The Difference in My Daily & Master To-Do Lists

posted by Andrea | 02/11/2013

I’ve always been a big fan of lists.

Surprise, surprise!

I love having that visual reminder of what to do next, what I still need to do, and (most importantly) what I’ve already finished! And even if my days don’t always go exactly according to my plan, I continue to faithfully make a Daily To-Do List each night before I go to bed, because I know how helpful it is to look at throughout the day.

However…

My Daily To-Do List is completely different than my Master To-Do List.

Here’s how I set things up:

MY MASTER TO-DO LIST:

I think Master To-Do Lists are awesome… and I always have a very long Master List of everything I’d like to do (some day.)

My master list contains things like future home renovations and yard projects we want to accomplish; little fixes like chipping paint, a squeaky door, or a dripping faucet; ideas for my blog and business; deep cleaning around the house; larger 2-people organizing projects; sewing or craft projects I might want to try, etc. etc. None of these things are necessarily going to happen any time in the near future, but since I don’t want to forget them, they go on my Master List.

I don’t look at this list every day, but I keep it handy so I can always refer to it whenever I need to add something — or cross something off. I keep mine on the inside of the cabinet above my office desk. I don’t go in that cabinet every day, but it’s extremely easy to access when needed.

MY DAILY TO-DO LISTS:

This might be somewhat obvious, but my Daily To-Do Lists contains everything I’m hoping to do the following day – genius, I know! I often use my free printable Daily Planner sheets to write out my Daily To-Do Lists — however, there are plenty of days when I use a sticky note instead.

Included in my Daily To-Do List is my Top 5 List (yes, a list within a list) which is the 5 things I absolutely must accomplish the following day.

I keep my Daily To-Do List / Top 5 List on my desk, right next to my computer… at ALL times! This way, I can constantly see what’s next on my list without having to stop, think, and TRY to remember.

 

If you aren’t Type-A like me, I probably lost you a few paragraphs ago. That’s OK!  I’m not finished yet…

How my lists work together:

I realize it might sound ridiculous to always have 2 separate lists going, but honestly it’s WAY less overwhelming than only having one list.

Let me explain… each day, I work really hard to finish everything on my Daily List. Of course, it doesn’t always happen so some things get shoved to the next day. However, once a week (usually on the weekends) I’ll glance over my Master List and add 1 or 2 things to my Daily List.

It might be something like:

  • clean the master bathroom from top to bottom (including the shower)
  • go through Nora’s 9-12 months clothes and purge what I don’t need or want
  • change the sidebar images on my blog
  • put WD-40 on all the squeaky door hinges

Like many of the items on my Daily To-Do Lists, none of these projects would take me more than 1 hour to accomplish — so I could easily do at least one of them on a Saturday afternoon or in the evening when Dave is home. However, unlike the items on my Daily List, none of these projects have a specific deadline — so I have the flexibility to work them into my daily schedule as I see fit. If I have to move them to the next day once or twice, it’s really no big deal.

So each week, as I complete the more pressing items on my Daily Lists, I’m also knocking off 1 or 2 items off my Master List at the same time — without being overwhelmed by the HUGE list of un-done tasks.

See, 2 lists really ARE better than 1

For me, it’s much less overwhelming to focus on only 1 or 2 of the items on my Master List each week — and I love knowing that I’m always making progress and chipping away at my ever-growing Master List.

Obviously, this won’t work for huge projects (like a new pool or a kitchen renovation) but you’d be surprised how many things you can cross off after just an hour of focused work.

Do you have any other systems for keeping Master and/or Daily Lists?

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28 comments

  1. Jane

    02/11/2013

    Gosh, this is the perpetual challenge! I, too, keep a master to do list. I have been using Wunderlist.. I have a main To-Do and a lot of category lists. The key is to check it! I like your top 5. I still feel I have to transfer the major to do items for the day to my daily printed out calendar. I need to have it in front of me!

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  2. Debby

    02/11/2013

    I have a daily to do list and a Nagging Task list. I got this idea from the book The Happiness Project. It works very much the same way as your Master list. Keep the great post coming. I love reading your ideas.

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  3. Liz

    02/11/2013

    Every evening, I update my to do list for the next day…adding tasks that didn’t get done today, often to tasks I knew I wouldn’t get to at all…and tossing in any priorities.

    I also have a giant whiteboard, where I scribble bigger projects, things to purchase or find, activities to research, etc. on slow days or budget friendly weeks, I’ll look to the board for what needs to be done. The things to purchase area is my most frequently used area….I love it for yard sales and flea markets…things I’d like, but I’m not spending big money on. It’s also great for sales….I just check the board and see if I needed something.

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  4. Julie

    02/11/2013

    I do this too. I also have a craft list of things I want to make that is separate from the main (master) list. :)

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  5. Gen

    02/11/2013

    You make it sound so easy! I don’t have a daily to-do list, but I do have multiple to-do lists, all categorized (cleaning, projects, blog, etc), I just have never been able to keep up with them. It seems like one day I write down everything I need to do, then for the next week I don’t look at it. Maybe I need JUST 2 lists. I dunno, I’m still trying to figure it all out, because honestly most week days I don’t have time to do anything on my to-do list, unless I would put make supper, make lunches for tomorrow and work-out on the list. Makes me wish I were a busy body like you! Which I’m totally not… And I don’t even have kids yet.

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — well, it might not be “easy” but it is a pretty “simple” system (which is usually my goal!) However, I suppose I should have mentioned that even though you might have the most detailed and organized lists, you stil need a little will power and self-motivation to actually do the items on your list :)

    If I were you, I’d start making a top 5 list every day and just try to accomplish those 5 things before you even think or worry about anything else. You might be surprised how motivated you feel after accomplishing just 5 things off your list (and making dinner or packing lunches most definitely count!)

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  6. Kristen

    02/11/2013

    My husband and I were just discussing this last night. With a new baby on the way, I feel sooo overwhelmed with the things I want before she gets here. He’s a big list guy so he made me go through and write down EVERYTHING on my mind. It even felt like an accomplishment just making the list! ha Not to mention, it helps when “baby brain” kicks in and I forget things like crazy. I like the idea of a daily list too. I’ll write that down. :)

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    Andrea Reply:

    I hear you Kristen! But honestly, don’t you feel like your brain is so much more “free” now that everything is written down and you don’t need to try to remember it anymore. Just look at your list if you forget!

    Good luck accomplishing everything before the baby arrives :)

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  7. Ilona

    02/11/2013

    Hi Andrea,

    Thanks for this post! I’m curious as to how you actually write “to do” items down. I recently purchased the invite.l weekly planner thanks to your excellent previous post, but find that when I jot down to-do’s, like “buy milk” or “dry cleaning” on one week’s page, I tend to forget when I flip to the next week’s page. Do you transfer undone to-do’s to your master list or to the next week’s page? Or do you keep a separate list of grocery buy items, etc.? Thanks so much! Your posts are really inspiring.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Well, I supposed I should have clarified that my grocery list is another completely separate list :)
    I keep a sticky pad on the side of the refrigerator and I write anything we need to purchase on our next grocery trip on that list. Then, when it’s time to get groceries, I simply glance through the sales ad, look over our meal plan for the week, and then add any of the remaining items on my “to-buy” list sticky note.

    That system works well for me because I personally don’t think individual grocery items are a “to-do”. Instead, I put “get groceries” on my to-do list, and then I go to the store with the full list of groceries I need to buy. And I rarely ever go to the store more than once a week so the whole process is pretty streamlined.

    And to answer your question about the Invite.L Planner (I hope you love it as much as I do!) I write daily to-dos in the blank space at the bottom of each day. If something isn’t accomplished, I simply rewrite it in the next day’s blank box.

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    Ilona Reply:

    I guess that’s good incentive to accomplish the task, so I don’t have to keep rewriting!! Thanks for the explanation, and have a great week :)

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  8. Holly

    02/11/2013

    Two lists works really well, I do the same. The master list is great for keeping track of all the things I need and want to do, but that aren’t urgent.

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  9. Tara

    02/11/2013

    I think I need to make a master list. I’m pretty sure (note I’m not positive – kids can really eat up your pre-child memory) I had one back before my first baby arrived and I’ve never really gotten back to it. It felt like wishful thinking, but it’s not, it’s just a placeholder so that someday when I feel I actually have time to do something I can look at the list and know where to start.

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  10. Nala

    02/11/2013

    hi Andrea,

    I love your organized and simple way of life, and have been trying to simply & organize my life for as long as I can remember. I often get hints and inspirations from “organizing” blogs similar to yours, but yours tops the list – it is the first one I check daily!

    I am a mom of 4 boys, the smallest one just a few months older than Nora, and having been following your blog for a while now, I can say with certainty that with a super organized mind like yours, combined with a very helpful husband and family nearby, things will only get easier as Nora grows older, and as you have more kids :-)

    The reason I am writing is to ask you about Macbook vs iMac.

    I noticed that you used to have photos of your Macbook on the blog, but that recently, there is an iMac. Being a working-at-home mom too, I have been going back and forth between updating my old (and almost breaking down) Macbook and getting an iMac.
    I love the flexibility of carrying around my laptop anywhere in my house, but I’ve always preferred a desktop, and I would love to know your thoughts on why you chose to get a desktop (iMac) ?

    Thank you for your great posts!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Nala!
    To answer you question — we actually have BOTH the macbook and the iMac. Dave and I each have a “user” account on each computer so we use both interchangeably. Dave likes to be more mobile (a.k.a. watch TV while on the computer!) and I prefer sitting at a desk with a larger screen. However, there are times when I need to be mobile too and times when Dave would like the bigger screen… so we share :)

    I like both, but if you primarily sit at a desk, the big screen is awesome!

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  11. Lauren

    02/12/2013

    Love your blog, Andrea. I’ve been using your free printable daily planner sheet each day and I’ve been getting much more accomplished. However, I had some “Master List” type things on there and I was feeling discouraged copying them over each day and not crossing them off. I wrote a Master List last night, so now I can just focus on one item from that list at a time. Great idea! I also really loved your post about balancing work/family/housework and could totally relate to looking for that balance.The thing I’m struggling with right now is certain cleaning chores. I’m doing great with working part-time, doing dishes, laundry, general decluttering, taking care of my 3 children, spending time with my husband, and more but some tasks (vacuuming, dusting, mopping, cleaning bathrooms) are just NOT happenig as frequently as I’d like. Any advice on how to work those chores in?

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    Andrea Reply:

    Oh Lauren, I can totally relate to not making the time to vacuum, dust, clean bathrooms, etc.

    I used to vacuum almost every other day and clean the entire house top to bottom every week. Then Nora was born! I hired someone for a while to come one day a week and clean, but I felt like she was always missing things, forgetting things, or not doing it the way I wanted her to, so I decided it wasn’t worth paying for a service I wasn’t fully satisfied with. At this point (and I think I mentioned this in my post) one of the things I’m sacrificing is having a house that’s as clean as it used to be. It’s still “picked up”, decluttered and organized, but the bathrooms definitely don’t get deep-cleaned every week, and neither does the dusting. I still try to vacuum at least once or twice a week — but we have no pets, we almost always take our shoes off, and Nora loves the vacuum so this isn’t a problem.

    I’d say that it sounds like you are successfully managing a lot right now :) and if mopping the floors is the only thing falling through the cracks, you’re doing pretty well!

    Maybe come up with a monthly cleaning schedule instead of a weekly schedule — this is sort of what I do. Dust once a month, deep-clean the bathrooms once a month (I quickly clean them more often), mop the floors once a month and then sweep or swiffer them as needed throughout the week.

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    Lauren Reply:

    Thank you for your reply. I have been struggling to find a sense of what is “reasonable” for these chores for me in this stage of my life, and I think what you said makes perfect sense. Thank you so much for sharing your ideas/thought processes/etc on your blog!

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  12. Demaroge

    02/12/2013

    I printed the daily list today. I have not found a planner I like (sound familiar?) and I decided to give yours a try. I do like that I save pages if I don’t use it (like on vacation or misplaced my folder.) I also keep a ‘master’ list of projects to do. For the ‘master list’ I plan to print a blank lined sheet to put in the back of the planner I am building. I am also going to add in a full month calendar in the front to write in appointments, etc. so I can schedule new ones at a glance. It will be easy to write appointments on the daily list. I am going to make it a part of my evening routine to write my daily list each night.

    I have 20 pages. When I am done with the 20 pages I am sure I will know what items need to be typed permanently for my ‘daily routine’ column! (Like ‘take meds’)

    Thanks so much for sharing! I am excited to try your planner. I just wasn’t going to find it ‘out there!’

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  13. Natalia

    02/12/2013

    I think I have 3 lists, plus a “game”. I have been following your posts for about a year, so most of these ideas are yours and I’m very greatful!!!

    1. Master List. ( I call it “SomeDay List”). I keep it in my planner and I revise it once in a while, but not everyday or every week, even. If it starts to look messy and overloaded, I rewrite it. Often, I find that time to be the perfect opportunity to complete some quick tasks (or drop some others that became irrelevant), so I’ll have a shorter list to start with. If any tasks became pressing I schedule them in my planner. I also add to it constantly, if i think of something while I’m working on something else…, just to take it off my brain…

    2. Daily List – I took your idea of daily routines, but I created my own, on an Excel spreadsheet, with customized routines for each day of the week, including checklists for specific, more complicated tasks. I work long hours 4 days a week, plus I volunteer on Tuesday evenings and most weekends (no, I don’t have children, yet ;)) and each day of the week is very different than the others, so this is a great tool. Sometimes, I don’t write much on this page, (I might only add checkmarks), other times it acts as a memory trigger, and then I can reuse the same page again, next week.

    3. Planner – I use this to write down any appoitments, commitments, the most important tasks for the day (top 5), things I’d like to remember, and some minimum journaling. My planner has a zippered cover with a pocket inside, and that’s where I keep my SomeDay List and the Daily List (Routines & Checklist), plus a separate “Events & Projects” workbook (very thin), that I only use when I organize larger events that have lots of little details to consider. I carry this Planner with me everywhere and I don’t know what will happen if I loose it. I’ll probably panic and then I’ll cry a lot, for sure… and then I’ll keep looking for it again…

    4. My Card Game: Every once in a while, when I have a lot to do (mostly housework, on a week-end day), but don’t know what to start with, I use a little game: about 2 dozen 3×5 cards, with different chores written on them: Laundry, Vacuum, Iron, Water plants, or name of rooms that I need to clean: Kitchen, Bedroom, Office, ect.; I choose about a dozen cards I have to take care of that day, I put them upside down on the dining room table, pick up one card, and then I do that chore no matter what! It helps me stay focused on task, even if I don’t feel like doing that right then, or if I can’t decide what to start with. And I do not spend more than 15 minutes on a card! Then, I move to the next. I like to see if I can “Make time”, and if I do (rarely!!!), then I treat myself to a nice bath, or I do my nails, or I read for those extra 10-15 accumulated minutes :)

    Sorry for this lenghty description…. I’ve got carried away…

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    Andrea Reply:

    Wow Natalia — you are totally on top of things aren’t you! I love all your lists AND your fabulous game — what a great idea!

    Do you have kids? If so, you could totally use this game with them too :)

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    Natalia Reply:

    Thank you, Andrea! I’d love to say: “Yes, I am on top of things”, but the truth is that between making the lists and checking things off…. I stuggle big time!!!

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  14. Kristen

    02/13/2013

    I like to use the “Stickies” widget on my Mac for keeping my to-do list. I think the problem compared to a physical piece of paper is that something could theoretically stay on the electronic list forever since you never have to throw the paper away. But I like adding to it whenever I think of something throughout the day, and I don’t have to worry about potentially losing it. Although, the to-do list is mostly work-related so I’m always near my computer when I need to see it. If it was more house-related it might be inconvenient!

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  15. Laurel

    02/18/2013

    I have the same two lists as well. I have a quick question for you and a comment…do you organize within your Master To Do List? Ie. phone calls to make, home repairs, my goals for the kids?? Etc. also, I have something that worked for me speaking of lists. I, like you I think, get my energy from accomplishing things and crossing them off the list each day. We have 4 kids and now they are past the toddler/ early childhood stages. I absolutely loved sitting and playing with them and reading to them, however I really needed that feeling of getting something done too. So, I wrote “play with kids”, “read to kids” on my to do list each day to make sure I did it (which wasn’t usually a problem), but really so I could get the feeling of accomplishment when I did do it. Thanks for your blog.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Laurel, I currently do NOT organize my Master List — it’s more of just a “brain dump” for me to put any and all ideas I think of. Sometimes I end up crossing things off later because I change my mind or decide I don’t want to do something. It probably wouldn’t hurt to organize the list a bit more, but I just don’t make the time to do that. I suppose I do organize it more whenever I glance over my master list to see what I can add to my daily list. I’ll group tasks together on my daily list at that point. (Does this make sense!)

    Also, I LOVE your tip about putting “play with kids” etc on my list. I’ve actually started doing that too :) It’s kind of sick, but it helps me feel more productive!!

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  16. Kalyn Brooke

    03/01/2013

    I do something very similar – I keep 2 master todo lists and a daily. One is for the blog and the other is personal. It helps me to keep them seperate!

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  17. Alesha

    07/26/2013

    I love your double planner template!!! As I’ve contemplated going back to carrying a physical day planner instead of my digital, I’m terribly torn. I track everything, including my water intake. It’s the best design I’ve ever used. (And I’ve been using planners since the 90′s) The checklists and the arrangement of information are concise and convenient. Perfect. I’m going to beg, beg, beg you to create a planner similar to Planner Plus for iPad but with your exact outline. I’ve downloaded free to expensive apps and none are as complete and simple. It would be the best planner out there is and I would pay to download it.

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  18. Karina

    06/30/2014

    I love your double daily planner!!! I just stumbled upon your blog the other day and fell in love. I have searched high and low for a management system that works for me and have been constantly disappointed. Thank you sharing. Have you checked out the woman’s success planner? I have used it for almost a year and really enjoy it. You might check it out if you have not already. Have a marvelous day!

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