My To-Do List Is a Junk Pile

For YEARS my to-do list has been my Everest. I just cannot let it go.

I have read productivity books like Getting Things Done by David Allen and Time Management from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern, and experimented with all different kinds of planners from Franklin Covey to The Hipster.

So far, I have come very close to my vision of getting this thing cleared off by the end of the day, or at the latest, the end of the week. I know it is possible, no matter what anyone says. Which is always some version of that doesn’t sound very realistic whenever I tell people about my dream of a beautiful, emptied to-do list on a regular basis.

I know there will always be things to do. That isn’t my problem. My point is having a list that doesn’t contain things that were due yesterday, or from 2 months ago.

I want to wake up in the morning, knowing that I will have the time I need to do all the things I want to do that day, AND get done whatever else needs to get done. Not working until 7 p.m., not skipping out on my walk because I’m too busy. Not sleeping less than 7 hours (I realize whenever I have a baby that last one might be negotiable, but you get the point).

My To-Do List Is Cluttering My Life

It dawned on my yesterday that my to-do list of unfinished, overdue tasks is creating clutter in my life. Not only is having this list of unfinished stuff like having junk piles all over my house, but by taking up time that I could spend dealing with physical clutter, it is literally contributing to the clutter in my life and my days. continue…

To-Do Lists Are My Life

I dream about to-do lists like I imagine people who like sports or guns dream about their hobbies. This is my thing. The thing that I get excited to get out of bed over.

I have lived somewhat oppressed by my to-do list for years; perhaps this is why I am so intrigued. It has been my challenge to conquer – “getting it all together,” or at least kinda, for the most part. Nothing is perfect, after all.

But to not be buried under 80 tasks, crushed by the weight of hundreds of things I don’t even really want to do – now that is a breath of fresh air! The fresh air that I am proud to now breathe, and I can say, with conviction, that I will NEVER allow myself to go back to that buried state. I simply refuse.

I set out yesterday with the motivation of my Birthday Eve. My own personal new year upon me, I reflected on my life over the past year and the direction I would like to take in the next. Most of the time, I feel like I am just about to have my life completely organized and to be living the lifestyle I envision, but I allow some major project that I have been avoiding to loom, holding myself back from truly moving forward.

I know this is no way to live, and I don’t want to constantly feel this way anymore. I want to really live! Looking back I don’t feel like I have made much progress on my goals over the past year. I feel like someone looking at my life would tell me to give myself a break. I do have an amazing life and I am so grateful, but I have personal goals and when I’m not making progress towards them, I feel more like I’m sinking and suffocating than fully living.

Sometimes I feel paralyzed – unable to move forward, unsure of what to do next. Yesterday around noon I decided to clear the rest of the day to “get my life together.” I started with 26 things to do on my personal to-do list, which I keep in Evernote. I was able to easily to sort the items from oldest to newest, and force myself to start with the oldest, most neglected task (from May 2014!).

My List

I want to really get my life organized, and share how I did it to help other people who struggle with stress and feeling overwhelmed. That is one of the main reasons why I have this blog.

I have read a ton of productivity and self-help books, and I want to take what I have learned and share the system I came up with that works for me with the world. And help people develop and stick to their own systems that will work for them.

I want to have a cleared to-do list at the end of each week, not having things remaining unnecessarily past one week. I want to help keep myself and my husband-to-be on target for achieving our dreams.

The only way these things will happen is if I actually do them. So I had to ask myself – do I sit down and clear the decks, doing all the little tasks that I have been putting off over the past year? It didn’t take me very long to decide that, without a doubt, yes! – I start by clearing the decks.

Letting go of the old makes room for the new, and if I want to help other people with getting their lists in order, I have to first figure out how to take control of mine. So I did. continue…

Moving Series: How to Use Evernote to Coordinate a Move

Evernote has come to be my constant planning and idea capturing companion. When it came to all the little things that add up to the one big thing that is a household move, I immediately turned to my friend Evernote to help me manage it all.

A move is not just one day that happens and then goes away nicely. There are weeks and possibly months of planning and preparations leading up to the big day, and then more weeks and possibly months to follow filled with remaining transition-type tasks and activities.

I have written a lot previously about my hipster and how the Evernote app serves as my one single planner in life. For the move, I am using my reminders and rituals notebooks to keep track of tasks I want to make sure get done. My boyfriend Michael and I also have a few shared notebooks which are helpful for storing information we both want to be able to access.

Today I will go through each of my current Evernote notebooks that contain information related to the move, and how they are being used. continue…

Why I Will Not Be Setting New Year’s Resolutions This Year

“You’re never too old, never too bad, never too late, and never to sick to start from the scratch once again.” – Bikram Choudhury

It’s New Year’s Eve, the day of celebrating, wearing party hats, and sharing New Year’s resolutions. New Year’s is a time of hope for the future. Unfortunately, that hope is often short-lived and quickly forgotten about midway through January.

Why New Year’s Resolutions Tend to Fail

Lately, I have not been very fond of the concept of setting New Year’s resolutions. A year can be an overwhelming period of time for pursuing any one goal. More than that, the concept of New Year’s resolutions is hardly personalized. It is something we do because it is conventional, not necessarily because it works. New Year’s resolutions probably do work for some, but I know from personal experience that it is easy to set goals on New Year’s Eve that don’t even have a fighting chance come February.

There is so much to do in our lives. There is so much that is left undone from year to year. We are busy, and we have so many obligations and expectations we feel the need to fulfill. Our long term goals might get relegated to the back burner as time moves forward, leaving our hopes and dreams in the dust. continue…

This Time of Year

Christmas is upon us! Merry Christmas Eve! ‘Tis the season of joy, giving, and feeling overwhelmed and majorly stressed.

Things never seem to be just perfect at Christmastime, as much as we might like them to be. I know I do. This time last year I could not begin to get a grip on relaxation. Fast forward one year, and there is no comparison for me. I have still felt behind on my Christmas preparations, but this time I am continually reminding myself to relax and it is actually working.

Prepare to be Calm

I attribute this feeling to a few habits I have been working to develop over the past several months. This past fall I sat down and converted all of my goals and tasks into a personalized system (my hipster) that I created to suit my unique needs (based on recommendations in productivity books). For so many years I could never get a grip on my to-do lists, especially my work-related to-do lists.

Over the past few months, working from my new system and a renewed sense of self-worth, I am proud to say that I was able to truly get my work-related task lists down to zero before my month long mini-sabbatical that I am currently enjoying. It is an amazing feeling to know that I have done everything I needed to, and to be completely free from the worry that overflowing task lists and inboxes can induce.

Exactly one year ago, I had arranged to have a week off over Christmas, but ended up not enjoying the time at all because I had so many unfinished work tasks that I unfortunately spent my whole vacation worrying about. Never again! continue…

Winter Seasonal Review

quote - brian tracyIt’s that time of the year again. Well, a little late, but who’s counting? This past Labor Day weekend was my very first official seasonal review, and I decided that my next review would be on or around the Friday after Thanksgiving.

As I have mentioned before, the seasonal review is born out of a failed attempt at a weekly review, which was one of my New Year’s resolutions last year. In a nutshell, the idea of the weekly review was to wrap up loose ends from the previous week and spend time planning out the upcoming week. This was honestly just too much for me to commit to week after week. Instead, I have been working on developing habits to review things as I go daily, with a more reflective review about every three months.

Components of the Seasonal Review

My vision for the seasonal review was to revisit the idea of New Year’s resolutions more frequently than once a year. The seasonal review is a time to reevaluate goals. It is a chance to reset and get back on track more than just once a year after the overindulgence of the holidays.

I need look no farther than my hipster to see what I need to be doing. In fact, as I was looking back on my fall seasonal review post, I noticed that my ideas for what the seasonal review should consist of are entirely covered by my existing hipster categories. Here’s a few highlights from my second ever seasonal review: continue…

Extra Room Organization Series: Angels’ Den Closet Organization Part 2

“If your room looks a bit barren, that’s a good thing.” – The Art of the Visit: Being the Perfect Host, Becoming the Perfect Guest, by Kathy Bertone

Click here for an introduction to the Angels’ Den if you have no idea what it is.

Today I will finish up the tour of the Angels’ Den with a description of how I have organized the remaining storage units in the closet, starting with the cubes on the left (facing) side of the closet. continue…

Hipster Series: Wrap Up

To wrap up the Hipster Series, I figured I would go through the remaining types of information I am using my hipster to record. Here is a look at how my hipster notebook stack is set up in Evernote:

photo

 In my Hipster: An Overview post, I listed the other categories of information I am tracking in my hipster, and explained how I use the “-Blank” notebook as a designated place to record incoming bits of information that I am not sure what to do with at the moment. Having this notebook actually helped me to determine an extra category that I decided to add to my hipster. continue…

Hipster Series: Affirmations

I find writing affirmations to be easier than writing goals. I first learned about writing affirmations from the same book that introduced me to writing goals, Jack Canfield’s How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be.

Not only does it seem easier to me to write affirmations, but it also seems easier to go through them. The reason affirmations make me feel so warm and fuzzy is because they use the concept of “acting as if”. While I generally start my goals with the statement “I intend to…” I start my affirmations with “I am…”, implying that I have already achieved whatever great dream I am thinking about in the moment. No matter how unrealistic the dream, affirming it with a statement that it is already happening automatically makes it feel not so impossible. continue…

Hipster Series: Turning Goals into Dreams into Reality

“All our dreams come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney

I have read a lot of books that talk about how to write and achieve goals. I have kept goals on 3 x 5 index cards and on 8 1/2 x 11 printer paper in a 3-ring binder. Once again, one of the biggest limiting factors for me has been having a portable list of goals.

A 3-ring binder is just not practical for me to carry around everywhere I go. A small stack of 3 x 5 index cards can be handy, but what if you have 15 goals and then an additional 15 affirmations to carry around? I always liked the idea of giving each goal its own 3 x 5 card or notebook-sized sheet of paper. I liked the space that giving a goal its own sheet of paper creates. I didn’t want to just cram all my goals onto one or a few sheets of paper. I wanted them to be able to breathe. continue…

Hipster Series: Other Categories of Rituals

“Forget all the reasons why it won’t work and believe the one reason why it will.” – unknown

Just as there is a flow of stuff in our lives, there is a flow of tasks. Many tasks change hands multiple times, and while they do not require our constant attention, they often need to remain within our peripheral awareness while they are in someone else’s hands. Within my rituals lists, I am keeping track of a few additional types of information that I wanted to keep up with on a regular basis but didn’t want to have to go looking for in another separate list. continue…

Hipster Series: Task List Categories

The functional component of any planner is the task list. There are all kinds of things we have to do in life. After battling my need to over-categorize, I have come to realize that designating tasks as belonging to either one or the other of two major categories is the best system for me.

New vs. Recurring Tasks

It took me a long time to realize that the majority of tasks I need to get done on a daily basis are things I have already done before. New tasks that we haven’t done before can seem intimidating at first, and often overwhelming. The good news is that once something has been done once, it doesn’t have to be so overwhelming. I also noticed that many new tasks become recurring tasks, so they can easily fit into an overall system of recurring activities that are familiar and not so overwhelming. continue…

Hipster Series: Paper vs. Digital Planners

“You will find that it is necessary to let things go; simply for the reason that they are heavy. So let them go, let go of them. I tie no weights to my ankles.” C. JoyBell C.

I am addicted to lists. I love making them, re-writing them, and especially crossing things off of them. If you are not familiar with the hipster, I have written an overview post here. The hipster series will be a series of posts going more in-depth into the categories of lists that I keep in my hipster. First, I wanted to talk about my thoughts on paper-based vs. digitized planners. continue…

Daily Planner in Your Pocket: The Hipster

Planners have been an obsession of mine for quite some time. My first “hipster” was given to me as a birthday present a few years ago. The idea of a hipster is that you can completely customize a compact collection of information that you want to carry around with you at all times without the organizational limitations and expense of buying a planner.

I personally still like to call my system my “hipster” even though I have now transitioned to a digital platform, mostly because I think the name is cute and cool. Anyone could create their own homemade planning system and call it whatever they want. The point is to create something that you want to use, because that increases the likelihood that it will serve the purpose it intended: to make your life more simple, efficient, and peaceful.

Originally, my hipster was paper-based and had many categories. At the time that I first started using it, I did not yet have an iPhone. I had previously been using a Franklin-Covey planner system, and although I loved my planner and lived by it, my life felt extremely chaotic. Don’t get me wrong, my hipster wasn’t responsible for removing the chaos from my life, I did that after extensive personal reflection and carefully planned out choices, but the hipster now plays an even more effective role in my life now that I feel more connected to the categories it contains and the types of information I allow to get recorded in that place. continue…