TO DO it Right

by Teresa Riccobuono of San Francisco Bay Area's Simply Organized.

Have you ever taken the time to wonder why your to do list seems to grow? Why is it you can't seem to ever accomplish all the things you would like? Have you ever put an entry on your to do list that says, ”Spend one hour today determining why my to do list continues to be incomplete at the end of each day“?

As a professional organizer I have analyzed how people plan their day. Based on my observations it's no wonder the majority of people carry over to dos from today to tomorrow and then the next day and so on. When most people create their to do list, they write things down as they think of them with no rhyme or reason to the task at hand. How much more effective would you be if you grouped or bundled items on your to do list together by task?

To illustrate, let's take a look at a typical list put together in order by what comes to mind:


  • Order Stamps
  • Call airline, car rental and hotel
  • E-mail Tony's proposal
  • Get bread, milk and cereal
  • Call restaurant for reservation
  • Go to office supply store
  • Call insurance agent
  • Reply to Bob's e-mail
  • Confirm meeting with David
  • Get direction's to David's office
  • Pay bills

Now, let's look at grouping the same list of TO DOs by task:


People to Call

  • Call restaurant for reservations - Thursday at 6:00
  • Call insurance agent - increase deductible
  • Call David - confirm appointment for Wednesday at 3:30
  • Call airline, car rental and hotel - 24 th thru 29 th


  • E-mail Tony's proposal
  • Reply to Bob's e-mail
  • Look up
  • Get directions to David's office - 101 Main Street
  • Pay bills - mortgage, American Express card, PG&E
  • Order Stamps

Places to Go

  • Cleaners Groceries - bread, milk, cereal
  • Office supply - index card holder, 1-13 index tabs, white and assorted colors of index cards

Just by consolidating your to dos by task you have a much clearer picture of what you have to do and where you need to go. On the task-based list, I have included specific information to help me to be more efficient, such as what denomination of stamps I need to order, what are the dates I will be at the conference so I can schedule travel arrangements accordingly. And, if I were to end up on hold, I could look to my Computer List to see if there was something I could tackle while listening to hold music. For instance, I could get the directions to David's office.

Even if you were to save just 10 minutes a day, that's about an hour a week, 52 hours a year or approximately 2 full days.  Now, what can you do with an extra 10 minutes?

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