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Sometimes, I have a hard time knowing where to draw the line on my organizational attempts. In theory, I like lists a lot. But I start out with jotting down a few notes about my upcoming day, and then I tend to make it more and more complicated each day until I’m spending 30 minutes each morning just managing my lists before I can start doing anything that’s actually on them. I’ve actually read some articles by organized sorts of folks that they set aside 15 minutes a day or so for this sort of meta-organization, but it sort of makes my brain hurt. Before long, I have online lists and various apps set to sync with my Android, and written lists on the back of envelopes that need to be entered into the online system, and I start spending my time browsing the web for Daily Planners (which, on the rare occasion that I’ve actually tried to use one, lasts approximately 3.5 days).

On the other hand, when I try to go without lists and just hold everything in my head…well, you know. I’ve found that I can hold on to approximately 5 things in my head without needing to write it down. I don’t know if that’s average or not, but I know that if I try to hold on to more than that, either I drop something or my head explodes and I drop all of it and take a nap instead.

Neither extreme seems like it is getting me closer to a stream-lined and efficient system, so I’ve been putting some thought into how to organize a To-Do system that doesn’t require it’s own entry on the To-Do list. I don’t have it all worked out yet, but here’s where I am so far.

1) I have a free app for my Android called Task List. It’s pretty basic, but allows me to have separate lists for Work, Personal, etc. I can enter stuff and cross it off and delete it. That’s pretty much it. It’s important to me that my listing systems have a function where I can cross them off without deleting things. There is something really satisfying about looking at a list full of crossed-off items.

2) I have an Excel spreadsheet that lists generally what I should be doing at any given time of the day. Like, Friday afternoon is when I go grocery shopping. There’s a lot of wiggle room in this schedule, but it allows me to see at a glance what I should be expecting of the upcoming day. There is time scheduled specifically for working on my Task List items. Each day is broken into large chunks, and there’s nothing at all scheduled on weekends.

3) I’m finding that even with those two things, which should be self-sustaining, I occasionally let enough things pile up in my brain that I just have to write them down on the back of an envelope *right now*. For instance, this morning as I was making my coffee, I kept getting distracted by the realization that I needed to write that proposal and take those pictures and upload these files. I was just trying to make some darn coffee and I couldn’t stay focused for long enough to get that done and then enter those items on the Task List. So I quickly jotted down the things that were crowding around in my brain. At the top of the list was “Make Coffee”. Yes, sometimes I need *that* level of management. Probably, I should have transferred that written list directly to Task List as soon as the coffee was made. Instead, I’ve just tackled the list (#4 – write blog entry for LeMuR), crossing them off by hand as I go. Whatever I don’t finish by the time I need a break, I will enter those into the Task List so I don’t lose track of them.

So there you have it. Two easy pieces, with an occasional emergency band-aid until I get in the swing of it. What do you think? Is this system going to work in the long-term? Should I re-arrange it, or add to it? How do you keep track of your daily to-do list or the broader scope of your week?