Sometimes it seems that I have a hundred things to do. One of the ways I try to stay on track and not let the important stuff fall through the cracks is by using a date book. It has to be a big, notebook sized one with at least 4 lines of writing space for every day. That keeps track of the things I need to get done, like appointments and picking up the kids after practice. Other tasks are things that I need to eventually get done, but they have no due date. These tasks usually involve writing or promoting my writing. To-Do lists are the way to go, for me, when it comes to getting these types of goals done.
I’ve found that sticky notes work best, both physically and psychologically. For instance, there are a lot of steps in writing a story. Starting with brainstorming scenes, progressing to an outline, then the writing and however many editing passes before the final draft is finally reached. A long list, with line after line of things that need to be checked off can be so overwhelming that it’s tempting to just set it aside and not work on any part of it. How many times have you looked at a recipe with a long list of ingredients and decided not to make it? Sometimes those ingredients are all things you have on hand and the recipe is simple after you measure out all of the 1/4 and 1/2 teaspoons of spices, but you will never know because you decided to give up after looking at that long list at the beginning of the recipe. So…you get my point. Long lists are scary and can be more of a deterrent than help.
That’s where breaking the list down to one item per sticky note comes in. When arranged in order I have one task on top and just a stack of notes. Yes, you could look at the thickness of the stack and freak out, but you really are seeing only one thing that you can focus on. Baby steps rule. One thing at a time. Throw the note away and move to the next one. That’s the ticket to productivity for me.
But how do you organize all of those bundles o’ squares? By sticking them to a larger sheet of paper. And how do you know which sticky note to focus on? By making a frame for the chosen one. You could use scrapbook paper and some tape or stickers to make the frame, but I chose to draw my frame. I used an 11×14-inch piece of heavy drawing paper and the Zentangle drawing technique along with several colors of fine-tip markers. I took a Zentangle class several years ago, but I often turn to this site – TanglePatterns.com – to find different and new patterns.
As you can see, I made a cover note for each bundle. When I decide which project I want to focus on I stick that cover note in the frame and then the rest of the sticky note bundle on top, with whatever step I need to do next displayed on top. The non-priority tasks hang out in the white areas of the paper. If I want to move to a different project for a few days, I just move the cover note back to the top before relegating the bundle back to the non-priority white area. Another perk of using sticky notes is that they can be stuck anywhere. Duh, right? What I mean is, if you need to see that task all the time, pluck it off the organizer and stick it to the edge of your computer screen, slap it into your datebook or put it on your bathroom mirror. Whatever makes you happy. This organizer hangs on my bedroom wall, so I see what I want to accomplish first thing in the morning and throughout the day as I return to make the bed, fold laundry, change clothes, etc.
What do your to-do lists look like? Or do you use something other than lists to stay on track?