To-Do List

Things that have grown out of this daily writing practice: increased self-awareness, goal setting, and habit tracking. I have long lists in my head of all the things I want to accomplish–from the mundane to the practical to the grandiose, from immediate to short-term to long-term. I’ve finally started making handwritten to-do lists again in a notebook dedicated solely to this purpose. This sounds ridiculously obvious, right? Stop jotting down random notes on the backside of electric bills and buy yourself an actual notebook. Nothing like clearing the hurdle of simply beginning.

Here is an example of the list swirling in my head before I get it down on paper:

  • Send birthday present to a best friend in New Mexico (whose 40th birthday was over a month ago)
  • Work on photo albums (a goal I’ve had since my daughter’s birth over 2.5 years ago)
  • Cultivate more paid freelance work; organize list of new opportunities and create pitch schedule
  • Send photos to Gramp
  • Pitch for Orange Dot
  • 1,500 word essay for Parks and Points fall contest / deadline: Oct 1
  • B,C essays / deadlines: Sept 15 and Sept 30
  • 2,500 essay for workshop on Sept 22 / deadline Sept 12
  • Upload iPhone photos to computer so I can actually take pics and vids again
  • Halloween costume
  • Flesh out children’s book idea
  • Review Oct writer’s conference schedule; choose workshops for Sept 14 registration
  • Christmas gifts for 12 kids in our extended family (I created a separate list for this and intend to tackle it over the next few months; checked two off the list yesterday)
  • Research and apply for MFA ?????
  • Kathy Fish flash fiction writing class 9/12-9/23 (any prep required??)
  • Bday gift for 5-year-old
  • Finalize wedding album edits
  • Wedding anniversary weekend Sept 17/18 – VT??
  • Potty training!!
  • Organize new story ideas
  • Submit new poem to at least 3 journals
  • Find dress for sister’s engagement party on Saturday
  • Update LinkedIn profile (partially accomplished yesterday)
  • Yoga
  • Reschedule toddler’s well visit

This sample list is real, but incomplete. You can see that some of these tasks need to be broken down into several smaller tasks. Some are long-term goals; some tasks have deadlines coming up so quickly I’m not sure how I’ll meet them. Being at home full-time with a 2-year-old who does not yet attend preschool means my free time is very limited; it comes in small chunks, little slivers. I also provide childcare for a neighbor a few times a week. I make weekly schedules, but they are always subject to change and require ongoing flexibility.

Recently I’ve become more and more interested in personal organizational systems. Not only is staying organized key to developing my freelance career, it’s also hugely helpful in maintaining balance in my personal life. I don’t want to be scrambling at the holidays and managing loose ends, which is how I’ve felt since becoming a mom. Time and energy evaporate.

I belong to three writing groups on Facebook, and when freelance writer/PhD candidate, Erin Stewart, posted a link to her article How I Do To Do Lists, I pounced on it. I especially love her method because it speaks to organizing writing time and freelance work. Plus, it’s flexible and straightforward.

Stewart’s article also links to an article on Bullet Journals, a huge craze that’s news to me. I read this and immediately got super excited. Not only does bullet journaling sound like an amazing organizational method, it seems like the ideal transition for me once I complete this daily writing project. As of today, I have 132 posts left until completion. While it will be a relief to finish this project, I’m afraid it will also leave me feeling slightly untethered. I’ll continue to blog (maybe weekly), but I also want to maintain some sort of daily practice for myself. A bullet journal seems like just the thing.

So, dear readers, do any of you keep a bullet journal? Any to-do list freaks out there? What are your organizational methods and systems? Tell me how you manage this busy, chaotic, beautiful life.

(Post 233 of 365)



10 thoughts on “To-Do List”

    1. Thanks for sharing, Kath! Digitizing my wall calendar and syncing it with Chris’s calendar is on my to-do list! πŸ˜‰
      I like wall calendars for events, doc appts, and deadlines, but I need the handwritten to-do lists for the mundane (buy Halloween costume, mail electric bill), the recurring (send Gramp mail once a week, childcare), and the long-term and big picture stuff (organize pub pitch list, submissions). There are also things I want to track like my recurring migraines (which have plagued me this week.) Handwritten lists stay in my head in a way that digital ones don’t (similar to note-taking), and I find ticking things off the list very satisfying. A couple things I love about the bullet journaling that I didn’t mention in the post… 1.) it’s a catchall with an index, so it contains everything while maintaining organization 2.) it lends itself to sitting down at the end of each month to reflect on accomplishments and then plot out the next month. I love the opportunity for reflection and for acknowledging accomplishments, both big and small. I’m already thinking of customized pages like book list, gratitude list, writing prompts, kids crafts, submissions, contests, seasonal projects, quotes. I’m going to start out using scrap paper as the Buzzfeed writer suggests, and then attempt a real bullet journal beginning in October. I’ll let you know how it goes!


  1. I can’t wait to look into those 2 articles/ideas. I love the handwritten Mint Green planner – it has space for monthly goals…month at – a – glance and day-to-day. I also write in various journals (I have at least 7 going right now, but I’m trying to get that down to one). In between freewriting or more focused writing I also jot down To Do stuff that jumps into my head with the hope of later going back & collecting it into the planner. Lately what’s really helped me also (tho I haven’t quite organized or synced up these systems) is a Word doc Master To Do list. When I have all these unanswered emails that are sort of tasks in themselves for whatever reason (receipt for a return I need to make/ longer email to cousin in France, checking out someone’s photos & responding) I make them into clear “To Dos” and then delete or archive the email. Sometimes I even just copy part of the email into the doc…it’s just that as an email it doesn’t get attended to and it nags at me. As an item on a To Do list, it’s something I can attack. I do think writing down the first step is often super helpful with some of your big To Dos. Like instead of just writing “Send photos to Gramp” – do you have the photos printed? If not, is that the first step? Sometimes I think we are paralyzed b/c we haven’t articulated the first step.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing your systems with me!! I am gearing up for the bullet journal method. And I’m now following a bullet journalist extraordinare on IG (honeyrozes) who says, “When it’s all written down and out of my head, space and time expand!” THIS is what I’m going for.
      You’re absolutely right–I have many tasks that require several steps. Writing them down allows me to identify step 1 and so forth, and dissolves some of the overwhelm that causes my procrastination. And yes, those photos for my grandfather have yet to be printed. I will say that just making this list yesterday allowed me to accomplish six of the tasks, a few almost without even trying.
      This the official site for bullet journaling:


  2. Your post spoke to me because I just purchased a journal for that purpose. The self journal that incorporates daily grateful thoughts , lessons learned, little wins so I can take something constructive away from each day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad the post resonated with you! Those are lovely journal ideas and goals. I started the bullet journal method today and I’m loving it! Your comment reminded me to add a gratitude page–thank you! And happy journaling! πŸ™‚


  3. I swear we are on the same wave length because I too have been contemplating getting/starting a bullet journal! (And by the way how on earth do you manage to watch a toddler and write so much and write so *beautifully* and still sleep?! Rock star. For real.)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes yes yes that is so me too! πŸ˜„ I can write lists but usually only when all those things get too much for my head and I have a mini emotional breakdown! Why are we so scared to have a to do list daily? Does it make us geeks if we need to get it all down on paper so we can actually free up some head space? Does it mean we are getting old? At 32 I really hope not!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do find it so helpful to get it out of my head and onto a piece of paper, corralling and organizing all those thoughts, goals, and to-dos! Thanks for your comment!Always nice to know I’m not the only one who needs lists to stay sane. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

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