Beach Walk 646 – Taming the To Do List

One of the things that stresses me out is all the tasks I collect – business, personal, household, long-range, short-range, recurring and not. Shane, aka Secret Cameraman, recently taught me a method, that so far, I am really liking. I am starting off simple – using a white board and some strategy. If I master this, I will move to the software version. It focuses on collecting everything, but then each day starting fresh with just the things “for today.” It supports that “Be here now” philosophy I love so much, and makes mole hills out of mountains. The psychological benefits are delightful.

Hawaiian word:
KÅ«kulu: organize, set up

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  1. I see Lexi was trying to help you out too!
    We have a few systems in my house, when it came to chores- I basically posted a monday-sunday list of what areas are to be cleaned and by whom. it was posted in the kitchen, hallway and back door.
    when i am actually working and have tons of appointments i can not live with out my “bible” which is my appointment book and sync that with my laptop.
    we have 2 calenders in the house. one is on the front door that is the appointments, going ons, things to do. the other is for the dogs, which is in the kitchen. it is our med chart for the dogs.
    my hubby on the one hand does the post it note and notepad method at work…i am going to have him watch this- maybe it will help him at work.

  2. Brilliant! First thing on my list today is going out to buy a white board! Currently, I am stressed out by the number of lists I have going on.
    First, I have a dry-erase calendar with all our our construction jobs posted.
    Next I have a million different post-its (all different colors) stuck around the edges of my computer screen, stuck to my keyboard edges, and along the wall closest to me. (It just started with one and grew into dozens!)
    I also have a grocery list in my kitchen.
    I have a personal “to-do” list (laundry, bathrooms, etc) in my bathroom.
    And last, but not least, I have a growing list in my head of things I have to add to my lists!
    No wonder I’ve been so stressed out lately!
    I’m going to try your method starting today!

  3. Sorta sounds like the Franklin Planner system. It worked great while I used it, but it was too structured for me.

    Or maybe I’m to lazy for it!

  4. Buddy 'Friendly' Wachenheimer says

    Sounds like a good system.

    The only thing I would suggest is that when you make your secondary master list from the main list, MAKE SURE TO PRIORITIZE THAT LIST. First things first. Then if something does not get done, at least you know that the most important things did get done, because the were on the top of the list.

    Now, back to work Rox, you have things to do.

  5. I forgot to mention a few other things about this method I like – so I am making notes along with your terrific comments for a “step 2” show next Monday!

  6. Susan and my dog Lexie says

    This is a wonderful topic to approach…looking forward to your ‘step two’, although Lexi already showed us a ‘two step’ with what she thinks about humans having to compartmentalize their lives with lists. I do think Lexi is onto something… 🙂

  7. @Kalei – Costco (ours here anyway) has these AWESOME, magnetic whiteboards for ~$20. I currently have my 3′ x 4′ on my main wall and then have 4 of the 2′ x 3′ “loose” that I move around the room and use where ever I need them. But these days my longer term To Do/Project management system is Omni Group’s Omni Focus. The most difficult thing I’ve found with using it for the past couple months is to remember to check it first thing in the morning to see what I’ve planned for myself that day.

    @Buddy – That’s a good idea and is one of the nice things about this system. It’s easy to “wipe and change” your day as needed.

    @Orille – I’ve tried to use a lot of systems over the years and one of the things I’ve found is that it takes, me anyway, a while to develop the habit of using the system. I’m really good at making lists and getting things setup. But the habit I’ve had to build is to actually USE the system. As I mentioned to Buddy, the nice thing about this simple system is it’s easy to modify in a way that works for you; it keeps little scraps of paper off your desk; and it’s nice to stand in front of the board(s) and have both an overview and a “Do Today” view.

  8. Gary Deckard says

    Holy cow, that is EXACTLY what I do!. Dry erase board, lists and a box in the corner (except mine is in the upper-right). I’ve been doing this for several months and it is the only way I’ve been able to get things done. If I don’t erase the item, it stays there like a rock in my shoe.

  9. @Gary – Perhaps Beach Walk 635 could also help with that rock in your shoe. 🙂

  10. Rox, stop readin’ my mind! I recently began doing a system really simliar to this, only I use a notebook instead of a whiteboard. It’s a busy world we live in, soo much information going in and out. I find that your method meshes well with the GTD method. Have you read that book?

    Thanks for spreading the word about this method!

  11. @Kekoa – yes, I am aware of GTD and Shane is actually familiar with it. I want a method that doesn’t take a whole lot of time itself – adding to my list instead of just organizing it. To be continued – who knew this topic would be so relevant?

  12. Actually, the point of GTD is to take as little time as possible. I found that once I had read the book, implemented it, inevitably stopped doing it after a few months, then started up again it became transparent in my life and didn’t require any more time investment than writing a list in a notebook. GTD is just a way to think of lists anyway.

    So because of this, I see this method of Taming the To-Do list as kind of a life-plugin to my existing GTD habit.

  13. @Kekoa – “life-plugin” I like that!


  1. […] using a white board to organize the to do list, then make a sub-list of what to do, just for today.(Beach Walk 646) Today I fll in a few more details, and yes, as Kekoa mentioned, the work of David Allen and GTD […]