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!

Conclusion

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.

 

 

 

 

 


Weekly Planner: an Effective Way to Get Organized

Imagine someone who is so organized they don't need to write anything down. Not one task. Not one appointment. Their pen doesn't touch paper for a single detail or reminder.

That person isn't me.

And I image, dear reader, that person isn't you either.

Wouldn't it be boring to be completely perfect anyway?

With that said, before you whip out your pens and post its, napkins, or scrap papers - ask yourself:

  • Will I find this note later when I need it?
  • How many times before have I written something down only to empty my desk, drawer, backpack, wallet or purse in hopes I find it?
  • Isn't there a better way?

There is a better way, and I believe you can benefit from having a system to organize your week.

The Weekly Spread

The weekly spread is very much the same as your typical "week-at-a-glance" in a day planner, but with some extra tools to get you going. Here I'll guide you through using one.

To get started, I like to plan my task list for the week. First, I look at the previous week's list to see if there are any items that didn't get completed and move them forward. Second, I check my backlogs.

If you're unfamiliar with a backlog, it's a list of tasks that need to be done, but don't have a date assigned to them. For some people, it's a living document that just keeps growing. Personally, I have multiple, one for to-dos, one for things that aren't a priority, one for creative projects, one for house projects, and a completely separate one for work. However, that's another post.

Weekly tasks are much the same in that we know we want to do them this week, but haven't picked a day to get it done yet.

Take a look below to see what that looks like.

Like any other to-do list, I recommend choosing a manageable number of tasks and not continually adding items to your list as you complete them. To do so is like continually moving the goalposts.

Also, you're going to want to save room for other tasks that might come up as well as your daily tasks.

Daily Tasks

Daily tasks are ones you want to get done on a specific day that week. While my example below doesn't show a lot of space, it's done so intentionally as the idea is to only choose your top 5-7 tasks for that day (it can be less too).

Repetitive tasks like check emails and wipe the kitchen counters don't go here because they're automatic.

Some examples in the home setting are:

  • appointments
  • errands
  • tasks that aren't routine
  • bill due dates
  • events and occasions
  • reminders

In the workplace setting some examples are:

  • meetings and appointments
  • tasks that aren't routine
  • due date reminders
  • general reminders
  • events and occasions

If you do have a really full day and need to get down to the specifics of calls to make, reminders, and appointments here's an example of a daily layout that can be used alongside your weekly spread.

Sometimes it helps when we break larger tasks into smaller ones!

Notes, Menu, Goals, and Blank List

The notes section in a weekly spread is exactly that. I recommend having one. It's an excellent place for you to put ideas and reminders that don't really fit anywhere else. If you use sticky notes, it's a great place to put them so you can find them again and give yourself more space to write.

I find it handy to have a menu on hand when planning the day so that dinner can be planned as well. Having the goals here as well simplifies things rather than having to flip to another page. It also allows goals to be adjusted weekly.

The blank list with no title is for any extra list that might be needed. I also added it as a place for others who are using it to track things or add lists that are unique to them.

All of them are filled out in my example below.

Things to consider

In creating your own day planner you can be as creative as you want with your weekly spread. However, when I used to draw mine and I'd add cute doodles, I'd get lazy with it after a bit. In my opinion, it's better to have a simple layout that works for you. Which makes my next point a lot easier. It's best to draw or print your weekly layouts in advance so that you can write in appointments and reminders for later.

A monthly layout comes in handy for occasions and events as well.

Conclusion

I hope you've found my post on weekly planning helpful! Personally, I found getting away from traditional day planners and following this method have helped me feel a little less "busy."

Keep in mind when planning your week, the idea isn't to cram as many projects, tasks, and chores in there as you can. The goal should be to find a balance. Get things done and have some time to sit back, take part in a good hobby, or get in some recreation.

Happy planning!

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If you are interested in checking out my printable planner layout bundle that includes the daily, weekly, monthly layouts, as well as a backlog - here's the link.

You might also like my post on budget inspiration for your monthly planner.


Weekly Menu Planning

If you're like me, you still haven't figured out how to cook "whatever" or "I don't care.”

It’s not a place to be ordered from either.

What I do know - in that fifteen minutes spent going through every kitchen cupboard, or going back and forth with your spouse, maybe both, dinner could have been well underway.

It all comes down to a bit of planning ahead.

No, I'm not talking about meal planning or prepping. I'm talking about menu planning. This doesn't mean we have to become short-order cooks in our own kitchens. It's a lot like meal planning except that we don't commit to cooking a certain meal on a certain day of the week. Everyone eats the same thing where possible. The goal is to simply narrow down choices.

You're no longer asking "what do you want for dinner?" You're asking what would you like out of these options - knowing you have what you need in order to follow through.

This helps with four things: planning a grocery list, saving time around mealtime, reducing food waste, and sticking to your budget.

How to make a weekly menu

There really is no one size fits all solution to making a weekly menu. However, here are some suggestions on how to get started:

  1. Grab a pen and paper - or phone with a notes app if that's how you work best
  2. Look at what's currently in your pantry, fridge, and freezer. What needs to be used up? Are there any meals you can make from these or other ingredients you have? What are you missing?
  3. Next, grab some inspiration from your local flyers! Do you see anything on sale that you can incorporate? If you don't have flyers on hand - you can download a free app called Flipp
  4. Using your list of current ingredients, the flyer, and thinking about your household favourites, create your menu. Personally, I add seven meals to my list so that I can choose one for each day of the week
  5. Add any missing ingredients to your grocery list. Bring! is another free app I love! They have categories similar to the departments you'd find in your local grocery store. All you have to do is tap items to add them to your list - which can be shared with someone else.
  6. Put the menu somewhere visible so that you can see it. That way it's not lost or forgotten. If living with others, you can also put it somewhere central in the house where everyone can see it such as the fridge.
  7. When planning your day, choose what meal you'd like ahead of time in order to give yourself time to thaw, marinate, brine etc.

Here's an example using one of my printables (but any sheet of paper will do just fine of course!):

Other Tips

  • Plan meals where leftovers or extras can be used back to back - for example, BBQ chicken and the next day chicken fried rice
  • Prioritize meals with ingredients that are due to go bad sooner
  • Create a go-to list of your household favourites for inspiration. While this may seem trivial, it really helps when planning
  • Avoid including everyone in the process as it may end up taking longer than it needs to - it depends on the dynamic of the household of course. Personally, I run mine by my spouse once I've drafted it in case there are any objections, but I do the planning on my own
  • If needed you can include others by asking them to contribute to the favourites list so they don't feel their favourites will be left out

Conclusion

Using this method, you can tackle your menu for the week, your grocery list, and prevent food waste. It can also help your budget a great deal by reducing the urge to order takeout or making unplanned trips to the store (especially whilst hungry).

For those that like to plan all three meals ahead of time, here are a couple more examples of what that could look like:

Personally, I only put dinners on my menu, but I created this printable for those who like to do all three!

I hope you've found this helpful. Happy planning!

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If you'd like to check out my printable meal planner package on Etsy - here's the link.

You might also like my post on weekly planning - an effective way to get organized!


Day Planner: the Backlog

Some might refer to it as a "mind dump" and others a "backlog," myself included. Simply put, it's kind of like a master list of everything you know needs to be done - but don't let that idea scare you away!

Creating a Backlog

As overwhelming as it sounds, it can be helpful to write down every to-do in one place. Remember, it's somewhat like taking an inventory so that you can make a plan to get things done - and that plan isn't to get it all done at once.

Often when I've created a backlog there have been a few items that I can immediately cross off the list. These are things that I thought I would want to do or thought I should do, but really I've put them off. When I think about it honestly, I know they're not going to happen.

Sometimes we have to assess whether that suggested book, complex recipe, or even an invite to an event just isn't our thing, and that's okay!

Purpose of a backlog

Think of the backlog as a base list for all other to-do lists. It can be tempting to want to be productive and go through your backlog directly. Personally, I keep my backlog close by for when I'm planning my day, and my week. It's easily accessible when I need it so that I can move items over.

I treat my weekly notes section as a weekly backlog sometimes when I have a task that I'm not sure where to place, but I'd like to get it done that week. Daily, I pick around 5 - 7 tasks a day and work away at them. Those are what I focus on and I start with the higher priority items. Check one off, move to the next.

With all that said, continually adding to your to-do list is much like moving the goal post. By doing this we won't feel we got much done; possibly the opposite, that we have so much to do still.

The details

The details are really all about preference. Backlogs can be on paper or electronic. They can be ongoing, weekly, monthly, or even used on an as-needed basis when getting started with day planning, or getting caught up when tasks have piled.

The list doesn't need to be beautiful or categorized, but can be. It can also be specific to a project or contain everything that comes to mind. As I often mention with day planners and getting organized - you can be as creative, or not, as you want to be - as long as it helps you simplify and create less stress.

Happy planning!

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If you want to learn more about how to inventory your to-dos, I wrote a post about it here.


Monthly Planner : Budgeting Inspiration

What's the cost of a cup of coffee? You might be thinking around two dollars. So every morning on your way to work or school you grab a cup of coffee because "what's two dollars?"

Five days a week for four weeks is $40, and that's if that cup of coffee is in fact only two dollars and you only buy one.

The point of me sharing this article is not to shame anyone for buying a morning (or second) cup of coffee. It's to help you think about spending with intention. Maybe you want to include $40 a month in your budget for coffee because it's important to you, maybe you had no idea you were spending that much and want to start bringing a travel mug most days.

Whatever works for you. I just know how helpful it is for me personally to include a budget in my monthly planner so I thought I would share some ideas for inspiration. 

Why include a budget in your monthly planner?

Have you ever asked yourself, "where does all my money keep going?"

This might help with that.

By no means am I an expert in budgeting or finance. My math skills are average at best, my accounting skills basic, and the system I put together in order to track my finances is nothing more than simple addition and subtraction. 

The reason these pages work for me is that they create structure beyond glancing at statements and balances. They give a bit of perspective having everything all in one place. Tracking spending can also be a bit of an eye-opener. 

Below are the pages used in my monthly planner for your use as inspiration for you to create your own. You can also download them in my monthly planner package on Etsy you don't feel like making your own.

1. Monthly bills checklist


Note: the numbers in this post are made up for the example.

I believe a bill checklist is an important tool for anyone to have. A week before the beginning of a new month I gather my bills (mostly emails) and fill mine out. If it's different each month and I don’t have the amount yet I use the average amount and adjust later. I then total the amount of all bills due that month and move the number over to my budget sheet.

Another note: this might seem obvious, but it’s helpful to use this list to put due dates in your day planner.

2. Monthly budget 

On my monthly budget sheet, I include how much income I expect to come in as well as how much I expect to pay toward common categories like bills, groceries, entertainment, gas etc.. Sometimes it’s helpful to think ahead here. Do you have any events to attend, gifts to buy, or maintenance to schedule this month? Write down what it is, and how much it will (or you think it will) cost. Once you have all items in there, total all the amounts and that will be your budget for the month.

3. Budget tracker

A budget tracker is exactly as it sounds. I like to keep mine simple. It includes a column for date, description, and amount. I write down any purchases made that month. At the end of the month, I total the amount to see how much I’ve spent that month altogether. I also categorize my expenses (using the categories in my budget) to see how much I spent in each area.

Using highlighters is helpful for distinguishing the categories when adding the numbers. A sheet like the one below is helpful too:

Conclusion

At the end of the month, I compare my budget to my actual spending. I look to see how I did overall as well as in each category. While your numbers might be way off the first month you try, I found by tracking how much I was spending each month, I was able to set a baseline. This helped me set better and more realistic budgets for myself later. Personally, I find tracking helpful in itself as you’re holding yourself accountable. Since everyone is different, it’s a matter of finding what you’re comfortable with.

If you'd like to check out my printable finances package on Etsy - here's the link.

If you enjoyed this post you might also like my post on weekly menu planning, which can also help with your budget!

 


Daily To-do List: for Your Monthly Planner

How many times have you picked up a new notebook, day planner, or app with the intention of getting things better organized? You get it all set up, only to stick with it for a couple of weeks and forget about it.

It's kind of like the first day of school. We tell ourselves, this year I’m going to be on top of my assignments, and take tidy notes so I'm not scrambling mid-semester. However, that plan goes out the window a month in and mid-semester we're swimming!

If you've done this, you're not alone. I was the queen of this in my late teens and early twenties. I'd get excited about a new planner, use it for a while, get "too" busy, and forget about it for a few weeks at a time. During that time I was basically flying by the seat of my pants. Mistakes were made. Tasks snuck up on me last minute. While I still performed well at work, and on college assignments, inside it felt like chaos.

I simply didn't the time to plan my days properly and I was paying for it in stress.

Things got better when I started creating my own journals. I found the custom layouts more intrinsic and less limiting.

I also changed the way I planned my day. Certainly, I’m still not perfect, nor do I strive to be, but I think this method is what has kept me planning consistently for the past few years and I hope it will help you too.

1. First things first

This method means nothing if you don’t dedicate a little bit of time each morning or evening to planning. I’m not talking a half hour. I’m talking ten to fifteen minutes tops. Take a look at your journal in the evening, reflect on your day, and plan the next. Alternatively, do it in the (early) morning, reflecting on yesterday.

2. Create lists to pull your daily to-dos from

When you’re first starting out, this will take a bit more time, but it will be worth it. Start by creating a backlog of items you need to do. I also recommend creating a “later” list to place things you need or want to do but aren’t a priority now.

If it's not too much at once, project lists are handy too. For example, I have one for creative projects and another for projects that need to be done around the house. I pull from the creative list when I'm feeling creative and know I have time for a project. I pull from the house list when my spouse and I have the capacity to take one on.

Once I select a project, I break the project into smaller tasks on my backlog that I can work into my day.

If you're really feeling behind, this process might help you feel less overwhelmed. It's also a good time to take inventory of your tasks and decide which ones you might be able to drop from your list. I have another article about that that I'll leave at the bottom of this one.

3. Find a daily/weekly spread that works for you

Some of us like the pre-made day planners that offer time blocking or appointment slots, others like plenty of blank space. Be as creative or not as you want. It’s all about preference.

If creating your own planner from a notebook or binder, I recommend completing the layout for at least the month in advance, if not the entire year. That way you can plan ahead a little. Also, you might lose some gusto when it comes to the end of the week and you haven’t yet created the next (been there). 

It's important to note, as beautiful as they are, creating layouts with intricate calligraphy and cute illustrations is hard for some to keep up so I recommend keeping it simple; especially if you already can't find time to plan your day.

I've created planners that simply have the days of the week and a notes section spread across two pages. In the case of smaller book sizes, I've also done a day per page. 

Here's an example of a daily layout as well. If you'd like to keep it even more simple, keep it blank and list your to-do's in point form using symbols to categorize tasks.

4. Start planning

Here are some tips and tricks:

  • Put appointments under the proper date as soon as you can - write it elsewhere or text it to yourself if you don’t have your planner on you
  • Pull daily items from your mind of course, but also refer to your notes and backlog 
  • Pick five to seven priorities for the day - if you don’t have that many or want to focus on less that’s okay too! 
  • Also, pick one or two activities that will get you active, or you find relaxing and put them in as well

5. Task management

  • Avoid simply putting the project name such as “build fence” or “PowerPoint presentation” - break it into tasks like “pick up supplies for the fence” or “write presentation copy”
  • You might also want to avoid including tasks that are too small or simple like “email Jeannie,” unless emailing Jeannie is a task that’s going to take a considerable amount of time or you might forget
  • Carry incomplete items to the next day. Alternatively, you can move them to the next week or cancel them completely.
  • Don't include items that you do every day. Writing things like “do the dishes” or “make dinner” every day might actually make day planning more of a chore

But what about weekly?

I have tried to plan my week out in advance before, but you know what they say about the best-laid plans. It honestly made for a messy bullet journal as I had to keep moving this around. It also came with undue pressure - I’m not done this yet or I can’t do that yet. 

If I have an appointment or due date, I write that out in advance under the date absolutely. If I have something I want to get done that week, but I’m not sure which day yet, I add it to the notes section in my weekly spread.

While putting dates to tasks might work for some, I'm not the best person to cover the topic.

Note:

Also, I thought I would add. When you finish your tasks (work, projects around the house, chores, homework etc.), don’t keep adding to the list and burn yourself out. The idea is to remind yourself to keep a proper work-life balance. Enjoy yourself. Get active. Relax. 

Conclusion

I hope you found this post helpful. Here's the one I mentioned about taking inventory of your to-dos.

If you’d like a head start on your planner layouts, I have a printable version available in my Etsy Store.

Happy planning!