Mastering the To-Do List


urlHave you ever crossed out an item on a to-do list and felt a rush of satisfaction? Maybe it’s depressing, but I experience these types of moments daily.

This past summer when I was backpacking in Europe, I challenged myself to live more spontaneously and abandon my desire to always have a plan. I learned to be more in the moment and to go with the flow. It was refreshing, exhilarating and completely foreign. By the time I got back to Oregon, I felt like I was a new, better version of myself.

Funny how quickly things change, isn’t it? When I began my internship this fall, I knew this carefree mentality wouldn’t survive in agency life. By day two, I was scribbling to-do lists and feeling overwhelmed with the need to plan ahead. I even remember Tweeting, “Back on that to-do list life.”

Well, it’s week six of my internship and my final term in college and I think I’ve finally figured out how to master the to-do list.

Plan aheadTowards the end of each workday, I write the to-do list for the next day and highlight the tasks with the closest deadlines. Having this list ready to go the next morning helps me feel prepared and mentally organized for the next day.

Roll with the punches: You can plan all you want for the next day, but from what I’ve experienced, there will be changes to your list. If your supervisor asks you to help out with a quick project that’s time-sensitive, you do it. Unfortunately, you might not get to cross out each item on your list that you wanted to, but as long as you meet your deadlines, you shouldn’t worry. Or at least I try to remind myself of that.

Ok, so maybe I haven’t “mastered” the to-do list, but I do feel like I’m getting better at it. And, surprisingly, the addition of my new “go with the flow” attitude has helped tremendously.

Do you have any other tips for staying organized?

-Hannah Olson 

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6 Responses to Mastering the To-Do List

  1. I feel that same satisfaction when I check of an item on my “to-do” lists! I’ve always felt that having these lists are essential to staying organized and not getting off track. Throughout my educational career I’ve found it helpful to have a planner because it gives a good visual of timelines and deadlines.

  2. Thanks for the link Hannah, I’m still trying to figure out proper to-do lists and schedules. Still terrible with the schedules. But it really is satisfying to cross something off of your list! It’s a good reminder also, to make a more detailed list, instead of vague projects or ideas, and concentrate on the next immediate step with something. I have a bad habit of putting sticky notes everywhere, especially on my computer, but they usually work pretty well for me.

  3. Adaira Floyd says:

    That is smart, Hannah. I can see you are getting a lot done around the office! It’s important that you’ve found a way that works for you. For those of us that either have ineligible handwriting or are prone to losing things, keeping an online task/to-do list works well, too. I have a running to-do list on my Microsoft exchange/outlook where I can type in my tasks and check them off as I go. It also shows up on my phone and can be color coordinated! Just depends on what works for each person.

    With so much on your plate, I think it is fantastic that you’ve got a handle on how to stay organized and get things done. I can tell everyone around here appreciates when an intern makes good use of the work day.

  4. cmfbianco says:

    I love my to-do lists. I write one each morning when I first get in and it helps me stay on track all day. I also find it helpful to put due dates next to each item, so that when unexpected tasks come up it is easier to rearrange my priorities. It’s great that you’re adjusting to a “go with the flow” attitude; I think this is a good mindset to have especially as interns when things/tasks change often for us, and we need to be flexible.

    Great post, Hannah, and I love the keep calm picture:)!!

  5. pdxsx says:

    I’ve been listing my tasks for close to 15 years. It used to be because I had to bill clients in 15-minute increments, but now I just do it for the satisfaction of being productive and then having a list to validate me. It’s the little things that get us through the days. 🙂

  6. Emily Kirk says:

    Hannah your post is too true. I’ve been a “planner girl” since middle school and have always been made fun of for keeping my agenda on me at all times. My softball team even gave me a pack of high lighters and sticky notes when I graduated! Since we both went on European backpacking trips this summer I know the exact feeling. It was a breath of fresh air to hop on a train at a weird time and not know where you were sleeping that night. I swore I would save a little bit of that spontaneity for when I returned home to the states. The next day, I already broke out my planner and was writing things down for the next three months. Some habits can’t be broken! 🙂

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