Tag Archives: to-do list

(Trying To) Conquer the Busy

I’m a bit of a planner nut—but I’m a planner nut who’s currently without a planner right now. And boy, do I ever need one!

I had one that was sort of working for me, a mashup of the Passion Planner (I used the free downloads) and some other bits and pieces of printables I found in various places online.

But then the summer happened. As many of you know, it’s been quite the summer for me. Big changes, endings, and new beginnings.

It’s been a lot to take in. And I’ve been doing it without the aid of a planner.

(Thank you, Google Calendar, for at least keeping me steady on my feet when it comes to deadlines!)

I’m moving at the end of the month, I’m trying to make full use of my coworking space, my son turns 12 this year so the homeschooling has to be turned up a notch, there’s work of course (plus I’ve expanded from indexing into editing), I’m starting to cook again, and then there are also all the things that have to be taken care of when a marriage breaks down, even if you are going to try and live under the same roof so you can co-parent.

It all adds up to a lot of busy. An awful lot of busy.

Despite all the busyness, I’ve come to this realization: I really have to sit down and set aside some time to put together a system that will work for all the things I have on the go right now. Because honestly, I have days where I feel like I’m drowning in “stuff I have to do/what have I forgotten to do/OMG how could I have forgotten THAT?”

It’s been all shapes of crazy, that’s for sure. So much so, last week when I was at the dollar store picking up index cards (hello, NaNoWriMo, here I come!) I also picked up a chunky little to-do list book.

Because it was braindump to-do list time. I tend to do these only when I get overly overwhelmed (which is a bit more intensity than just plain overwhelmed). And it was so nice getting all that stuff out of my head onto paper. I even felt lighter.

Now at least I’m not as worried about forgetting things. But I do need to transfer things over from the braindump to-do list onto regular planning/agenda pages.

Any suggestions out there? What are you using and loving? I need something that will accommodate my daily to-dos as well as keep me on track and motivated to work on all the projects I have. If it gives me space to track how I’m spending my time, even better. And a week at a glance for the Sundays would be awesome.

My Bloggiesta To-Do List


I’m signing up for next weekend’s mini Bloggiesta (the sign-up page is here). If you haven’t participated in Bloggiesta before, it’s a great way to get some things done around your blog along with other bloggers who’re also participating.

Here’s my Bloggiesta to-do list for next weekend. It’s on the short side, because this is a deadline-heavy month so I won’t be able to invest as much time as I’d like.

1. Research new WordPress themes. I prefer the theme I was using before I upgraded, but that one had a single post page that didn’t include the sidebar. Now, obviously I’d figured out what to do about it when I used it previously, but all the changes have been lost and I wasn’t able to find any instructions that didn’t involve a “child theme”, which I’m not really ready to learn about yet! So next weekend, I’d like to put together a list of possible themes.

2. Find new templates for each of my three 365-day-challenge Tumblr blogs. Right now they’re each using the generic default template, which isn’t really much to look at. I’d love to find templates that fit the topic of each Tumblr blog: creativity, writing and short stories.

3. Re-organize my sidebar. As you can probably tell, it’s pretty cluttered right now.

4. Activate the What Would Seth Godin Do plugin. Which basically means I have to create a newsletter sign-up page.

5. Create a “Hire Me” contact page. You know, for all those people clamoring for my freelance writing services. They’ve got to be somewhere out there, right? And how can they offer their writing assignments to me if I don’t have a contact page?

Hopefully I’ll be able to tackle each of these to-dos next weekend!

Are you participating in Bloggiesta? What things do you need to do around your blog?

Productivity, Here I Come: Starting a Bullet Journal!

Just a couple of weeks ago, I posted about my to-do list conundrum. I’m a lot busier these days, and I’ve been desperate to find a single journal/planner/to-do list method that would work for everything. Something I could use for work, for personal things, for my writing WIPs – for my LIFE, basically.

I couldn’t find a single productivity app or method that seemed capable of doing what I needed it to do. When I wrote the post, I’d decided to just go back to the DIY planner I’d made last year, as it was in a nice Moleskine and was still partially blank. And I would just date stamp the pages and put my to-do lists on there.

I had lovely comments on that post, some of them with great suggestions. I really liked Bernadette’s description of how she uses Remember the Milk (RTM), so I set up an account there, and downloaded the app. (I love the way you can have repeat tasks on RTM that are based on a time period "after" you last performed the task – their example was, "clean out fridge three months after cleaning out the fridge", which I thought would be pretty awesome for a lot of household chores.)

But RTM didn’t work as well for me because of all my lists. Not to-do lists, but just lists of things, whatever things happened to be on my mind. I do that list thing a lot, you see. And you definitely can use RTM to make lists, but on the iPhone app, if there’s no set due date for an item (which I wouldn’t have on a "books to read" list, for example), you have to choose "never" and I didn’t really like the sound of "never".

So I searched around for some list apps for the iPhone, figuring I’d just use that in conjunction with RTM and Google Calendar (with which RTM syncs really nicely) and ended up downloading an app called Quick Drafts, which has the ability to turn any list you make on it into a to-do list.

And there I was, all set to be super productive. And guess what? It didn’t work. There were too many pieces to my system and the only thing I really used was Google Calendar because I’ve got so many deadlines and I find some days I’m having to scare myself into working by pulling up a monthly view of my calendar and staring at it.

Then, this past weekend, I came across this: the Bullet Journal. I actually discovered it when I was searching (yet again) for a productivity app on my iPhone. One of the apps I was looking at included a line from someone’s review in the description, and the review said something like, "If you use the Bullet Journal method, this might be an app you could use in conjunction with it."

That had my head spinning. Bullet journal method? What the heck was that? So then of course I had to Google it, and I found the site, and I watched this video:

And I was hooked. I was so hooked I spent another couple of hours searching Google to see how others had implemented the system, because it’s such a flexible system and I was in the mood for more tips and ideas. Unfortunately, not too many people seem to have written about their own personal implementation of the method.

I did come across some cons of the system, like not being able to plan ahead, but honestly, I plan to do forward planning in my bullet journal and it seems easy enough. I figure when I have something that comes up in the next month, I’ll just add that month’s page right then and there, even if it might be a few weeks away. Since the index is the fabulous thing that holds the bullet journal system together (and you can imagine how much I love that, being a professional freelance indexer and all), all I’d have to do is add that month to the index and away I go. If I got at all concerned about being able to find the various monthly calendar pages (I probably won’t, but anyway …) I’d just highlight them in the index.

Anyway, I was so thrilled and excited by the Bullet Journal method, I immediately rooted through my stash of notebooks to see if I had just the right thing. Only to discover I didn’t have a blank Moleskine of the type that I wanted – the hardcover squared, in large (which is about 5" X 7"). So I ordered it then and there.

And it just arrived today!

I will be happily occupied getting my life completely organized over the next few days. (Well, I’d settle for nearly completely organized. Actually, who am I kidding? Even partially organized will do.) I even plan to do bullet-point journaling in it. I’m really hoping the Bullet Journal method is exactly what I’m looking for. One place for all those notes, lists, scribbles, ideas, thoughts, to-dos and events. Plus Google Calendar, of course.

The To-Do List Conundrum

I’ve always been fascinated by planners and productivity blogs and things like that. I’ve even given GTD (Getting Things Done) a try. And nothing’s ever "worked" for me before.

Now I know why.

Last year, I went the DIY way and made my own planner, which I used to a certain extent before my excitement about being productive fizzled away. The reason, I’ve realized, is this:

I never really had a whole lot of different things to do.

Not that I wasn’t busy, because I was, especially with all the indexing I was doing. But back in the day, my to-do list tended to be the same every single day: Index. Write. Exercise. That was it.

No wonder I got bored with my planner.

But now, here we are, and boy, has my life changed. In other words, I am busy, really busy, but unlike the busy-ness of before, when I’d be swamped by a deluge of indexing deadlines, I’m busy doing a lot of different things. There’s still the indexing, but now also the freelance writing and blogging, plus the marketing required for this new branch of my business. And the personal side of life, which has been really heating up, since both Ward and Dylan are in upcoming Canadian Opera Company performances. Not to mention the fiction writing, which still obsesses me but now that I’ve gotten back into a daily writing habit, it’s not an obsession that’s frustrating any more, thank goodness.

Last week, I took a look at all the things I had to do each day – big things, little things, important things, not so important things – and I knew I had to get a handle on it all.

But the big conundrum: electronic or paper?


I’d been using the Carrot To-Do app for a few weeks. It’s a fun app to use (there’s nothing like being called a "lazy human" by your productivity app) and after a while, you realize you really don’t want to make Carrot upset at you. But I was finding I needed more than an app that lets you list and prioritize your to-do’s, no matter how much fun the app was to use.

I downloaded a couple of other to-do list apps, but they just didn’t feel right to me. A planner/to-do list system is just so personal to each user, I think, and no amount of tweaking worked for me.

So why not print? Well, the thing I’ve discovered is this: I almost always have my phone with me, even when I’m at home (which I usually am during the day, although at night i can often be found shepherding Dylan to and from his many different activities.) To make a to-do list function well for me, I absolutely have to have what I’m using close by at all times.

But I really like paper-based systems. I like the feel of my pen writing things down on the paper, and if that paper happens to be gridded, I’m even happier. But unlike my phone, if I use a paper planner I won’t always have it on me.

Or would I?

I decided, finally (last night, actually) that it’s just a matter of developing a new habit. I can have my written to-d0 list right in front of me when I need it, as long as I make it a habit to always having it nearby. Right?

Photo 2013-09-23 12 52 54 PM

So I found that DIY planner I’d created last year, and I opened it to the first blank page (I’d used up about a third of the book last year). I stamped a date on each open spread, starting with today’s date (I stamped about two weeks’ worth of spreads) and then I put a "must get done today" list on the right hand side of the first spread, and a running to-do list of things I’d like to get done but which aren’t urgent, on the left hand side.

There’s room for doodles, and I plan to draw a box and brainstorm ideas every night, too. The book is a sturdy Moleskine with gridded pages (yay!) and although it’s hardbound, it’s not so heavy that I’ll feel like I’m carrying an elephant on my shoulder when I stick it into my handbag.

It’s here in front of me as I write this blog post (on the list for today: "write blog post" – hah! You see? It’s working already!).

We’ll have to see how it goes.

What about you? What kind of planner/to-do system do you use? I’d love to hear about your methods, since I’m still tweaking the one I’m using!

Blogging To-Do List

imageWeek 1’s assignment for the 2010 Blog Improvement Project is to create a blogging to-do list.

While I’m not a big fan of to-do lists, I like the idea of this one because there’s no time element attached to it. I think what I’m most resistant to, when it comes to to-do lists, is the whole daily/weekly/monthly/yearly aspect of them.

But if I think of the to-do list as a goals list instead, it’s a much smoother, easier thing for me.

I also like that the point of this to-do list is to be specific, rather than vague. And I’m going to keep this list flexible, coming back to it to add things (and delete things) if necessary.

Blogging To-Do List

  1. Implement new theme. I have my eye on a new theme, which I hope to purchase soon.
  2. New header design. I’ll need a new header to go along with my new theme.
  3. Brainstorm new tag line. I’d like to have a tag line about MsBookish that says it all; I’ve been playing around with a few phrases but nothing seems to catch what I’m wanting to do with this blog so far.
  4. Deciding what I really want to do here. Having said that bit above about the tag line, I also need to decide what it is that I really want to do here. I still want to talk about books and writing, but most of all, I find I enjoy being able to write about whatever topic catches my interest.
  5. Prune my categories. I’d like to have a lot fewer, much broader categories, and rely on my tags for more detailed categorization of posts.
  6. Add new tags. Since some of my existing categories are more appropriate as tags, I’ll be going through each of my posts and adding in new tags.
  7. Update my blogroll pages. My blogroll pages are sadly out of date, plus I need to add a new blogroll page for blogs I follow that aren’t writing or book blogs.
  8. Revise my review policy. I’m not really doing reviews anymore; instead, I prefer to talk about different books I’m reading in general blog posts that aren’t labeled “Review”. I find I’m much happier chatting about books I’m reading, have read or want to read; it also means I don’t procrastinate about writing up posts, which is a bonus. I’ve been letting publicists and authors know this when they email me, but it’s probably time to revise my review policy, too.
  9. (Possibly) add new features. I’m always tempted by the idea of new features, but sticking to a schedule has never been my strong point.
  10. Update my sidebar items. Lots of clutter up there right now. With the implementation of the new look, I’ll have to do something about that. I also have a hard time keeping my “Currently Reading” titles in the sidebar up-to-date, mainly because I tend to have five or six books on the go any given day, and on any given day, those books change regularly.

That’s it so far! Whether or not you’re participating in BIP, do you have some sort of blogging goals list? I’d be interested to know what things are on your blogging to-do list!