids to add some sound to the task if it is a task that doesn’t require quiet, such as picking up clothes off the floor and putting them in the hamper. If they listen to a song while doing the chore and they are supposed to be finished by the time the song is over, they are more likely to complete the task without becoming distracted. This strategy is equally effective for adults that need stimulation to help complete mundane tasks such as cleaning.

The idea is to make it work for you and have fun with it!

Suggested Reading for Organization Strategies: Getting Things Done by David Allen.

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