Using To Do Lists and Calendars like a Boss

Using To Do Lists and Calendars like a Boss

I love me a good todo list app. I frequently download one and load in all my upcoming items, convinced this is the next big thing in keeping myself accountable. I’ll move my shiny new icon onto my phone’s home screen and be totally jazzed to jump feet first into my new app. A few weeks will go by and I’ll find myself slacking off (again) or resorting to an old system. Before I know it, the shiny new app has lost its luster and I’ll move it off my home screen and relegate it to a folder where it collects dust until I finally delete it.

There are two factors at play here.

  1. If you’re really going to commit to a new app or system for your todo list, you have to stick it out for more than 3 weeks. Twenty one days makes a habit and if you can last a month, you likely have a chance of making it stick.
  2. Not all apps are created equal. More often than not, they address one particular problem and don’t necessarily integrate all aspects of your life. We’re busy people and we have more going on that just work or family or kids. For an app to do it all, it has to be pretty darn amazing. That or be entirely customizable, which would require huge upfront time on your part to set it up just so, and who has time for that?!

Despite my tendency to download all the latest and greatest productivity apps out there, I keep coming back to the same native iPhone apps time after time (sorry Android users, but I’m sure you have equivalents!). You can’t beat their simplicity and yet, they have amazing functionality. The bells and whistles of other apps are great, and I get pulled in by their shiny features all the time. However, for hard core utility (and voice control), I just keep coming back to these two apps.

For hard core utility (and voice control), I just keep coming back to the same two apps. Reminders & Calendar.

I use Calendar to record all my actual real time events. Things like work meetings, doctor appointments, school holidays, my husband’s work events outside normal hours, kid parties and family events. Sometimes I’ll even throw in something that needs a due date so when I’m checking on my upcoming week I’ll get a visual reminder.

Reminders are more for the little things that take up unnecessary brain space if I don’t get them out of my head. Remember to feed the neighbor’s cat, submit that weekly report on time, check out a new resource I heard about on a podcast or just adding items to my grocery list for my next trip to the store. These are small but essential things that are easily forgotten.

It’s not just picking the tools, it’s creating a system you can stick with so the tools do their jobs.

Once you establish where you keep these kinds of items and lists, the trick is to create your system so that you don’t forget. If you’re transitioning from a paper based system of crumbled post-its and torn of shreds of legal paper….you may need to set a reminder for yourself to brain dump once or twice a day until it becomes a natural tendency. This system can work really well with a paper-based system as well. Rather than having a jumble of different information on various lists, it is fairly easy to keep future events organized via Calendar, smaller items organized via Reminders and then have a paper based notebook for the current day/week. The beauty of paper is that the act of writing something down often helps it to stick. There’s science behind that, I swear.

Features I’ve just got to have (I often compare these to any app functionality if I’m feeling tempted).

Calendar: A relatively basic feature on any smartphone, key functionality being:

  • Add upcoming events (dates and time)
  • Recurring events (set events to recur daily, weekly, monthly, yearly etc.)
  • Alerts (lets you know an event is imminent, I usually set at least 2 for important ones)
  • Multiple calendars (color code based on family member, work, holidays, groceries, what have you)
  • Shared calendars (share to other people so colleagues or family members get updates or alerts as well if they need to know about a specific event)
  • Voice control (you do your best thinking in the car, on your daily run or when cooking dinner, inevitably you need to get it out of your head before you forget…”Hey Siri…make an appointment for tomorrow at 10 am to write guest post”)

Reminders: Think lists! With some great added features like:

  • Scheduling (set a date/time for it to be “due”)
  • Multiple Lists (I have one for work, family, groceries, home and the handy “Scheduled” list that shows everything with a specific due date)
  • Shared lists (so I can create my honey-do list and check up on the progress.)
  • Voice control (because, hands free is so very necessary…”Hey Siri, add eggs to my grocery list.” or “Hey Siri, remind me to call Marvin the Martian when I get to work.”)

More to come in detailed “How To” Guides!”

Dont Overcomplicate your To Do List: Getting Stuff Done

Dont Overcomplicate your To Do List: Getting Stuff Done

If only you could conquer your to-do list, you’d be insanely organized and successful! That’s the goal right? Unfortunately, the reality is anything but. It’ so easy to get caught up in the writing and doing the tasks or downloading a new app that WILL finally make the process easier. As with all things, there is no magic bullet or foolproof method that will get you motivated and keep you on track. Don’t shoot the messenger!

Find your system, stick with it and trust your gut.

If you can set up some good habits in dealing with your goals and to-dos, you’ll be far better served in the long run. This might sound a little lofty and woo-woo, but trust me. I’m a gadget girl, I love new apps and have an addiction to all things shiny. Yet, the more I try…the more I get frustrated because I can’t find that ONE perfect system for me. The fact is, everyone has little quirks and idiosyncrasies that make it impossible to copy their exact system with any success. It’s all about the tweaks and adaptations that YOU need to make your system perfect for you. That being said, there are certainly some good rules to live by.

Here’s where you can begin:

What’s in your pocket? Most of us carry our phone around 24/7. You may be trying to cut back on your phone addiction, but when you use something every day that’s typically the best place to store your important to-dos. From a pure convenience standpoint, it just makes sense. If you want to add a secondary system for tracking long-term projects and goals, that’s great! Just make sure you have a quick and easy way to jot down tasks when you’re on the go, up to your ears in groceries or blinking owlishly at your ceiling when trying to fall asleep. If your go-to pocket item is a notebook, then the same theories apply. The simple answer is usually the best one!

The simple answer is usually the best one!

Create a ritual. Some sort of consistent reminder or trigger to plan your day/week/month is huge. It could be a reminder on your phone or just a habit you cultivate before bed/when you get up each day. You know what will work best and what you won’t let yourself slide on. Just make sure you create some space to brain dump and organize your thoughts each and every day. Once you have the system in place, it’ll become second nature.

Set your goals. It’s so easy to get caught up in grinding through the daily to-dos. Some big picture goals and aspirations help to ground you. When you hear that alarm going off in your brain about this “thing” that MUST be addressed…think about your goals. Does it push your goal forward? Does it add value to your home and family life? If you answer no to either of these, then why are you letting it stress you out? Table it and move on, if it comes back around then maybe you need to consider it again…but for now, move along.

Adapt as you go. We’re human and we’re very very fallible. We like to change our minds just because. This isn’t a terrible thing, change makes life interesting. If your current system isn’t working, make a slight pivot and keep on pushing forward. Keep things interesting and keep your brain engaged, provided you keep your goals in your sites…you’re golden.

As humans, we always try to distill meaning or don’t trust our own selves because we’re sure there’s someone out there funnier, smarter, better and more knowledgeable than we are. There sure could be. Yet, that doesn’t make YOU any less valid. The hard part is knowing when to tell your brain to shut up and just keep reaching for the stars. Find your system, stick with it and trust your gut.

The hard part is knowing when to tell your brain to shut up and just keep reaching for the stars.

Stay tuned for my next article on some of my favorite tools and the tricks I use to keep myself sane and on task.