Are you good at managing your to-do list?
Do you have a system in place for tackling all the things you need to do in a day?
If you answered yes to these questions, then that’s fantastic. But, if like me you do have a to-do list, but you have trouble with getting through the things on the list or you have too many things on the list, then you definitely need to read on.
This year I’ve been on a bit of a mission to take control and become even more organized at work and home.
I’ve written a bit about the planners I have used and what I’m using now, and I also wrote about how I now tackle all of my paper work.
But, there was one area that I was still finding completely overwhelming, and that was my to-do list.
My old to-do lists
So I’ve been through a few different ways of organising all of the the things I need to do in a day. Some of them included:
I would randomly write on post-it notes and stick them near my computer and hope that I got around to doing them. I also read a post from a teacher friend who had problems with post-it notes for her to-do list and how she got rid of them and what she does now. You can check that out here.
I’ve tried a few online tools before and different organization apps. I also used Trello for a while, which I wrote about here and here. I quite liked Trello, but it didn’t really fit in with both work and home.
I also tried just having a piece of paper with all the tasks listed. But, what I found with that was that sometimes I could have over 30 things on the list, and it was just too much. I didn’t really know how to filter this list to a daily achievable list.
Introducing the new method
So a few weeks ago I went searching for some other ideas. I came across two new methods, that I hadn’t heard of before, and that sounded promising.
Now be aware that these two methods are paper based ways for organising your to-do lists. I still find that this is the best way for me.
The first method is called bullet journaling. I quite liked the look of this method, but as I read more and more on how it worked, I thought it was a bit too complicated for me.
The next method I found is called the Strikethru system.
The website describes the system as “a simple analog system to help you complete tasks and bring order to your life. All you need is a notebook and pen.”
With both the bullet journal and strikethru you can just use any plain notebook, so you don’t need anything special.
However, I have my beautiful Erin Condren planner so I wanted to use this to see if it works.
There are so many things I love about the Strikethru method. Overall, you can use it at its most basic level, but there is room to become more complex to cater for other areas of your life as well.
This is probably my favorite part of the whole system.
It is exactly as the title suggests, you dump all of the ideas, tasks, things floating around in your head in this section. This section collects all of your to-dos.
This is great as I have so many things twirling around in my head that I need to remember to do, and now as it pops in my head I dump it here.
Below is a picture of my dump section. In my planner, I’ve just found the first lined section at the back of my book and used this as my dumping ground. For easy access, I use a tab to mark this section.
The live list
You use the live list each day to work out what needs to be done now. This is where all the action happens. You only ever have one live list.
If you’re using a plain notebook you could use one page per day. But as I have a planner that is one week to an opening I have a full week of live lists over 2 pages.
On your first live list page, or in your planner/diary for the current day, draw 9 circles down the left side and label them 1-9.
As I like pretty things you will see in my planner below I use coloured dots for my circles 😉
These are the 9 spaces you allow yourself each day for tasks. The idea behind this is that you use the 1-3-5 rule. This is useful in helping you to prioritise your tasks each day. So essentially you should aim to work on 5 simple tasks, 3 medium sized tasks and 1 large task.
Next the method asks you to do the same corresponding circles down the other side of the page/list. These become your priority circles, so it helps you to work out what the most important tasks are. It lists a few different ways of prioritising, such as writing 1-9 from highest to lowest priority or using H-high, M-medium, L-low.
To be honest I tried using these priority circles but they didn’t really work for me. So I haven’t really been using anything to prioritise the list. I’m finding with only having 9 items on the list, it’s actually the perfect amount that most of them get done each day.
Now you can populate your live list with whatever you remember you need to do the next day or go to the dump section and pick items from there.
That’s pretty much the simple version of the method. I review my list each night, work out if any tasks didn’t get completed and then add to my list for the next day.
There is also a simple way to mark the live list. When you complete the task you simply strike through the task indicating it is done. I love this part!
If you didn’t do the task and you now either don’t need to do it or you have decided to do it at another time that is not the next day, then strike through the task and add a cross.
If you want to do the task on your next live list, strike through the task and add an arrow to the right indicating it is moving there.
If you want to move the task back to the vault (which I’ll explain below), strike through and add a left arrow. See below for how this might look.
But I’ve been using the other parts of the system as well which I’ll explain below.
This is where you can add set tasks for specific projects or other lists. These lists also feed into your live list.
So for example you may have an excursion coming up at school you need to organize. So you could have a list in your vault called Zoo Excursion. Then you would list all the things you need to do for organizing that task. You may add: write permission note for parents, send notes home to parents, organise bus transport, telephone the zoo to confirm the time and numbers etc. Then when you’re reviewing in the evening and doing tomorrow’s list you could also select items from your different lists in the vault.
I haven’t added too many lists in my vault yet as I’m still playing around with this. There is also a tagging system that you use for the vault which you hear more on in the video I have linked below.
The calendar section
I also wanted a system that would be able to handle my appointments as well, or recurring weekly/monthly tasks. If you’re using a plain notebook you would need to add monthly calendars. But as I have a planner I just use the monthly calendar already set up.
I write in all of my daily appointments and weekly/monthly tasks in the calendar.
Then again, when I review at the end of the day I go to my calendar to fill my live list for the next day. I usually fill my live list first from my calendar, before going to my vault or dump sections.
This is how my next month is looking so far.
The referencing part of the method is also a fantastic idea. Each task can be referenced so that you don’t need to rewrite whole tasks in your live list. However, this does involve numbering each of the pages in your planner or notebook.
Then you select the page number and the item number, such as 100.3. This means it’s from page 100 and it’s the 3rd slot on the list.
As I have a number of live lists on one page, I’ve also added another element to my referencing. So if I’m carrying over a task to the next live list and so I don’t’ need to re-write it, I write the page number, date and then item number. So I might have 7.11.6. So this is from page 7, the 11th and item 6.
Why not get started
As you can probably tell from this article I am absolutely loving my new to-do list system. I don’t seem to have as much swirling around in my head, and I feel like I’ve accomplished so many little tasks in the last few weeks that I have constantly been putting off.
If you’d like to find out a little bit more about the system, then watch the video below.
Also if you head over to the Strikethru website you can sign up and get a PDF download that explains a little bit more about the system.
But I’d love to hear from you as well. What method do you use to tackle your to-do list?
Yes.. A teacher that writes about time management. I’ve found many articles for business people but this is the first of it’s kind – that I’ve found very helpful.
I’ve used Todoist over the past two years but I’m often concerned I’ve missed something. I’ve also tried the Bullet Journal but find it’s too complicated to write everything down again and again.
I think I’ll try Strikethrough. Thanks!
Thanks so much for your comment. If you get started with the Strikethru method I’d love to hear how you go. I must admit, this year I haven’t been as organized with my to-do’s, but reading your comment and the article again, I’m keen to get going again on this method!
🙂 I guess for me it’s all about figuring out what goes where – Todoist i great for some things and I’m sure Bullet Journals are good for some things too. We have Easter break coming up which will give me some time to try out a few ideas nice and slowly.