Tricks to tackle your to-do list

 to-do lists galore!

to-do lists galore!

Author: Abigail Boatwright

Last week we talked about some of the systems and processes we use to keep our work and life organized. One of the best ways I know how to be productive is by making to-do lists. I make them on paper--I've used workflowy.com before, and it's a great tool. I tried Evernote, but it wasn't for me. Kate and I use Basecamp to organize the podcast. And I'll jot notes down on my phone if I'm away from my desk and think of something. But for the most part, my to-do items are gathered in three places: 1. My planner 2. a master to-do list for the week and 3. a notebook outlining the steps for each story I'm assigned. This is separate from the spreadsheets (all of which we talked about in the podcast!)

I've always loved to-do lists, but I've come a long way from post-it notes all over my desk! I've read some productivity books (there are SO many out there) and listened to some podcast episodes, and developed my own method to keep the to-do lists in line. Here are a few methods I use (not all at once) and I change it up every so often to see if I can increase productivity.

1. I categorize tasks by "Work" and "Personal" columns. 

2. Sometimes I'll estimate how long a task will take and write that number beside the task. This is helpful when I'm blocking out time to do a task. It also gives me some shorter tasks I can do at random moments that will help me feel accomplished.

3. I make a list of 5 or 10-minute tasks. So much of my work is done while a baby is about to wake up. If I know I won't have time to transcribe a 45-minute interview, it's easy to just think "oh I'll just check Facebook." then of course my child will sleep another 15 minutes. I could have completed some tasks during that time! But to prepare for that, I'll have a list of shorter tasks and just grab one.

4. I arrange my tasks in "before/after work hours" and "work hours." I work from 6-7:30 am and 8:30-midnight most days. The daytime hours depend on childcare. But I can't do interviews during off hours, or schedule photo shoots, or talk to editors. But I can do a lot of other tasks such as emails, transcribing interviews, editing photos and writing stories. If I organize my tasks into these two categories, when it comes to be nap time, I dive right into those tasks I can't do in off hours.

5. I color code my tasks: purple pen for work, teal for the podcast, black for everything else. On my calendar, family activities are orange, my husband's work is blue.

6. Anything that didn't get done the previous week, I add to a new page on Sunday night. I set my top priorities for the week (usually upcoming deadlines) and redo my lists. I'll confess--I'll go back and check off things and sometimes even write down tasks just to check them off! It's a feeling of accomplishment!

Finally, here are a couple of productivity tools I've found helpful as a mom and freelancer:

Time Management Mama (The authors of this book created my planner, and there are a ton of great productivity tips!)

Flourish: Balance for homeschool moms (My kids are barely in preschool, but this book had some excellent tips--the author is a writer and editor single-parenting her children).

Being Boss Podcast (early episodes were super helpful in transforming my productivity)

OK Remuda - spill your productivity secrets. What helps you get things done?

Abigail Boatwright