Today I thought I’d share with you my method of organizing my to-do list.  I’ll warn you in advance: this is not fancy stuff.  But it hit me last night that my planning method has become a system I fall back on over and over again. 

And if it consistently works for me, perhaps it is worth sharing with you 🙂

For busy families, planning is important any time of year.  However, fall seems to be a great time to start fresh with the beginning of school, new Bible studies & programs at church, first days of extra-curricular activities, yard & house maintenance…..whew!  My mind can whirl for days with all the to-do’s I need to accomplish.

My pattern goes something like this:

1. My mind is whirling with everything I need to do, and every time I walk in a room of my house, or have a conversation with someone, or read a magazine, or observe needs of those around me, my to-do list grows and I find myself becoming more and more anxious.

2. First, I finally hit the pause button long enough to pray that God’s peace which passes all understanding will guard my heart and mind (Philippians 4:7).  This has become an important part of my planning as I seem to grow more anxious in recent years than I used to.  I’m learning to recognize this tendency more quickly now and have found that Scripture and prayer are powerful tools with which to battle anxiety.  I also will often claim the promise from Phillipians 4:13 stating I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  I then sit down with my big 8 1/2 x 11 spiral bound journal (of which I have several and stock up regularly) and begin writing down every single thing I can think of that needs to be done.  I don’t try to categorize, I just write and write and write until I’ve exhausted all those little voices in my head:

I need to take a minute here to share with you a universal principle which proves itself true whenever I complete this step:  Once all the ideas in my whirling mind are confined to paper, stress is immediately released because I’ve already taken a proactive step to move forward with each idea.  These to-do’s no longer drain me emotionally.  Instead, I’ve named them, confined them to paper, and now I alone dictate when they will present themselves again.  THIS IS HUGE.
Which leads me to my next step:  My Notebook.  

This Notebook deserves a post all its own.  It contains several sections beyond to-do lists and has become something of a planning Bible for me.  Inspired by a book we read together last summer, my sister and I created our own versions of The Notebook last fall and one year later are still toting them around, using them regularly.  They’re that life-changing.  But today I will only share the to-do section of My Notebook, which involves the calendaring.

The front of My Notebook has a yearly calendar set up so I can view an entire month at one time (a feature I use to quickly get a feel for what’s coming up each month) and a weekly two-page spread.  The two-page spread, the one I look at daily, holds my specific marching orders for each week.

3. Once I’ve written all the to-do’s I can think of on my journal paper, I then go through the task of assigning each of those to-do’s onto my two-page weekly spread.  If an item simply cannot be done in the current week, I delegate it to the next, or the next. 

As I assign tasks for each day, I continually keep in mind my husband’s schedule, schooling, church activities, etc. so I can plan to-do’s based on when and if my husband will be home (do I need his help with something?), or if I will already be in town on Tuesday so I can swing by the post office,  or what days are the best shopping days based on coupons, sales, etc.

As I fill in my to-do’s, I try to be as realistic as possible, sometimes placing only a few to-do’s on any given day so I don’t become discouraged if I don’t get something done.  My goal is to assign every single to-do a place on my calendar.  Here is a glimpse of my Mon-Wed for this week:

Another principle that rings true is this:  Once I’ve written a to-do on my weekly spread, something within me sees it as an assignment.  The task no longer bumps around in my head, but is now simply an assignment to be completed and scratched off when done.  My motivation to get through each task on the given day is high when I see each as a simple assignments.  I tend to stay more focused, and I am certainly MUCH more efficient with my time and energy.  If I get distracted throughout the day, a quick look back at my list helps redirect my energies.

So that’s it!  Nothing fancy, certainly not high-tech, but a system that I’ve come back to over and over when life seems a big chaotic and in need of order.  It’s certainly not perfect, and of course I don’t always complete all my assignments each day.  But you know what I’ve found about my system that’s so wonderful?  It’s not completing all my to-do’s, although I know that’s a huge part of why I keep returning to this system. 

No, the most beautiful thing about this system is it helps me formulate a PLAN.  And there is something immensely gratifying and fulfilling about simply having a PLAN. 

A PLAN immediately relieves stress, creates enthusiasm, and breeds motivation.  As the old saying goes, “Nobody plans to fail; people simply fail to plan.” 

So whatever “system” you use, never underestimate the importance of a PLAN 🙂

Wishing you a very happy, inspiring, effective, plan-oriented fall!




  1. Can I request a full video tutorial of your planner/binder? 🙂 'Plan' to record one for me this weekend, would you? Ha, I crack myself up. But seriously, your organization has me swooning. I have lost my motivation for planning lately and it has me in a tizzy. I don't know what to do with myself and feel like nothing is getting done – really not good when you consider that our IVF cycle will start in less than two weeks. Eek! You have inspired me to sit down with my list and calendar tonight.

  2. Jody, I will plan to highlight the Notebook in a post soon and hope you can glean good ideas from it. No promises on a video! I hear you about the tizzy; good luck tonight wiht your calendar.

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