To-Do List Inventory: How to

Oftentimes the best way to organize a space, cupboard, drawer etc. is to take everything out and put it back in again. As we go we take out any items that we don't need, don’t work, or simply don’t fit.

But what about our to-do lists? How do we account for the million things we have on our minds? Especially the items that get pushed to the back and forgotten. 

Much like anything else, we can take inventory of our to-do list too. Moreso we can use that inventory to sort and prioritize.

In this post, I'll go over how to create an inventory of your to-do list in hopes it will help you shake that feeling of overwhelm- and help you find a place to get started if you're feeling stuck.

1. List all of your to-dos

Start by making the items somewhat tangible by writing them down. Create a list of everything - excluding things you would do automatically such as everyday personal hygiene items and cleaning habits. For example, I might list "organize the hall closet," but not "wipe the kitchen counters" because I do that without thinking about it. Think of items you need to get done, that are going to move the needle - especially if they are things that keep getting forgotten.

Now isn't the time you're going to worry about what's a priority or when it needs to happen. You're making an exhaustive list. Like taking inventory. For some, this might feel like a warehouse of items, but it's not to be overwhelming or a competition.

Think of things that are top of mind, forgotten items, events or occasions that might be coming up - anything that you have to do goes on the list.

You might even find it’s somewhat like venting. Getting it all out in the open! Except instead of simply stating these things - we’re going to create a plan and tackle them.

2. Categorize your to-dos

Now that you have your to-dos listed out, don't simply start tackling in hopes to get it all done today (or even this week). It can be tempting to just pick one and go. First, let's organize.

Create four categories to start: backlog, delegate, project-specific, revisit.

Backlog is where all the items go that don’t have a due date, but you’d like to get done at some point. That doesn’t mean you can’t do them right away, it just means you haven’t “assigned” them to a specific time period yet. They live here so that you don’t forget them, but also so they aren’t nagging you.

Delegate is for items on your list that you could ask for help with whether it’s someone you live with, a friend, family member, or even hired help.

Project-specific is for items with the same goal to be backlogged together. It could also be for an event. This will help you create a to-do list around something specific and help you track progress.

Your revisit list gives your random items a place to go. This is for items that might distract from the other lists. Things that keep getting put off, you aren’t sure you want to do, or maybe aren’t important now, but you’d like to look into it later. Personally, I also write things here that kind of pop up and seem interesting, but I don’t want to let it distract me in the moment so I write it down to look into at a better time.

Rewrite each of your to-dos under the appropriate category. As you go, declutter. Scratch out any items you don’t want or really need to do. Be honest with yourself!

3. Plan your to-dos

Now it's time to do some planning. Categorizing your to-do list has also helped a little with prioritizing as you've decided to scratch out anything not worth doing, put items to come back to later on your revisit list, and you know to ask for help with items on your delegate list.

That leaves backlog and project-specific.

If you already have a planning method - pull items from your backlog and project-specific list that seem most important and prioritize them first. Pick a set amount each day and don't simply keep adding more. When you're done with your list, reward yourself by participating in a fun hobby or spending time with friends and family. It's likely that you will be more productive if you aren't feeling burnt out.

If you don't have a planning method or you're curious, I'll share mine. I have a post about weekly planning here, but the gist is to plan out your week in your day planner. Pull a set amount of items from your backlog and make a to-do list in the notes section of your planner. Include other things that you know need to be done as well.

Personally, I set about 7-10 weekly items as this is my personal list and I work full-time. Use that list to plan your day the night before or in the morning. Place any appointments on a proper day as soon as you hear about them (not on a sticky note in your wallet, purse, or drawer).

Plan your week and start tackling your list!


I hope you found this post helpful!

Remember, it's okay to ask for help if you're feeling overwhelmed and please make your goal to find balance - not simply see how much you can get done in a day.

Above I shared how to plan your week. Here's a link for how to do so daily.

I also sell printable planners on Etsy from $2 - $7.