Do you ever find yourself with this huge list of things to do and have absolutely no idea where to start? You know that all these things are very important. You know that everything needs to get done. You know that you don’t want to forget anything, but at the same time there is this almost debilitating panic in trying to make sure that you don’t forget anything on that list in your head!
Have you ever been there? I know I have!
So how do you come out of that place of panic, that space of stress, that fear of forgetting?
When it comes to conquering your to-do list, there are 2 big elements that need to come into play: First, there needs to be a way to get your thoughts out of your head and in a place where you can actually organize them. Secondly, you need something that will help you organize your thoughts and your daily tasks as you walk through your day, your week, and your month.
I’m not gonna lie, this can feel like an incredibly intimidating process! But here’s the good news: I’m not going to let you wander In overwhelm all by yourself! Let’s tackle this together, one step at a time, shall we?
Together we’ll walk from that place of panic and overwhelm to confidence and calm, knowing that you have a solid plan to start accomplishing all those tasks that you need to do!
Step One :: Get the List Out of Your Head
This first step has been called many different names, but the general concept remains the same: Take all those thoughts of all those things to do that are floating around in your head and get them out of your head! When all these different thoughts are stuck in your head, rolling around with nothing to anchor them, there is something in your brain that triggers panic. It’s like your mind start to fear that you will forget one of those things that you need to do. Then the panic of forgetting something important sets in, and then… Can you see how this can so easily turns into a downward spiral?
Wanna know the secret to getting rid of this panic, stress, and overwhelm? Simply write it down! I’m not kidding! Grab a piece of paper and a pen (or a pack of post-it notes and a sharpie if that’s more your style) and literally write down all those thoughts that are rolling around in your head.
- All those things that you need to make sure to do
- That recipe that you’ve been thinking of making for dinner for a while now
- Those goals that you want to aim for
- All those things that you keep thinking would be nice to do
- Any events coming up that you don’t want to forget about
- The birthday presents to purchase
- That birthday party to plan
- That book that you want to read
- That home improvement project that you’ve wanted to plan out for a while now
Anything and everything that is in your head! Whatever thoughts and tasks are floating around in there, just write them down! Don’t worry about making it look pretty. Don’t worry about organizing it. Just get those thoughts out of your head and onto that paper!
Once all those tasks and thoughts and things to do are out of your head, you can stop worrying about forgetting them. You see, now you have a solid place where they are written down and your brain can begin to relax a bit.
Step Two :: Making Your List Readable
Congratulations! You’ve gotten the list out of your head! But your list is all jumbled up and all over the place. How do you even figure out a place to start? This is where the daily or weekly lists come into play.
There are many different types of lists that you can choose from, but the foundational principle is the same: You want to choose a list that is right for you. Find a list that makes sense when you look at it, a list that you can use, and a list that you will be able to continue to use as the days keep going.
Once you figure out what list is right for you – or even once you’ve found that list template that you want to try first – take all those things from your messy list, all those items that you just dumped onto that one piece of paper and start plugging them into your chosen list. The beauty of this is that you can now see the tasks that are in your head and you can take them one at a time and begin accomplishing them.
Before we dive into the specific types of lists (and free printables!) that you can use, I want to let you in on a secret: You do not have to choose just one type of list! Through the years and different seasons of my life, I have used all of these types of lists. There are times that I use 2 of theses lists in combination with each other. For example, if I have a big project coming up, I will use a to-do list in combination with my weekly list. The biggest key is to find what works for you. Remember, this is a tool to help you, not another chore to eat up a huge amount of your time.
Weekly Action Plan
Life is busy! You have a lot to do each and every day. Sometimes you go through a season of life where just remembering the daily things you need to do to take care of you is extremely difficult. Sometimes you go through seasons where you can step back and look at the big picture, but you need that small, day-by-day list to help keep you on track with what you’re doing. Sometimes it just helps to write down your plan for each day so that you know where you’re headed before that day begins.
This one-page weekly chart gives you space for writing the tasks that belong to each day. It specifically doesn’t have guided categories to use, but instead allows you to write down the tasks that are the most important for you to accomplish each day.
Sometimes you need a bit more space to plan each day. Sometimes you need space to remind yourself of all those healthy habits that you are working to create as well as space for writing down the daily tasks that need to be accomplished. This two-page weekly chart helps to separate things a bit more and gives you more categories to guide and organize your thoughts. It is purposefully spread out to allow you extra space for writing all those things that come to mind as you move throughout your week.
When you’re needing that space to write everything down just to keep you on track and moving forward, this is the list for you!
Daily Task List Combined with Goal-Oriented List
I am a goal-oriented person. I love to be able to set goals and then work towards achieving them, but one of the struggles that I started to face was not just breaking down my goals into tasks, but then consistently taking small steps forward to work on and accomplish each task leading to the goal. Combine that with all the daily things that I still needed to track and accomplish, and I started to get overwhelmed…until I developed this next list.
This list has a space for each day of the week, which allows you to track those recurring, daily things that need to be accomplished (or those things that you have to remember for a specific day!). But it also has a space for you to break down your tasks for the week identifying and writing down your top three tasks, then your next three tasks in order of importance and so on.
When your days have structure, but yet flexibility, this list can be a huge asset as this list not only keeps you on task with the daily things, but it also allows you to see very quickly what other tasks you should focus on first. The danger in this list comes when you accomplish the daily tasks and then ignore the bigger picture tasks. You need to make sure that you are keeping both in focus, otherwise this type of daily planner might not be right for you!
Goal-Focused Weekly List
This style of goal-oriented list does not break things down day-by-day, but instead keeps things on a higher, week-by-week level. This layout allows you to determine which tasks must to be done each week (and there is room for only 3 things in this section!), then it moves on to things that are priorities, but not absolute essentials, and it even contains a section for those things that it would be really good to get done. On the side, there is room for those random things we think to do: people to connect with, podcast to listen to or books to read.
Each week as you write out this list, it will help you identify those big tasks that need to be accomplished. If you’re looking for a way to track daily tasks that you are trying to turn into habits (like taking your vitamins or making your bed), this one is probably not right for you. This goal-oriented list is designed to help you take that huge to-do list and break it down week by week into smaller, actionable steps to complete.
Day-at-a-glance :: Daily Action Plan
Some days, some seasons you go through times where there is just not enough room in your head for all the things that you need to do in a day. Sometimes it just makes more sense to write every little thing down to make sure that you are thinking it through and have a plan to accomplish it.
If you have a lot on your mind and need a solid, visible plan to get through your day step by step, then this daily planning page is for you! It uses an entire page for all the different areas of your day from habits that you are working to create to which meals you will make for your family to the tasks you need to accomplish to what part of your house you want to clean that day. Another benefit to this list is that is is a bit bigger and easier to write in than some of the others. However, if you get easily overwhelmed by a huge task list, this might not be the right style of list for you.
Simple To-Do List
The name says it all! This template is just that: A simple place where you can write down your tasks and things that you need to accomplish with a place to check off when you’ve accomplished each one. You might thrive on having a simple list of things that you need to accomplish in a day or in a week. If that’s you, check out this printable!
Personally, I love simple to-do lists, but I use them in combination with my daily or weekly lists. When I have a specific project that I’m in the middle of and I know the different steps and the order in which they need to happen, but I don’t want to just keep that list in my head, this is my go-to template for organizing my thoughts.
To-Do List split out by category
If you’re a fan of to-do lists, but you need a little bit more guidance to organize your list, check out this category-oriented to-do list. This one-page list helps you think through your list by placing each task into a category, allowing you to see things like what errands you need to run, what phone calls you need to make, what tasks must be completed first, and so on.
This list can be extremely helpful, but it can also be extremely daunting. If a large list of tasks starts to intimidate you, this might not be the best fit for you to use on a weekly basis. On the other hand, if you like to see everything for each week laid out category by category, this might be the perfect style of list for you. Personally, I like to use these lists when I have a big project coming up to keep me on track and organized. But, when I tried to use these as a daily list, I kept forgetting the daily tasks that I had to accomplish and only tried to focus on bigger things, which threw things out of balance for me.
Which Style is Right for Me?
Did I just completely overwhelm you with choices as we talked through these? Are you sitting there starting at your screen wondering where on earth to even begin to make sense of this? Oh, my Friend, don’t get lost in overwhelm! Don’t allow yourself to shut down before you even begin!
The first step is oftentimes the hardest one. Would you like my advice? Pick one of these templates that jumps out to you and start using it. You don’t have to pick the exact right one on the very first try! The key is to pick one and start to use it. If it works well, great! Keep going with it. If it’s not the right fit, then try another style until you find the one that will work best for you in your current season of life.
I can tell you honestly that through the years, I have used each and every one of these templates to keep my days and weeks on track. They are all helpful and beneficial in their own way. The question is not: ‘What template is the best one?’ But rather: ‘Which style will serve me best in this season of my life?’
- Choosing the Perfect Calendar for You
- Finding Perspective when You Feel You Have None
- How to Set Goals that Work for You
- 5 Simple Steps to Take You From Scattered to Organized
Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.