Just Five – To Do Lists that Work

I find it very helpful to keep a short and sweet to do list. I write exactly five tasks on an index card with a bold Sharpie. Just five! As I buzz (or slog) about my day, it’s easy to remember those five goals. Even my inattentive brain can recall at least a few of the tasks! When I finish one task or get burnt out on it or come to a stall, I switch to another task. As long as I’m working on something on the card, I know I’m making meaningful progress! Of course I also take breaks, but when I’m ready to go again I have a handy list waiting. Rather than check items off as I go, I like to run them through with a strong black line – they’re gone forever!

Naturally, there are more than five things we need to do in a given day, or week. If there are additional tasks I’m afraid I’ll forget, I write them on the back of the index card in pen or pencil. They are written down, but they aren’t clogging up my mental freeway. Once I run out of my five things, I make a new card and reference that surplus list for ideas. Also, if I cannot complete a task (like the day I wrote down “Fix laptop internet” on the card…) I can swap it out for a different task instead.

What are YOUR five things today? Mine are:

– Pay state taxes for my photography business
– Do two loads of laundry
– Begin packing for my trip
– Read the Bible and pray
– Try out the new blow dry technique I read about

You’ll notice I try to pull from a variety of categories. Self care must ALWAYS be on the list, whether it’s a workout or just putting on makeup. Another big priority for me is my spiritual life, so that has to be on there too! Daily/routine tasks is my third must-have; dishes, laundry, pick up, something commonly reocuring so I don’t get too behind in it. For the other two slots I put in oddball random tasks that need to be done, additional routine tasks, or a deeper cleaning task (like dusting or vacuuming).

I hope I can breeze through my list and start on the back, because I have a lot to do! Even if I don’t get more things done, just those five will mean my house is improved, my family is improved, and I am improved. Strive for progress, not perfection!

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5 thoughts on “Just Five – To Do Lists that Work

  1. Good technique, thank you for sharing it with us. I’m now in my sixties and I live or die by lists, but I make too many entries and I make too many lists. Having a Top Five each day looks like a good approach to balancing life. Thanks again.

  2. Welcome! House-husbands are always welcome as well 😉 Thanks for visiting even though I’m not “politically correct” in my terminology!

    I do the same as you – list EVERYTHING. The chaos that was in my brain is suddenly chaos on paper, and it’s not much better! Try out the “just five” and check back in – I’d love to know how it worked for you!

  3. I love how tenacious and creative you are about over-coming this perceived inadequacy! It takes courage to face our weaknesses and an introspective spirit to consider possible reasons for why we do the things we do. If you approach challenges this way in other areas of your life, you must be a real fire-cracker when operating out of your strengths! Much of my professional life feels like the dishes or laundry that is never caught up. I have learned to take satisfaction in knowing I worked hard and used my time well without equating completing a task with my self-worth. You, my friend, have a spirit that motivates me to be more creative. Thank you for sharing your journey with those of us who are not!

  4. I really like the front/back idea. Something else I read was to make sure at least one item is something that only has to be done once. So much of keeping a house has to be done over and over (like the dishes!) and it’s easy to feel like you aren’t actually accomplishing anything. Assigning something that you don’t have to return to later can really help. So every day I try to add something like: deep cleaning, organizing, repair, planting or a craft.

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