List-Making Inspiration: How 3 Powerful Women Conquer Their To-Dos
April 26, 2019 | Filed in: Your Career
To-do lists are most definitely not one-style-fits-all. Some people split their tasks into separate lists, while others keep an all-inclusive master doc. Some use a pen-and-paper, others rely on apps. Some share their lists, others keep them private. One thing is for sure, though: Finding a method that works for you is key to staying organized and feeling in control. If you’re feeling a little lost when it comes to your to-do list, read on to see how three successful women from wildly different fields manage their own to do’s.
The App Adopter
Janet Patton, Captain for American Airlines
- Go high tech for a list that travels with you. I’m a single mom of two girls, 13 and 16 years old, and fly long-haul flights all over North America, so I have to keep to-do lists for my life! I have a few different apps I rely on. One is called Clear, which is what I use to track general things I personally need to remember, like taking care of my greenhouse roses, writing a thank you note, and calling a repairman for a broken window. I check it pretty much every day and it’s a nice way to see what I need to do.
- Don’t keep your list to yourself. I also use an app called Wunderlist, because I can share my list with my daughters. If one of them needs me to do something, they just add it to the list and it automatically syncs. I never have to ask them what they need me to pick up at the store. It’s a huge time-saver for us. You can put deadlines and priorities on it, so if I’m about to go on a trip, I can see what they absolutely need me to do.
A List for Every Season
Liz Thomas, long-distance hiker, author, and founder of Treeline Review
- Embrace having multiple lists. I have my own personal hikes—I recently hiked from Glacier National Park to the Pacific Ocean 1,200 miles away—create custom hikes for clients, am working on my second book, sit on several boards, and started my own business back in December. One list won’t cut it, so I break them up into annual, mid-length, weekly, and daily goals.
- Start big and get smaller. At the beginning of the year, I write out an annual to-do list of goals I have for the year. I break each of those down into a list of the three things that need to happen to be successful, then I break those down into shorter tasks that I can sprinkle throughout the year. This process helps me see what I can do in the next three months to move me closer to my goals.
- Schedule to-do list items when possible. I tend to follow a pattern with scheduling different kinds of tasks. I do my writing or talk to my business partner at the same time every day. I schedule those kinds of routine items in my Outlook calendar. That way, reminders pop up that help keep me on task.
- Don’t overload your list. Each morning, I write down that day’s to-dos. I make a rule to include one big thing, three medium things, and five small things. I’m bad at estimating how long something will take me, so if I have too many big things, it probably won’t all get done.
Keeping It Classic
Alayna Oram, Corporate Director of Marketing for Omni Hotels & Resorts
- Make it easy to glance over. I always keep my list in a bound, lined book. I like pen and paper because when I take the time to write something down, it gives me time to reflect on the state of that project. Typing it out just doesn’t connect with my brain as much. I write it double-spaced so that I can add items in where they make the most sense and I put the new tasks in using a different color pen. This way I can quickly see what tasks are new and what’s been on the list from the very beginning.
- Reference it—and update it—regularly. Every Friday, my team does a huddle and I open my master list and go line by line through it. I can ask people right there about the status of things. I either cross items off or put a checkmark next to ones that are still in process but not on my plate.
- When it gets too messy, start fresh. Every two weeks or so, the list gets so ugly that I start a new one and transfer over anything that’s still in process. It takes about 30 minutes or so to create the new list, but it helps me reorganize and reprioritize. It’s also a good way for me to see what’s been on my list for too long or take out things that are no longer important.
- Don’t toss old lists. I keep all of my old notebooks in a drawer in chronological order. That way I can go back and reference any older lists—it’s a history of the work my team is doing and what’s moving in and out of my office. I feel such peace knowing I’m organized.