If Walls Could Talk: The Art of the To-Do List
I am the textbook definition of a scatterbrained artist. It’s one of my shortcomings. There are days where I would lose my head if it wasn’t attached to me. It’s not intentional, it’s just who I am.
An important part of writing is staying organized. As you might guess, it’s something I struggle with. I have to keep multiple to-do lists going to make sure that I stay on task. It’s also part of the reason why I outline a story multiple times. It organizes my thoughts.
By nature, I’m a hypercompetitive person. I play to win and sometimes it is an excellent driving force. For example, I have a to-do list going today and have set myself a reward if I can complete the majority of it.
Of course, It’s something I want and so I’m pushing to make sure it gets done.
Why should you have a to-do list?
1) It Helps you Feel your Accomplishments
I’ve mentioned before that there’s an amazing feeling of satisfaction that comes with finishing a project. Of course, that takes time.
By creating a to-do list you allow yourself the chance to get a taste of that feeling by completing pieces of a larger task.
For me, it helps me feel like I’ve been productive even if I don’t believe it at first. Take today for example: personally, I feel like I haven’t accomplished a whole lot. But then I look at my list and see all the crossed off items and realize that I have gotten a lot done today.
From a mental health perspective, it is a way to give your brain a positive boost even when you don’t feel like it’s true. A lot has been going on in my life lately (some of it is why I missed posting last week) and by making a list, I get that feeling of accomplishment.
2) It Keeps you Organized
As I mentioned at the beginning, I am the textbook definition of a scatterbrained artist. A to-do list helps keep me focused. For someone with a short attention span, like myself, it’s invaluable in making sure I stay on task.
I keep a list in a variety of places. Today’s happens to be in a Google Doc. But I also keep memo pads around where I jot down lists. Normally I hand write my to-do list because it helps it stick in my brain.
A to-do list helps you stay focused on tasks by knowing what you need to accomplish on a particular day.
There are plenty of reasons to keep a to-do list but those are my two favorites. Now, you know me, I can’t give you advice without giving you some tools that I use. Here are some of my favorite things to use when making a to-do list.
My Favorite To-Do Tools
I found this tool three years ago and it has been a game changer. I keep my big picture writing schedule on a board. Then, individual projects have their own unique boards. One value of this is that it allows me to save files so that there’s an extra backup copy (in addition to the one saved on my computer, one saved to the cloud, and another sent to James – yes, I might be a bit paranoid).
You create columns, and then cards under each one. So for example, I have a Stage 32 column for my blog posts for them. Each post has a column.
You can set due dates, collaborators, and make notes (valuable for my not-so-great memory).
Plus, they have their desktop site and a mobile app. I have it with me so I can cross reference stuff on the go.
Old Fashioned Pen and Paper
I got in the habit a few years ago of making a to-do list for daily tasks. It was a suggestion my boss at the time gave me to help me get more organized and it’s something that’s stuck. I tend to put the daily one on a small pad. Occasionally I put a weekly one on a larger pad.
For me, there’s something about writing it out that helps it stick in my mind. Plus, it’s a bit more satisfying to physically cross the items off instead of using the strikethrough feature.
With it being back to school season, it might be a good time to stock up on office supplies. I know that this is the time of year where I stock up on office supplies.
As I mentioned earlier, today’s to-do list is in a Google Doc. The main reason I use this is for the ease of collaboration. This is one of those periods where James, Nicole, and I are in the same place and we’re sharing a list.
We can see what we’re working on and what the others are working on. At the moment, things are put in the optimal order (that is a perk of a digital list instead of a written one – you can reorganize it).
Like Trello, this is one that I can check on both my desktop and my phone. It’s also a program I use on a regular basis (for example I’ve repeatedly said that I write this column in a Google Doc for James and I to edit).
Conquering your To-Do List
Lately, my mental health has been in a place where I get easily overwhelmed. Long lists, too many people, and more can send me in a place where I shut down slightly. Over the last few months, I’ve gotten better – but things can still be a bit much.
A to-do list helps me from getting overwhelmed, and for that alone it’s an invaluable tool for my writing. If you aren’t using a list already, I highly recommend it.
As I wrap this up for this week, I get the satisfaction of knowing I can go and cross it off of my list.