Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Organization: Your To Do List {Tech Tuesday}

well.... not quite...
Maybe I have some nesting energy to thank (hello, 35 weeks!), but I've been really keeping on top of my routines the last two weeks, and my house is looking better and better! Still so far from "perfect," but that's ok with me. :-) I will probably never have a perfect house, because it's just not my priority. But a house that is peaceful and clutter-free -- and pretty clean -- is good enough. Besides... I am about to have 4 children age 5 and under so...........

Here are a few things that I have found that are totally non-negotiable if I want to keep my head above water:

1. Get dressed first thing. (Lay out my clothes every night.)

Your mind is definitely affected by what you're wearing. I don't really get anything done if I stay in my pajamas and glasses. (shocker) I don't really even feel awake until I have my contacts in and get some clothes on that I could answer the door in. But even more importantly, I've found that I will NOT do this step unless I lay out my clothes the night before. It's so simple, but it makes a huge difference for me.

2. Unload the dishwasher RIGHT. AWAY.

I mean this. No dawdling. No waiting for any reason. I have to just do it. It takes less than 5 minutes! And that one thing practically makes my kitchen clean itself. I truly haven't had dishes in my sink for 2 weeks!

Sometimes this means I run my dishwasher before it's totally full. This used to feel wasteful to me, but if it means my kitchen stays clean, that's just the way it has to be.

3. Break my list into manageable chunks.

I cover this more later on, but I've found that if I take my big lists and break them down into short lists, I not only stay more focused, I end up getting more down without getting overwhelmed. (See below for what I mean.....)

4. Pick up. All the time.

This includes the kids. I'm really trying to incorporate frequent pickups in our daily routine. Whether it's Sara's crafts or Tucker's animals, things can get out of control FAST. But if we pick up what we're done with before we move on, that helps tremendously. It's also making them more conscientious of not getting too much out in the first place.

Also in this vein, we are being careful not to leave the house until we've put everything back in order. If we are doing this frequently, it usually takes less than five minutes to get stuff where it needs to be.

And lastly, that final before-bed pickup is the most important. We've added it to the kids' nightly routine -- while Zack is helping one with getting pajamas and brushing teeth, I'm helping the other pick up their room. They caught on pretty fast and like having a clean room!

5. Make a list and check it thrice.

Having a vision is invaluable. And personally, I don't remember to make my bed if it's not on my list. =\ I guess my brain just has more important stuff to think about, ha! ;-) Anyway, I have found a system that really works for me using Toodledo. It's a free website, and there is a (not free) iPhone app. You can also use their mobile site, which is free, but I really like the app.

I recognize that my system is probably more complicated than some people might like. There is a time and place for simple check-and-go lists (this is my favorite app for that)! But I was in need of some real organization and control over my tasks that were threatening to drown me. So check out my system, and maybe you'll find something in here that is helpful!

First go get an account at toodledo.com, then come back here...

(For anyone wondering, yes, I do love FlyLady! I subscribe to so many of her ideas, though I have of course customized her system to my life and family. But if you haven't heard of her or read her philosophy, I recommend that you start there.)

Setting Up Toodledo

1. Set up your folders.

The easiest way to organize your tasks on Toodledo is to separate them into folders. This is easy to set up. From the website, click Organize > Folders. You can add, delete, and reorder your folders from there. In the app, go to Settings > Folders.

2. Create your routines (repeating tasks).

Routines really are the magic that keeps your house "maintaining itself," as FlyLady says. I love Toodledo's repeating tasks because you can set them up to ... repeat. :D Let me show you an example of a typical routine task in my Toodledo app.

You'll notice that I have a time assigned to it (I don't do this for all tasks), and I have an alarm that will pop up on my phone when it's time to get moving. The main thing I want to point out though is the repeating schedule. I don't have it repeat strictly every day. The reason for this is that if you miss a day, the next day you will have that task on there twice. That just annoys me. So I have it set up to repeat one day from completion. When I check it off my list, it recreates a new task for tomorrow.

The easiest way to add these routines initially is actually from the website. You can create multiple tasks at once with the same settings. Click "Add Task" at the top, and then the link to the right of the box that says "Add multiple tasks." Now you can add your whole morning routine in one step. All these tasks will have the same settings (folder, due date, priority, repeat schedule, etc).

Repeat this for your other routine folders. I just have Morning Routine and Evening Routine set up, but you can do it however you like! I also have Todo and Errands folders that I dump everything else into.

3. Adding non-routine tasks.

This step is not necessary, but I recommend it because it will make things easier on you in the long run. You can set up task "defaults" -- fields that are automatically filled in when you create a new task.

In the app, go to Settings > Fields & Defaults. From here, you can control which fields show up when you are creating  a new task, and what their default properties are. For example, if you never use the "Context" field (I don't), you can move it out of the Fields Used section. Here are my settings:

This keeps me from having to specify the folder and due date every time I create a new task, since 9 times out of 10 I am creating a Todo task that is due today. That would get old in a hurry! The empty fields are ones that I don't need  a default for, but I want to be able to use on some tasks.

Now you're ready to start adding away to your tasks!

One thing I really like about using a system with due dates like this (as opposed to just a running list) is that if I know of something I need to do Friday, I can go ahead and add it now and forget about it. It will show up on my list on Friday when I need it to.

Using Your To Do List

Now that we have our tasks set up, we have to actually work! (Often my breakdown point hehe.)  I will show you how I use my list throughout the day. Once again, this is just my routine that works for me to help keep me on task!

I have found that breaking my list down into smaller, less intimidating chunks is so helpful for my easily-distracted/overwhelmed brain. So every morning, I open up my list to see what's ahead of me for the day. In fact, I have a repeating task just to remind me to do this every day! It pops up at 7:45 every morning to remind me that I have stuff to do. (somewhat rude, but I guess I need it)

I open my Hotlist (by default, this includes tasks overdue or due today -- you can change this in Settings) and star the first 6-7 items I need to do. This seems to be the right number to show on one screen (good for taking screen shots and showing my husband what I've done, ha!!). Now my "Starred" list shows just the things I need to focus on right now. Focus. Good.

Then I go do them!

When I'm done with that list, I remove the stars and go back to my Hotlist to find the next 6-7 things (after sending my screen shot to my girlfriends and my husband! I need lots of affirmation). This actually has been a key for me I think. I really get overwhelmed by a list of 18-25 things (which your list will be if you're including stuff like getting dressed and making your bed!). So breaking it down is crucial.

By breaking it down and staying on task, I have been able to complete my lists every day, even when they have 30 things on them! And because I've been staying on top of it, some days I don't need to do every routine task. But those routine tasks still show up on my list every day, so...

The way I take care of that is to check it off anyway (so the app will create a new one tomorrow) and then delete today's task (swipe > delete). You don't HAVE to delete it, but I like my lists to accurately show what I've actually done.

For example, today I don't actually have any dirty laundry to wash (what?????), so I check it off and delete it. Toodledo created a new task for tomorrow which will disappear from my Hotlist next time I refresh it. (Note: You have to have "Sync on Edit" turned ON in your settings for this to work.)

Another reason you might want to do this is if you want to change the details of today's task without messing up your repeating task. A good example is cooking dinner -- I like to go ahead and put in what is on the menu for the day. So I check off the item so it will make a new task for tomorrow, and UNcheck it again (instead of deleting it obviously). Now I can change the task up without messing up tomorrow's dinner. I also changed the time of my time/alarm, since this dinner will only take 30 minutes to make.

And it shows up in my list now as I like it.

Of course you don't have to be this picky!! If that's too complicated for you, you can ignore ALL of that :-) I'm just sharing what I like to do, and you pick and choose what is helpful to you.

Then each night before bed, I open up my list for tomorrow and think about what needs to be done the next day, besides the routine tasks. Some days there is a lot, and some days I just add a couple of things that are really pressing. My only requirement of myself is to do my routines!

There are a lot of todo apps out there, and many of them can incorporate some of these same ideas. Play around with them (there are plenty of free or $1 apps!) and see what works for you! However you decide to do it, just make sure you are doing your routines every day!!! It's more important than sleep or rest. If you miss one day, tomorrow is going to be that much harder.

And you WILL have to do it at some point anyway.

(I keep reminding myself of this -- why not do it when it's easy instead of waiting until it's hard???)

What is your system? Do you have something else entirely that totally works for you? Let me know! If you've written a blog post about it, please share it with me! I love to read about other people's systems and glean from them.


  1. I have downloaded so many organizing apps for my phone and have tried several of them. Right now, I am really liking the HomeBlessings app for iPhone. It really goes along with FL's routines, but you can add your own tasks and routines.
    However, these apps only work if I actually get off my hiney and do the work. How I wish that there was an app that actually did the physical folding of my laundry and unloading of my dishwasher. :)

  2. I'm so glad I started using this again this week! Thanks for the helpful tips and reminders! This is going to be really handy! :-)

  3. I really need to work on #1 (sitting here in my PJs and glasses as we speak, oops...). And I will definitely check out toodledo! Thanks for sharing <3

  4. For implementing GTD you can use this this application:


    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, and a calendar.
    Syncs with Evernote and Google Calendar, and also comes with mobile version, and Android and iPhone apps.