How to Write a Better Task List in Your Planner | Giftie Etcetera: How to Write a Better Task List in Your Planner

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

How to Write a Better Task List in Your Planner

What does your to do list look like?

to do list, tasks, planner, Franklin Planner, day on two pages

Is it something like this?

O Bank
O Chicken
O Letter to Bob

If you are anything like me, you can't remember why you are going to the bank, have to check the freezer to see if you need to buy chicken or if you just need to cook it, and can't ever send the letter to Bob because you keep forgetting to buy stamps!

There is a better way to write a to do list.

Tricks for Writing One Step Tasks

The keys to writing a task (whether a single task or a task that takes multiple steps - something I'll discuss below) are starting with a verb and adding enough detail.

For example, include verbs by writing:

O Deposit check at bank
O Defrost chicken for supper

O Write letter to Bob

Action verbs give you immediate guidance about what needs to be done.

Add enough information to make sure you know exactly what to do when the time comes.

For example, I might always deposit my paycheck, so I don't need to write down which check. But maybe I need to know that I am writing the letter to Bob to complain an extra charge on my electricity bill.

O Write letter to Bob about General Electric re: bill

Projects Still Belong on To Do Lists

If something takes a lot of steps, like planning a birthday party, it is a project. I've written extensively about project pages.

It's great to plan out a project step-by-step, but are you really going to check your project pages every day? I bet you won't!

Instead, create project pages, but put the name of the project on your task list on the next date when you need to work on the project.

For example, if you are planning a birthday party, create a project for the party, complete with a to do list, a list of who to invite, and a menu. If you name the project "Birthday" and have to start by sending out invitations next Tuesday, write the following on next Tuesday's task list:

O P Birthday

"P" stands for project.

Multiple Step Tasks That Aren't Projects

Sometimes there is a multistep task that just isn't big enough for a project.

For example, today I need to refill a certain prescription. The problem? I also have to pre-approve the script and, after filling it, sort it into a weekly pill box.

Here's how I handle it.

  [] Call for approval
  []@app: drop off Rx
  []@Rx call: pick up Rx

  []@Rx: sort into weekly sorter

All the steps are there. The circle indicates the multi-step task, while the steps are listed after squares. Since each step is waiting on a prior step, I use an @ to indicate what I am waiting on.

If I am doing something with several steps, but order doesn't matter much, I'll do this:

OPlan excursions

  []Eliminate restricted ones
  []@elimination: send list to husband

  [] Pick Jamaica
  [] Pick Cozumel
  [] Make prep lists for leaving the ship

Usually, five steps is about my limit. If it takes more steps, I do a project instead.

TIP: Do the same multi-step project every month? Make several copies of a checklist and use that each month.

Takes notes in your planner on these rules! They are worth learning and remembering.


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Anna said...

I've had the problem of writing something down in my planner, and then not remembering exactly what it was because I didn't include enough info. I usually have a list of e-mails that need to be sent, and if it's not a simple response, I have to put a little bit of the subject by the name. I also need to write down receptive tasks. I probably won't forget them, but I might not take the time into account when planning other things.

I've started doing "mini-projects" between the monthly spread and the weekly pages. That keeps things fresh in my mind, and I can still do a project section for ongoing things, like planning next years school

Anonymous said...

I've started to use verbs for to-do lists for the past year or so. It really does help. But, you're added idea of the multi-step task is brilliant. I need to use this. I realize now why I get so muddled tackling things on my to-do list sometimes. Thanks for the great tips!

Tehomet said...

Your way of including the mention of a project is brilliant. Thank you.