Perfecting Your To Do List in 2015 - Part Two: The Inside

Posted by Stacey Brown Randall

Last week I wrote the first half of this series on understanding how to leverage your to do list system and I specifically focused on the hardware – the type of planner to buy. (If you missed it please check it out here.)

This post is focused on the guts of your system – how to arrange and organize so you can gain control and clarity. When incorporating a new to do list system you need to understand that you may not get it exactly right the first time.

When I work with a client on creating their system we go into the process expecting to tweak what we designed as they start using it. You create in theory, you tweak in reality. Now this doesn’t mean we aren’t diligent in trying to get it right the first time, but the reality is how you think you will use it may be different from how you actually use it when you put it into practice.

So let’s dive in…I will first provide information on customizing the inside and then provide a few examples of how my current clients use their planners.

Sections:
If you are using hardware that allows you to customize the system then you have greater control over the sections within the planner. To have sections you need to be able to divide up the planner using labeled section dividers. The types of sections you want are unique to you and how you work. But some common sections within a planner include:

• Daily or Weekly To Dos
• Meeting Notes
• Future To Dos
• Projects
• Ideas (or Future Ideas)
• Personal

Folders:
If you include folders within your system you can keep all your papers and documents together when needed for an upcoming meeting or documents needed to complete a particular task. It eliminates the time waste of looking for what you need when you are trying to get things done. For example, if on your to do list is the task of completing and mailing in your business property tax information then you need to have the form with you to complete the task. If it is in a folder within your planner you can complete that task quickly.

Sections and folders are the two key parts to the inside of a planner. You can then further customize the sections by the type of paper you use (maybe grid paper for ideas and lined pages for to dos). Once you have your sections and folders in place you may find you need to include other parts so customize away. But these two – sections and folders - will get you started and could possibly be all you need. But I think the easiest way to explain how to use a customizable system is to share examples of how my clients use it.

Client A
One of my financial advisor clients divides his planner into sections so he can control where information goes. One of his sections includes Meeting Notes. So when he is in a meeting with a client and taking notes he can easily mark the action items that come from the meeting with a symbol (like an A circled, star, X, etc.). Then after the meeting he can transfer the action items/tasks onto his to do list. This way when he scans the notes to the client’s digital folder he doesn’t lose the action item. Ideally you would remove your client notes from the Meeting Notes sections after each meeting and add it to their file, scan and keep online or dispose of the notes if not needed anymore. You don’t want your planner to be the place where you have notes from meetings that happened in the summer of 2014 – your planner will become too big and unmanageable.

Client B
One of my interior designer clients can at any given time be working on six to eight projects. As you can imagine there are a lot of moving pieces. When we worked together I uncovered that everything she did was by the client but she didn’t organize herself that way except for some client binders that held contracts and change orders. So we organized her planner by client so when a client called or she was on-site with the client all the notes, to dos and thoughts were right at her fingertips. When she finished a project she removed the client information from the planner and placed it in a notes section of the binder so all files could be kept together. Then when she started a new project she would add a divider section for the new client. This system worked for her because she was able to create a habit of reviewing the client sections weekly and from there creating her weekly “must get done” list (that had its own section in the planner, of course).

**A hint about your To Do List section – don’t operate daily from a running list of to dos which holds tasks that don’t have to be done for weeks or months. If you have that master list that has everything on it let that be in a section by itself and then get into the habit of pulling your priority items from that list on a weekly or daily basis creating a Daily or Weekly To Do List. You can then stay on track with what needs to get done today and not get bogged down by what you will need to do in March. And once the day or week is over you transfer what you didn’t do to the next daily or weekly list and throw the old list away.

If you have any trouble with creating your planner please let me know. You can contact me here.

Here’s to you becoming organized and in control of your to dos!

 

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