I have tried all kinds.
I've used pre-designed To Do lists. They didn't fit my fluid, artsy, distractible personality.
I've custom-designed countless To Do templates on my computer over the years. They would always get lost and neglected in a notebook somewhere.
I've used excellent apps like ToodleDo and gTasks for years. I like their alarms and the ability to categorize, prioritize, and reschedule tasks. And gTasks pulls in events from Google Calendar, which is cool. But I found myself resisting and then ignoring them.
But now... I've got something that actually works for me.
It's uniquely mine. It evolved over a period of months. Its focus and line items reflect what is important to me, which I described in Seven Gifts and Visions and Values.
Here's the story.
Like I said, I have been using gTasks for a long time. Unfortunately, it doesn't provide a lasting record of what I actually did on a certain day.
So in February, I gradually embraced the habit of sitting down each night (see The Art and Soul of My Blue Haven) to write down what I had done: an "I Already Did It" list. It gave me a satisfying feeling of accomplishment. I realized later that it was a kind of bullet journal, a technique that has become quite popular recently.
Well, then I decided to start jotting (at the bottom of my "Did It" list) a short list of things I needed to remember for the next day. Which, when I thought about it, is a kind of To Do list. So then I decided to flip this, and start the page with the list of what I needed to do the next day at the top. Then I could check it off as I actually did the things, adding whatever else I did that day at the bottom.
And then I decided that I needed a daily habit tracker to make sure I was doing certain things every day. For example, as a diabetic, I need to exercise, keep a food log, take my medicine, and check my glucose levels. Before bed, I need to shut down the house for the night, as well as do some self-care tasks.
I didn't want to handwrite those every day, so I decided to take another crack at creating a To Do template.
I wanted something that gave me flexibility with certain tasks like organizing. I wanted to be reminded to organize something every day, but then be able to write down exactly what I was organizing.
I wanted space to write down stuff that didn't fit into a regular category.
I wanted my list in basic chronological order, to give a sort of sequence to the routines/rituals I have embraced for morning and evening.
So I created a hybrid form: part habit tracker, part task reminder, part free-form journal. I tried it out. I tweaked it. I tried it some more. I tweaked it some more. I'm using it every day, and I'm sure I'll tweak it even more as my needs change.
The thing is, I got in the habit of working with a list every evening and morning and sporadically throughout the day. That's what made it work, even before I had the list itself fully functional. It works because I love it, and I want to do it, and it makes me happy to be more productive, and I'm on a roll that I don't want to stop.
Ta da! Here it is!
Here is a filled-in list for Wednesday, when I was home most of the day, had pretty good energy, and was able to get a lot of different things done. My daughter was sick for a few days, so I didn't need to home school her. Thursday (when I was a little sick and very tired, but still able to get some low key stuff done) and Friday (when I was driving all over town with various teenagers from one event or appointment to the next) were quite different from Wednesday, but all three days were directed and curated by the same flexible Daily Do List format. Works for me!
A few other notes...
- I put these Daily Do forms in the front section of my notebook, not behind a tabbed divider. I leave the notebook open on the desk I use for my morning and evening planning ritual. I have a Food Log and space for Health Notes on the back side.
- I keep my glucose monitor, hand weights, medicines, Bible, and other necessary materials within easy reach of the same desk, so I can do them and then record them.
- I have other custom designed forms in various tabbed sections of the same notebook. I glean information from these for filling out the Daily Do forms. For example, I have a list of home projects I want to complete in the near future. I can look at that and decide when to schedule them.
- I do not usually bring my notebook or my Daily Do page on errands. I don't want to risk loss or damage. If necessary, I will snap a photo of the current page on my phone for reference while I'm gone. Or I will enter an errand sequence or short shopping list in a simple note on my phone. If I must bring paper along, I put it on a pretty clipboard.
- It's a fun game for me to see how well I can check it all off. I might even put a snazzy star by something that was a substantial project completed. Yay me! I circle the checkoff boxes of key items that must be done. Or I put an arrow by a task I am postponing until another day, or an X through it if I'm not going to do it at all.
- It still use my Clock and Calendar apps on my phone, with alarms to remind me of events, appointments, pill times, wake up times, and bedtime. I have Attention Deficit Disorder, so this is a must. It's also necessary since I don't have my notebook with me all the time when I'm out and about. I also like that I can enter a location in the Calendar app, and then access Google Maps directly from that.
- I don't feel like I have to do something in every category every day.
- I print a week's worth at a time, so if I know I want to do something on a particular day in the near future, I can go ahead and jot it in.
- When I'm done with one day's page, I move it to the back of the section, so the next day is on top.
- I designed all of my forms in Google Docs. I imported the check box bullet. I use the columns function to fit more on the page.
- The AirPrint feature doesn't work from my laptop, but I have both the Docs app and AirPrint on my phone so I can print forms without taking my laptop into the room where the printer is.
- What is "Laundry Landing" in my evening section, pray tell? Glad you asked! That'll be in an upcoming blog post.